Our Team

Board of Directors 

Matt Alevy

Board Member

Matthew Alevy is currently Vice President, Real Estate Portfolio for Thomson Reuters. In this role, Matt works across business units to optimize the company’s real estate portfolio and develop real estate strategy that is aligned with workforce planning and business strategy. The real estate team has reduced the number of offices by over 300 since Matt joined the team in 2015, driving down Real Estate costs by over $150 million. Previously, Matt was VP, Finance and VP, Treasury with responsibility for capital strategy and foreign exchange and interest rate risk management for Thomson Reuters.  Matt has a variety of finance experience over his 15+ years at Thomson Reuters including investor relations, treasury, FP&A, mergers and acquisitions and acquisition integration. Before joining the Thomson Corporation in 2005, he was an analyst for a boutique technology M&A investment bank and a financial analyst for a cable TV operator. Matt is an avid weather watcher, sits on the board of CARECEN NY and resides in Port Washington, NY with his wife, two children and adopted dog Harry.

Abner Alvarenga

Board Member

Abner was born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  He studied at the Catholic University of Honduras where, as a member of the university ministry, he supported youth integration initiatives.    

 

Abner arrived in the United States in 2003 and despite being undocumented for nearly two decades, he never let his immigration status hamper his dreams and aspirations.  He received an electrical certificate from BOCES, is a licensed real estate agent, and volunteered in post-natural disaster reconstruction initiatives through All Hands and Hearts. His own experiences as an immigrant have strengthened in him a desire to give back to his community, a passion which motivates him in his role as a member of CARECEN's Board of Directors.

Jonathan Cantarero

Board Member

Jonathan Cantarero is an attorney and writer based on Long Island. He received his J.D. from the City University of New York School of Law, where he served as the Executive Articles Editor of the CUNY Law Review and as a Graduate Fellow providing research assistance to faculty members. He received his B.A. from State University of New York College at Old Westbury, where he was awarded the Honors Convocation Achievement Award in Philosophy and Religion. During law school, Jonathan served as the Schulte, Roth, and Zabel Legal Fellow for New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. Following graduation, he has worked in public and private practice and has published several scholarly articles. 

Arriving in the United States from El Salvador at the age of five, Ms. Castillo’s own immigration experience became her motivation to work with the immigrant community. Ms. Castillo practiced immigration law for almost a decade prior to joining LICET and held several positions as Staff Attorney in non-profit organizations such as The Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy in Charlotte, North Carolina, SEPA Mujer and Make the Road NY on Long Island where she represented individuals, youth, and families in a variety of legal matters.

Ms. Castillo also served as Director of the Long Island Civic Engagement Table (LICET), a non-partisan group working to increase civic engagement in immigrant and working-class communities of color on Long Island.

 

Ms. Castillo currently works in Nassau County local government as a Legislative Affairs team in the County Executive’s Office where she serves as liaison between the administration and County Legislature.  

 

She earned her J.D. from Touro College, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center in 2007, and her B.A. in Political Science from Molloy College in 2003.  She is admitted to the bars of New York and North Carolina.

Gabriela Castillo

Board Member

Robert Fuentes

Treasurer

Treasurer, Robert Fuentes, MD, joined the Board in 2012 after supporting CARECEN-NY for 28 years. A second generation Puerto Rican who also has German and Irish ancestry, he had always been aware of the constant flow of people from one place on the planet to another. He heard school teachers talk about “countries” and “immigrants” but realized that those concepts are used for political expediency rather than to describe reality. His work as an internal medicine doctor reinforced this view. He considers himself fortunate to have grown up on Long Island and the metro New York area and to have an opportunity to serve the community in which he grew up.

Pat Edwards retired from Citi Community Development on February of 2020 after a nearly 40-year career in the financial services sector with both Citigroup and NatWest Bank. She was a key member of the Citi Community Relations Group and served as a liaison between community–based organizations and the Bank with a primary focus on Affordable Housing, Community and Economic Development, Small Business Development and Lending and Financial Capabilities. Pat worked to strengthen partnerships with nonprofit organizations on Long Island, Queens and Brooklyn marketplaces.

 

Pat holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Science/Business Math from SUNY Binghamton, now known as Binghamton University.  She also completed the NatWest Bank Loan Officer Development and Credit Training Program. 

In July 2011, she was appointed by NYS Governor Cuomo to serve on the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council and during her tenure was appointed to the Executive Committee.  Pat was named as one of Long Island’s “Power 100” by City & State New York in May 2019. Pat is a native Long Islander, currently resides in East Meadow,  has been married to Michael Sr. for 36 years and they have two children.

Pat Edwards

Board Member

Amy Flores was born in Mineola, New York to immigrant parents from El Salvador. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management and later completed the ABA Accredited Paralegal Studies Program at Hofstra University.

 

In 2019, Mrs. Flores was appointed as the Executive Director of the Nassau County Office of Hispanic Affairs, which serves as a bridge between the growing Hispanic community and county  government. Under her leadership, the Office works with county agencies on the research, analysis and implementation of policy to ensure the Hispanic community is afforded equal opportunities, meaningful engagement, and access to the county government. 

 

Mrs. Flores has received numerous accreditations such as honors from organizations across Long Island. In 2019 she was honored by Long Island Business News for her commitment to excellence and support of diversity and equality within our community. Most recently, she was highlighted on the  as City & State’s 2020 Long Island Power 100 List.

 

Mrs. Flores is a Board Member of Circulo de La Hispanidad and a member of the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office Hispanic-Latino Advisory Council.

Amy Flores

Board Member

Ruth Silverman

Board Member

Ruth Silverman is a professor of Sociology and Women's Studies at Nassau Community. She attended Harpur College (State University of New York) where she received her BA with honors in Sociology. She received her MA at the University of Wisconsin and completed her doctoral work in Sociology at New York University. She follows in the footsteps of her father, Dr. Benjamin Malzberg, who did ground breaking sociological work on immigrants and mental health. From his position as director of the Bureau of Statistics at the New York State Department of Mental Health, he used the data to refute nativist arguments that immigrants are inferior and bring many social problems with them. When she moved to Long Island, she became aware that those same false charges were being thrown at a new group of immigrants to our community from Central America. She decided to carry on his work by joining CARECEN and contributing to its work by joining the Board. 

George Terezakis

Board Member

George A. Terezakis is the founder and principal attorney at the Terezakis Law Firm, PLLC,  located in Mineola, New York. His practice is concentrated in the areas of criminal and removal defense, including the interplay between criminal and immigration law; family-based immigration; asylum; and appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals. He is a graduate of the class of 1985, University of Buffalo School of Law (SUNY), where he was the recipient of the annual Law Faculty Award, and graduated from SUNY Buffalo in 1982, Phi Beta Kappa, magna cum laude in Political Science.  He is the recipient of the Nassau County Criminal Courts Bar Association’s Practitioner of the Year award for 2013; the Long Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2011 Community Advocate of the Year award; and has previously been recognized by CARECEN for his pro bono work on behalf of Long Island’s immigrant community. During the 1980’s, Mr. Terezakis was active in the Central American human rights movement, and volunteered with the Non-Governmental Human Rights Commission of El Salvador (CDH-NG). He is fluent in Spanish, and a long-time supporter of CARECEN.

Luís Vázquez

Board Member

Luis Vazquez is a true product of Long Island, New York. He grew up in Glen Cove, attended Long Island University, CW Post Campus and graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice as well as a certificate in Paralegal Studies. He subsequently received his New York Real Estate Sales Associate License and was employed by Caldwell Banker Real Estate in Locust Valley before joining Nassau County Government.

 

Currently, Luis Vazquez is the President and CEO of the National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Health (NHCCH), whose mission is to improve the health of racial and ethnic minority populations through the development of health policies and implementation of programs that eliminate health disparities and to create access to quality healthcare.

 

Luis has received many awards for his leadership and community service including the Humanitarian of the Year from the Hispanic Counseling Center (2001) and the Champion Award, Suffolk County Child Care Council (2016). In 2019, Schneps Media recognized Luis as a “King” at their “Kings of New York Awards and Network Event” for his outstanding leadership and contributions to the community. He continues to uphold his visions and dreams in bringing the highest quality and standards to the Hispanic and minority community.

Blanca Villanueva

Board President

Blanca A. Villanueva is a Long Island native, growing up in Brentwood, NY. She is a graduate of New York University, where she became a part of student led organizations, such as C-Roots and LUCHA, which strive to educate and unify the NYU community on social and cultural issues. Blanca graduated with a degree in Psychology and American Sign Language and then pursued her Master’s in Public Health at Brooklyn College. She credits her masters studies in truly enlightening her on the important roles policy, environment, and education play in creating disparities and inequities in a community. 

 

She began her community organizing by working with the Alliance for Quality Education on statewide education policy change. Recognizing that education justice is racial justice, Blanca combines advocacy, policy, and grassroots organizing to address the decades of systemic racism in the education system. She now works with the Advocacy Institute supporting the legislative advocacy of social justice and movement-building organizations in New York State, while also serving as the Board President for CARECEN NY. 

Lauris Wren

Board Member

Clinical Professor Lauris Wren, a Williams College and Columbia University Law School graduate, founded the Asylum Clinic at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University in 2003. Through the Asylum Clinic, law students represent applicants for asylum. The Clinic has represented hundreds of clients from around the world and has a 100% success rate, despite severe obstacles faced by clients in the asylum application process. Professor Wren also co-founded the Immigration Clinic at Hofstra University and has received awards from numerous Long Island organizations in recognition of her work on behalf of the immigrant community.

 

In 2014, Professor Wren founded LGBT Immigrants of Long Island, the first organization on Long Island specifically serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender immigrants. Prior to coming to Hofstra, Professor Wren was the director of the Refugee Assistance Program at the New York City Bar Association. Prof. Wren has also worked at the New York City Legal Aid Society and at the Central American Refugee Center on Long Island. Prof. Wren has worked with many human rights organizations in Mexico and Central America and has participated in human rights missions in various areas of the world.

Staff Members

Karla Alas

ONA Long Island Immigrant 

Community Navigator

Karla was born in El Salvador and is a first generation immigrant. She is an International Baccalaureate alumni and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in international studies from SUNY Oneonta, where she graduated with department honors and dedicated much of her research to human rights affairs. In the past she has volunteered at the Consulate General of El Salvador where she worked first-hand with the Salvadoran diaspora, in addition she has also interned at the United Nations and has worked as a Dialogue Leader at the office of equity and inclusion at SUNY Oneonta. 

 

In her position at CARECEN, Karla assists the Long Island immigrant community in naviating resources, services and programs available to them throughout the region, with a focus on low-income immigrants who are particularly vulnerable to socioeconomic disadvantages.

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.

Elise de Castillo, Esq. 

Executive Director

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.  

Beatríz Alemán Cisneros

Paralegal 

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. 

Jenny Chevez Kessinger 

Paralegal 

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.

Emerson Argueta, Esq.

Supervising Attorney

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.

Melanie Creps

Community Programs Manager

Being  raised overseas in Papua New Guinea and adopting two immigrant sons has given Melanie a kinship with the immigrant community. After returning to the United States as an adolescent, she lived in various places in all corners of the United States before moving to Long Island. She has also travelled and volunteered extensively internationally. 

 

Melanie comes to CARECEN with a background working in the nonprofit sector in start-up and program management roles. She has worked with vulnerable and marginalized communities throughout her career. Melanie studied English, theology, and social sciences at Biola University in California and Western Seminary in Oregon. 

 

Melanie finds the greatest joy in her work when supporting immigrants as they assimilate into American life. She serves as the Community Programs Manager for CARECEN.

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.

Mayra Interiano

Administrative Assistant

Mayra was born and raised in El Salvador. She immigrated to the United States to pursue better opportunities. She obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Legal Science from St. John's University. She has since tried to give back to her community by assisting immigrants applying for various forms of relief. She first joined CARECEN has a paralegal and helped to process different immigration applications. Working at CARECEN is one of her biggest pleasures because she enjoys working in the legal field but understand the importance of addressing the community's other needs beyond legal assistance. 

Vivian Morales, LMSW

Social Worker

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.

 

 

Elisa Nuñez Gutiérrez 

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. 

Rebecca Reed

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. 

Andrés Santamaria Cortes

Immigrant Justice Corps - Justice Fellow 

As a first-generation immigrant from Colombia, Andres has been personally 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.

Steven Vivas

Immigrant Justice Corps - Community Fellow 

Born and raised in Queens, NY, Steven is passionate about the rights and advocating for underrepresented communities. He is a first-generation Mexican American college graduate from CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology, a Certificate in Dispute Resolution, and an Honors minor in Latin American/Latino Studies. While at John Jay, Steven was a Pinkerton Community Fellow placed at the Center for Employment Opportunities, where he authored and facilitated workshops for young adults leaving the Criminal Justice System. Prior to joining IJC, Steven worked as a Paralegal at the Safe Passage Project. During this time, Steven was able to see first-hand the hardships that unaccompanied immigrant youth face in the immigration system in the United States. At Safe Passage, he gained insight into legal proceedings such as Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) and Asylum proceedings. His work ranged from translating civil documents, researching country conditions, interpreting asylum interviews, and ensuring proper service was completed for SIJS proceedings. Steven works with the Long Island Project and assists Central American families seeking relief.

Emma Winkley

AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow - Communications and Development

Emma is currently serving at CARECEN as an AmeriCorps VISTA fellow, focused on building organizational capacity through outreach and communications. She is a recent graduate of New York University, earning a B.A. in Global Liberal Studies, with a Concentration in Law, Ethics, and History. She is deeply passionate about social justice and human rights issues, specifically related to immigrants’ rights, women’s equality, and environmental justice. Her undergraduate research focused on international policy solutions to the human rights issues at the intersection of climate change and international migration, which she plans to further investigate in her graduate studies in the International Migration program at the London School of Economics. Before coming to CARECEN, she worked in the nonprofit sector in various capacities, such as in volunteer, direct service, and research-related roles.