About Project Economic Refugee’s founder

Portfolio of media appearances and communications work can be found here.

Screen Shot 2014-08-31 at 11.59.57 PMRefugio Mata is a Los Angeles-based PR specialist and NOI graduate in Online Organizing with extensive background in community organizing tactics and Integrated Communications Management. He is currently Campaign Manager at Presente.org, the largest online Latino advocacy organization in the U.S., directing its national environmental justice program and immigrant rights rapid responses in California.

Prior to Presente, he served as the Deputy Press Secretary for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign Southwest region. Before that, he served as the Communications Coordinator for Good Jobs L.A. (now rebranded “Fightfor15LA“), a coalition project of SEIU and other community based organizations in South L.A. In addition, for nearly five years, he was a Project Organizer for Heal the Bay, a Southern California environmental nonprofit organization that focuses on revitalizing the Santa Monica Bay. He co-founded their “Healthy Neighborhoods, Healthy Environment Initiative” as part of a communications strategy to organize around environmental justice issues in inner city Los Angeles.

Originally from San Miguel De Allende in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, he immigrated to the United States following his family’s tradition—his Grandmother was born in Morris, Kansas, daughter of immigrants building the railroads in the early 1900s. He settled in Southern California when he was 13 years old with his parents and brothers where he has lived there ever since. For over 12 years, Refugio fought the deportation of his family in immigration court, coordinating with attorneys all the way to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Their case was finally won in 2013 after several back-and-forth moves between the Board of Immigration Appeals and the local immigration judges assigned to the case.

He graduated from California State University Northridge (CSUN) with a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with a cultural emphasis and studied marketing at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He also served as a Naval Reservist at Port Hueneme and San Diego. After college, he spent some time volunteering abroad at community centers designed to help underserved children in Peru and Mexico.

Refugio got his start in community organizing with the Working People’s Alliance, a project of AFL-CIO in Ventura County, California and has worked on the intersection of labor, immigrants’ rights, and environmental issues ever since.

You may reach Refugio via e-mail here.


Project Economic Refugee is a progressive activist blog that seeks to engage Latinos and other underserved communities through news analysis, communications management tips, community organizing advice, and volunteer opportunities to become advocates for safe and healthy communities for all.

The project has been honored by former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and has been featured on various progressive media outlets such as Nicole Sandler’s “Radio Or Not” radio show, Brave New Foundation’s Cuéntame, NRDC’s Spanish language blog, Citizen Orange, Voto Latino on The Huffington Post, and on a Netroots Nation 2011 panel titled “Beyond Environmental Justice”.  The project was launched in 2007 by Online Organizer Refugio Mata inspired by “The Framing of Immigration” essay written by UC Berkely’s Professor of Linguists George Lakoff. At the time, the project’s main aim was to promote usage of the term “economic refugee” to humanize the dialogue when discussing the topic of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Since then, the project has evolved in scope and reach to better reflect how we live in an interconnected reality: in order to have healthier communities, we must create a systemic change in the way we deal with the challenges we face as a nation and as a continent.

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