Local immigration specialist spends a day on Capitol Hill


Local immigration specialist spends a day on Capitol Hill

New York, New York (January 24, 2018) - It was 4:00am when Carmen Gutierrez’s alarm went off. She had to be out the door by 4:30am to get from Queens to 34th Street in time for the 6am bus.

She knew she’d arrived when she saw a group holding rolled posters and signs reading, “Dream for our NY."

Carmen leads the Immigration Services Department at a New York nonprofit, Queens Community House.  Her typical day is spent juggling phone calls and meetings with immigrants looking for help with applications, fees and legal issues. Being on the front line of the organization, she hears countless stories from students and families trying to reconcile the recent changes to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.

The bus arrived in D.C. at 11:00 a.m. Carmen, along with 50 others, filed out and stretched their legs. The organizers, New York Immigration Coalition, divided the advocates into three groups and all set off to knock on representatives’ doors and, hopefully, tell their stories.

Some offices were closed. Others turned the group away or shushed them. Others, like Grace Meng, who represents the 6th district of New York, invited them in and heard what they had to say.

One father’s eyes welled up as he began, “I did cross the Mexican border. All I wanted was security for my family. My kids did nothing wrong. Please give them an opportunity.” His two sons are DACA recipients who are at risk of losing their ability to renew their DACA status this year.

One member of the group said, “I am a DACA recipient and a sophomore in college.” She told her story of receiving an award from her local council member. “I give back to my community in all I do. I was raised here, I contribute here, why can’t I stay here?”

Carmen told her story, too. She said, “I work at an organization that handles a lot of DACA cases. All our participants are all working or studying. They give a lot to their communities. They are such decent people.”

The groups boarded the bus again at 7pm. Signs were wrinkled and rolled back up. Reflecting on that ride home Carmen said, “At the beginning of the day, I felt like no one was listening to us. It just felt like we weren’t accomplishing anything. But I stopped thinking like that and looked at the big picture. By going to D.C., we are saying something. By talking to our representatives, we are trying to change things. We’re making a difference. The alternative is to do nothing. We are doing something.”

The bus pulled in at midnight, and Carmen was back home in Queens around 1:00 a.m. “Yes,” she said, “we are making a difference."


About Queens Community House: Founded in 1975, Queens Community House, is a multi-site nonprofit organization that offers a wide network of comprehensive services to individuals, families, and communities throughout Queens. From 29 sites in 14 diverse neighborhoods, QCH helps thousands of Queens residents to thrive in school, make healthy life choices, succeed in educating themselves, become engaged citizens, stabilize their housing situations, and make the most of their senior years.  Learn more at www.qchnyc.org.

Jennifer Weil, Communications
Queens Community House
108-25 62nd Drive, Forest Hills, NY 11375
Cell: (352) 262-1066    
Office: (718) 592-5757 Ext. 249

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