Elise de Castillo, Esq.
Elise's journey to CARECEN began through her work with marginalized communities in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, India, and Mexico. These experiences led her to the Hofstra University School of Law where she graduated as the Dwight L. Greene Scholar, a full tuition scholarship for minority rights advocacy. Her representation of Central American asylum seekers as the Post-Graduate Fellow at the Hofstra Asylum Clinic inspired her to continue serving this community at CARECEN. She joined CARECEN as a staff attorney in 2012, where she subsequently served as Legal Director before becoming Executive Director in 2020.
In addition to her work at CARECEN, Elise also served as a consultant for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the results of her interviews with more than 200 unaccompanied migrant children from Central America were published in the UNHCR's report Children on the Run. Elise is a recipient of the national Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing and was named a Top 40 Latino Under 40 by the New York Hispanic Coalition.
Chief Operations Officer
Rebecca obtained her Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Culture, Politics, and Russian Studies) at the University of Texas - Arlington, worked in non-profit ministry, volunteered in grass roots political campaigns, and began her English Language Teaching (ELT) career in Daejeon, South Korea, before coming to CARECEN. Becca holds an M.A. in TESOL from The New School for Public Engagement as well as a Graduate Certificate in Sociology from Appalachian State University. She is currently pursuing a Master's in Public Administration and Policy from American University. Becca joined CARECEN to help launch a new program, Pathway to English - Long Island, as ESOL Services Coordinator. Since then, she has transitioned into other roles, including development, program coordination for the CARECEN-Hofstra EL/Civics and Citizenship Project, and most recently, Chief Operations Officer. In 2019, Becca graduated from the Advocacy Institute Educator Pipeline, participated in the She Should Run Political Pipeline, has been an outspoken advocate for state and federal adult education/ESOL policy change, and was elected Vice President of Outreach for the New York State TESOL (NYS TESOL) Executive Board.
Emerson Argueta, Esq.
Emerson was born in El Salvador and emigrated to the United States with his family in the early 1990s, and settled on Long Island. Emerson’s experience working in immigration started in his first year at Fordham University School of Law when he volunteered with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project. He continued advocating for immigrants through four service trips to the family detention center in Dilley, Texas, and internships with Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) and Human Rights First. Emerson worked with Immigrant Justice Corps’ Adults with Children project where he represented underserved vulnerable women and children facing removal to Central American countries where they fear gang and domestic violence. He will continue to serve the Long Island immigrant community as a supervising attorney for CARECEN.
Gabriela Calahorrano Esq.
ONA Suffolk Legal Counsel
Gabriela is the ONA Legal Counsel for Suffolk County. In this role, she provides a variety of legal services via direct representation, clinics, and consultations. Gabriela also addresses the need for quality legal information by leading a number of legal information sessions and workshops throughout the year.
Gabriela is a graduate of Hofstra University School of Law, and she also completed her M.A. in Sociology at St. John’s University. She chose law school so that she could take a more hands-on approach to helping others in her community. Gabriela also found that having a sociological background affords her a wider perspective on issues of immigration as she practices law in that field.
Megan Elman, Esq.
Immigrant Justice Corps - Justice Fellow
Before law school, Megan worked with noncitizen survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Raleigh, North Carolina on humanitarian immigration petitions. This work led her to law school, where, through internships with the Bronx Defenders and Public Defender Service of D.C., she became interested in removal defense and post-final order relief, particularly where criminal convictions are/were the grounds for removal. She believes that no noncitizen, regardless of criminal history, deserves to be deported. As an IJC fellow, she will be working in removal defense and post final order relief at IJC’s Long Island Project.
Andrés Santamaria Cortes
Immigrant Justice Corps - Justice Fellow
As a first-generation immigrant from Colombia, Andres has been personaly affected by immigration issues, which is why he chose to pursue a law degree specifically to advocate for immigrant rights. While obtaining his Bachelor's degree at St. John's University, he interned at the The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York's pro se office and in the Honorable Judge Koeltl's chambers, researching federal criminal and civil cases and attending district court hearings. These experiences lead him to Boston College Law School, where participated in a Pro Bono Spring Break Trip to the National Immigrant Justice Center to assist asylum seekers fill out applications. Andres enrolled in the Immigration Clinic for two semesters to represent clients in removal proceedings and habeas corpus hearings, and to work as a research assistant for the clinic's Director. As an IJC Fellow Andres will represent Central American families who are seeking asylum in removal proceedings in the New York City Immigration Court.
Elisa Nunez Gutierrez
Immigrant Justice Corps - Community Fellow
Born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and raised on Long Island, Elisa is passionate about advocating for the needs of immigrants in isolated spaces. In her hometown of Uniondale, Elisa led workshops and provides mentorship to first-generation High School seniors transitioning to college. Her lived experiences propelled her to research Central American adaptation to white-suburban space in Long Island which she presented at the Annual Eastern Sociological Conference. Elisa’s experience as a NYC volunteer court interpreter allowed her to understand the extent to which the legal process affects immigrants and its limitations. As an accredited legal representative Elisa will be working under IJC’s Central American Protection Project, a partnership with Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) where she will serve Central American children and families seeking humanitarian relief.
Jenny Chévez Kessinger
Paralegal /Citizenship Services Coordinator
Born in Nicaragua, from a very early age Jenny was engaged in her community and exploring her heritage through folkloric dance. As a young adult Jenny worked as a host and tour guide for international relief workers and students of service learning projects for over seven years, which enabled her to attend college at the Universidad Nacional de Nicaragua at León. Jenny immigrated to the United States in 2010, and was incredibly fortunate to have been warmly supported and encouraged by many in her community. She strives to return this warmth to new immigrants each day. Jenny has been an active member of the LGBT immigrant community, including serving as a Coordinator of the LGBT Immigrant Group, a collaborative project between CARECEN and Hofstra University. In her free time, Jenny enjoys knitting, painting, gardening, attending concerts, visiting museums, and she still loves to dance.
Rose Mary Valles
ONA Long Island Immigrant Community Navigator
Rose Mary is a first generation Salvadoran-American. After graduating from SUNY-Oneonta in 2019 with a bachelors in Political Science, Rose Mary's interest in international relations led her to serve as Advisor for the Permanent Mission of El Salvador to the United Nations. There, she worked closely on human rights and social issues. Prior to this, she volunteered as a classroom assistant here at CARECEN. Through her family, personal experiences and community, she understands the challenges faced by the Long Island Immigrant community. She brings her passion to help and give back to CARECEN as the ONA Long Island Immigrant Community Navigator.
Vivian was born in Colombia, and raised in Spain where she obtained her Bachelor's degree in Social Work, and a Master's Degree in Project Management. Vivian was awarded by the University of Zaragoza, in Spain, to go to Cuba to complete an internship, and to go to Italy to participate in an intensive program to learn about social services in Europe in a multicultural society. Vivian's passion to learn more about different cultures guided her to specialize in International Cooperation, and worked in Peru for 10 months helping people at risk of social exclusion.
Vivian emigrated to the United States in 2012, and obtained her Master's Degree in Social Work at Adelphi University, and is registered to practice in New York State as a License Master Social Worker.
Immigration Counselor / Brentwood Receptionist
Beatríz came to the U.S. from El Salvador in 1983. She began her career with CARECEN as a volunteer in 1996 because she wanted to give back to her community. Beatríz has continued to serve the immigrant community ever since. She completes naturalization applications, Legal Permanent Resident Card renewals, TPS renewals, and DACA renewals in our Brentwood office. In her free time, Beatríz likes to go shopping and spend time with her children, grandchildren, and puppy, Milo.