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 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, 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, and in fall 2017 became a Department of Justice Accredited Representative.  She continues to serve as Citizenship and DACA 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 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 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, 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 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, 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.

Champaign-Urbana Office

Kiara Vega, Staff Attorney

Kiara joined the Immigration Project in November 2018 and is determined to zealously represent her clients. Kiara became an attorney to zealously advocate for the underserved. She is focused on serving low-income individuals, and she is especially grateful for the privilege of serving our clients here at the Immigration Project. As a daughter of a first generation Guatemalan immigrant family she has a personal as well as an academic understanding of the political and economic struggles in the countries from which many immigrants flee. Her understanding has inspired her desire to devote her legal career to the immigrant community.

Kiara attended law school in North Carolina at Charlotte School of Law, and graduated with Pro-Bono Honors. Her law degree is complemented by her extensive legal experience.  Kiara has devoted her time to serving her community by volunteering and informing her community of reformed immigration laws. During law school, she concentrated on immigration law matters. She accepted a position as a student-attorney with the Humans Right Clinic, where she successfully represented clients with their adjustment of status, naturalization, t-visas, and family-based immigration cases.

Kiara understands and knows that every case is unique. It is her goal to smoothly secure the most appropriate type of visa or other immigration benefit that best suits her client’s individual needs. She understands that your case is the most important thing in your life, and she will strive to zealously advocate for your rights, and lessen the stress and fear that you may be feeling.

During her free time, Kiara enjoys crossfit, hiking, and any activities that take her outdoors and into the mountains.

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.

Jesse Rose, Program Evaluation 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 third year as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Two years ago, Jesse served 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. Last year, he served as the Communications and Development Coordinator VISTA with Immigration Project.

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. 

Nat Bauer, Volunteer and Development Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA

Nat graduated from Carleton College in 2015 with a Bachelor’s degree in Cognitive Science. After college, they spent a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Minnesota Literacy Council, working at Minnesota State Library Services to improve early literacy programming in libraries across the Twin Cities. After a couple years of moving around the US (from Minnesota to California to Connecticut to Illinois), they are thrilled to be joining the Immigration Project for another year of service.

As a grandchild of refugees and the child of an asylum law professor, immigration has always been an important issue for Nat. For the past several years they have wanted to do more to help newcomers to the US, and they are glad to have found a position that will let them fulfill that goal. They look forward to working with volunteers and donors to enable the Immigration Project to reach as many people as possible.

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