The Immigration Project

Serving downstate Illinois with immigrant legal services.

Immigration Project Staff

Bloomington-Normal Office

CharlotteCharlotte Alvarez, Executive Director/ Staff Attorney

Charlotte joined the Immigration Project in September 2014. Charlotte worked with immigrants through a variety of volunteer organizations while earning a B.A. in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis. She participated in an afterschool mentoring program for Hispanic children, tutored an African refugee in English to prepare her for her citizenship test, volunteered at naturalization clinics, and interned with Jobs with Justice where she helped plan political actions to push Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.

Charlotte saw a need for trustworthy representation in immigration cases and went to Harvard Law School to become an immigration attorney. While in law school Charlotte was a student attorney with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau for two years where she litigated on behalf of individuals facing eviction and represented clients in social security disability and unemployment benefits appeals. She also interned with Asylum Access Ecuador in Quito, Ecuador and helped start a program with the Harvard Immigration Project that trained students to represent detained individuals in bond hearings and get them released from detention.

After law school Charlotte was the Legal Services Director at the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama for two years where she managed the Immigration & Access to Justice program and represented clients in naturalization, U visas, VAWA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and family-based immigration cases.


Danielle DeWinter, Staff Attorney

Danielle joined the Immigration Project in July 2017 and is eager to improve access to legal services for immigrants living throughout the state of Illinois. Danielle first began representing immigrants while obtaining her Bachelor Degree in Psychology from Butler University in Indianapolis, IN where she served domestic violence and sexual assault victims in obtain immigration relief. Danielle saw the need for more legal representation for immigrant survivors and went to Valparaiso University School of Law to become an immigration attorney. While in Law School Danielle honed her legal writing skills as an extern with the Department of Homeland Security. Knowing that she was committed to be an advocate for immigrants, she took a position as a Student Attorney at Valparaiso Immigration Clinic where she successfully represented a political asylum seeker in Chicago Immigration Court.

After law school, Danielle continued to be inspired by her immigrant clients’ zeal for life. She committed to serve as an AmeriCorps attorney for two years in Massachusetts representing low-income immigrants in U visa, VAWA, asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, adjustment of status, and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals petitions.

As a staff attorney with the Immigration Project, Danielle is determined to continue to serve the immigrant communities throughout Illinois. Her work and passion primarily consist of the representation of immigrant victims of trauma through humanitarian-based immigration petitions and filing family-based immigration petitions for those individuals desiring to keep their families together in the United States. She is also dedicated to getting other attorneys and volunteers involved by developing a pro-bono program to combat the constant need for legal representation. 


Christine IP pic2

Christine Howe, Department of Justice Accredited Representative

Christine is a graduate of Illinois State University, with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Social Work, but considers her real education as coming from her pre-marriage career with The Navigators and as a missionary to tribal groups. On staff with New Tribes Mission in the 1980’s and 1990’s, she lived four years in the city of Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico, and one year with the Pima Tribe in Maycoba, Sonora, Mexico, in an adobe home without electricity and water, getting to know them and studying their (Uto-Aztecan) language and culture in preparation for church planting.  After returning to the United States to marry and begin a family, she obtained a graduate level Certificate in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.  Once back in Bloomington, Illinois, Christine regularly volunteered with the Hispanic Outreach Program at Western Avenue Community Center while raising and home-schooling her young daughter and son, and became familiar with Immigration Project.

Since joining the staff in early 2008, she has fulfilled many roles, including 4 years as Citizenship Program Director.  In 2014 she was made an Honorary Member of the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society Sigma Delta Pi at Illinois Wesleyan University and was also nominated for the Corporate Law Pro Bono and Volunteer Award with State Farm Insurance Corporate Law Department.  Her current responsibilities are to expand capacity and infrastructure across the 86 counties IP serves and in the home office, primarily by building various teams and levels of volunteer support and agency collaborations.  With her daughter now at University and her son in the Army, Christine’s long-term goal is to return to the mission field.  When she has spare energy, she enjoys exegetical Bible study, tinkering in the garage and fixing things. “Even though immigration in and of itself is not my primary passion or forte, people are, and I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had through my job to help individuals and families advance in their well being.”


Thalia Novoa, Department of Justice Accredited Representative

Thalia graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University (cum laude) as a Hispanic Studies and History Major. She was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and  the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society ( Sigma Delta Pi). As an undergraduate she studied abroad in Chile and Argentina where she researched best teaching methods for the Mapuche. Thalia was an intern and volunteer for the Immigration Project from 2013 to 2016 and was the Volunteer Coordinator AmeriCorps Vista from 2016-2017. Thalia is also part of the Keep Families Together Campaign in Bloomington-Normal.

Being the daughter of Mexican immigrants, having been part of the immigration process herself, and working at the Immigration Project made Thalia realize that she wanted to help immigrant families in Central and Southern Illinois.

In 2017, Thalia was approved by the Department of Justice to be an Accredited Representative. She is excited to work at the organization that not only educated her on immigration law, but who also helped to keep her family together.


Ruth Latzke, Intake Specialist

Ruth was born and raised in Venezuela.

She has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resources from Universidad de Carabobo, Venezuela, as well as an Associate Degree in Insurance.

She worked in the insurance business for 11 years, working in Customer Service, Administration and as an Insurance Agent.

She also worked for Baptist Youth National Union in Venezuela as an Executive Secretary, planning events as workshop, camps for the youth around Venezuela.

Her parents taught her the importance of helping others by example. Her mom would always say, “We are here in this world to serve others.” She took that lesson to heart, and doing so became her passion. At an early age she found herself helping others by doing things like collecting food and toys for families in need, or reading books to someone who unable to get out of bed. She helped provide teens with supplies they needed for school, assisted kids with homework because their parents couldn’t, hosted medical missionaries, etc.    

In 2010 she moved to the United States on a student visa. She attended College of The Albemarle, where she studied Early Childhood Education.

Living in North Carolina, she met a large Hispanic community. It didn’t take long before she was doing things like teaching Sunday school, helping people with translations for doctor’s appointments or to talk with teachers, or showing them how to use Skype to talk with distant family members.

Ruth moved to Illinois in 2014, and has been in the Bloomington area since 2015.

Ruth has been part of The immigration Project family since October 2017, and is happy to have found a job that involves helping others. She’s eager to learn more about immigration law in order to help even more.


Genesis Marie R. Buendia, Volunteer Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA

Genesis was born in the Philippines, was raised in central Florida, and had graduated from Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University in south Florida. Majoring in Liberal Arts and Sciences, she has a concentration in Anthropology and a certificate in Caribbean and Latin American Studies. Along with her studies, Genesis volunteered at El Sol, Jupiter’s Neighborhood Resource Center. Created in 2006, El Sol’s mission is to improve the quality of life in the town of Jupiter by providing services to day laborers and their families. Genesis volunteered with the nighttime education program by working as an ESL teacher and admin, an adult Spanish literacy program intern, and a child caretaker. Including her extracurricular activities on campus, she earned over 800 hours of community service.

Genesis chose to become an AmeriCorps VISTA because she was inspired by the VISTAs at El Sol. Specifically, she wanted to continue her work within the immigrant community. To her, the opportunity to gain experience through The Immigration Project is worth the adventure of moving to a far-away state . Her goal is to use her time with AmeriCorps to prepare her for Peace Corps and then eventually graduate school for social work or non-profit administration.


Champaign-Urbana Office

Rebekah Niblock, Staff Attorney

Rebekah Niblock is an attorney with the Immigration Projecta non-profit organization providing immigration legal assistance to immigrants residing in Central and Southern Illinois. She works in the Immigration Project’s office located in Champaign, Illinois. Her work and passion primarily consist of the representation of immigrant victims of domestic violence (and related traumas) and of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) fleeing violence and extreme poverty in their home countries and seeking asylum in the United States. She is a faculty affiliate of the University of Illinois’ Women and Gender in Global Perspectives (WGGP) Program and a recipient of the International Women’s Day Award presented by the University of Illinois’ Women’s Research Center. Rebekah teaches students of the University of Illinois College of Law’s Domestic Violence-Immigration Clinic (DVIC) the substantive areas of immigration law and supervises students’ representation of Immigration Project clients. 

Rebekah is from Concord, North Carolina and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies and Romance Languages. She received her law degree from the George Washington University Law School in 2013 and is a former student of their Immigration Clinic. In December 2013, Rebekah joined the Immigration Project determined to improve access to legal services for immigrants living throughout Central and Southern Illinois, especially in rural communities.  

Ximena Rivera, Legal Intern

Ximena is a Colombian lawyer (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Cali, Colombia) with graduate studies in International Business Law (Universidad de Los Andes, Colombia). While in law school, Ximena and some of her class mates developed a program for advancing progress of vulnerable communities in their home town, Cali-Colombia. Upon graduation, Ximena worked as the Executive Director’s at The Latin American Reserves Fund, for three years.

In 2015, Ximena moved to Champaign-Urbana to pursue her Master’s in Law (LL.M.) at University of Illinois Champaign Urbana. Since her arrival in the US she started volunteering with the Immigration Project among other organizations. Ximena also joined the Domestic Violence and Immigration Clinic at the University of Illinois, and under the supervision of Staff Attorney Rebekah Niblock, she helped perform a wide variety of cases. Through her volunteer work and her experience as a clinic student, Ximena felt passionate about helping and advocating for the immigrant community.

Ximena joined the Immigration Project on July 2017 as a Legal Intern, she works at the satellite office in Champaign.


Jesse Rose, Communications and Development AmeriCorps VISTA

Jesse holds two bachelor degrees from the University of Illinois: Urbana-Champaign, where he graduated from in 2016. His first degree, a Bachelors of Science in Geography and Geographic Information Science, is focused on the practical application of cartography and the cultural implications of international events. His second degree, a Bachelors of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning, is focused on community organizing, adapting public policy, and the development of beneficial and safe spaces in local communities and their residents.

Jesse has worked with a variety of different community and student groups during his time in Champaign-Urbana. As a student, Jesse worked extensively with the Congolese community both locally and internationally as treasurer of an organization called Invisible Conflicts, a student group affiliated with the University YMCA. As part of the University YMCA, Jesse also held an additional leadership position as a member of the student board.

This is also Jesse’s second year as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Last year, Jesse served a year of service with the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission, where he worked to advance the programming and efficiency of the Emergency Family Shelter and Centralized Intake, two critical programs serving the homeless populations of Champaign-Urbana.

After Jesse’s year of service with the Immigration Project, he hopes to continue to utilize his skill set and knowledge to assist in making his community a better place for people from all backgrounds to reside in.


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