Bloomington-Normal Office

Charlotte Alvarez

Charlotte Alvarez, Executive Director & Senior 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 after-school 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

Danielle DeWinter, Senior Staff Attorney & Pro Bono Coordinator

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 Hpwe

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, and in fall 2017 became a Department of Justice Accredited Representative.  She continues to serve 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.  She is a member of CIPA (Central Illinois Paralegal Association) since summer 2019.  Her current responsibilities include direct legal services – in consultation and preparing and submitting cases such as family petitions, U visa adjustments, etc.  With her children now ‘launched’ from home, Christine continues in her spare time to prepare for a potential return to the mission field.  She has volunteered over 50 hours in 2019 to online tutor a Chinese missionary who is in a middle East country, in English. Christine also 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 very humbled and thankful for the opportunities I’ve had through my job to help individuals and families advance in their well being.”  

Ruth Latzke

Ruth Latzke, Department Of Justice Accredited Representative

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’s 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.

Marianne Taylor

Marianne Taylor, Intake Specialist

Marianne was born and raised in the Dominican Republic, where she received her Bachelor’s degree. Her passion is helping and educating people to overcome social, economic and personal adversities. In pursuit of her passion, she has worked for over ten years with children, at-risk youth, women and under-served families, which include populations from Haiti, Dominican Republic, North Africa and USA.

Marianne has over 15 years of experience in translation and interpretation. She officially launched her own company ‘Morillo Language Solutions’ in 2010. She is a versatile and multifaceted interpreter and translator who has used her language skills in different specialized branches and sectors. She was part of a nation-wide Spanish marketing campaign for a Fortune 500 company as a language and cultural Consultant. She is a published book translator.

Since relocating to the USA, Marianne has served the immigrant community by strengthening and connecting them to resources. In particular, she has worked with the Hispanic community and those with socioeconomic hardship in McLean County as well as surround areas.

By being part of The Immigration Project team, Marianne hopes to gain insight on the legal aspect of the US immigration system in order to inspire and empower immigrants such as herself.

Zach Barr

Zachariah Barr, Volunteer Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA

Zach was born and raised in Bloomington-Normal. He attended Heartland Community College and transferred to Illinois State University. Through the coursework required for his Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy (2016) he enjoyed the opportunity to study, grow, and receive a little praise for “thinking too much” about a few things, including moral theory, human behavior, and literature.

From 2015-2019, he worked as a coordinator at a local homeless shelter, Home Sweet Home Ministries (Bloomington), where he was specifically charged with serving the dining center and the Bread for Life Co-op – a food cooperative which emphasizes building community and alleviating the hardship of chronic food insecurity. Through this work, he was able to gain a greater understanding of the varied hopes and needs of the community through each member’s unique stories.

Some of those stories were of the toil, determination, and gratefulness of immigrants, doing their best here to make a life for their family. Learning of the work the Immigration Project does and has been doing for years to help the immigrant community access legal services for all of downstate Illinois, he was happy to find an opportunity to serve the organization as a Volunteer Coordinator through the AmeriCorps VISTA program.

Zoe Bouras

Zoe Bouras, Communications & Development AmeriCorps VISTA

Zoe Bouras was born in the UK and immigrated to central Illinois in 2006, living in a rural Amish community since.  She recently graduated from the University of Oxford, UK with a MSc in Latin American Studies, and in 2018 graduated from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, as a double major in international studies and political science. Zoe learned about the Immigration Project after attending a talk by Dr. Kathleen O’Gorman, in which Dr. O’Gorman recounted her experiences as a translator in US border detention facilities. As an immigrant herself, Zoe is looking forward to the year ahead and is excited for the opportunity to help TIP as an organization committed to immigration justice. Zoe enjoys reading, travelling (31 countries and counting!), and taking care of her pet hedgehog, Thimble. 

Champaign-Urbana Office

Ximena Rivera

Ximena Rivera, Staff Attorney

Ximena joined the Immigration Project as a volunteer in 2015. In 2017, during her Master of Laws program at the University of Illinois-College of Law, she was part of the Domestic Violence and Immigration Law Clinic, assisting staff attorneys with a variety of cases. After graduation, Ximena became a staff member. In the fall of 2019, she obtained her Illinois Bar License and joined Immigration Project as the Champaign Staff Attorney.  

Ximena was born and raised in Colombia, and is also a licensed attorney in Colombia. While in law school, Ximena and some of her classmates developed a program for advancing progress of vulnerable communities in their hometown, Cali-Colombia. Upon graduation, Ximena worked for three years as the Executive Director’s Attorney at the Latin American Reserves Fund, helping advance developing countries. Upon her arrival to the United States, Ximena felt passionate about helping and advocating for the immigrant community. 

As a staff attorney with the Immigration Project, Ximena strives to provide quality legal services to the immigrant community, and is committed to continuously improving access to these services, in particular to families and individuals in need. 

Celeste Longbucco

Celeste Longbucco, Department Of Justice Accredited Representative

Celeste is an SIU graduate who has worked across industries, always with a focus on cultural awareness. After 15 years on the west coast, she has returned to Illinois to support the communities where she grew up. Outside of work, she enjoys outdoor rec, music and creative projects. After volunteering for The Immigration Project she has now joined the team full-time as an Accredited Representative in training.

Rodrigo Gutierrez

Rodrigo Gutierrez Vazquez, Community Outreach AmeriCorps VISTA

In 2019 Rodrigo graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter Minnesota. He obtained bachelors of liberal arts with a double major in Latin American, Latinx, & Caribbean Studies and Mathematics. Rodrigo is an immigrant to the USA. When he was 2 years old he was brought from his birthplace of Tijuana Mexico to Minnesota by his parents who were looking to get their PHDs in the university of Minnesota. He grew up with a love of his Mexican heritage. Growing up in the USA with the papers of a Mexican immigrant led to a reflection on the American immigration system. He decided to serve his community of fellow Latinos and immigrants, especially those who lack the same opportunities he took for granted.  He interned at the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs (MCLA) and at theCImmigrant Call center at the Advocates for Human Rights.  2019-2020 will be his first year serving as a VISTA. He is looking forward to working with the immigration project to open his horizons while finding new ways to support his community.