Caregiver and Latino rights advocate
When Lupe Gutierrez followed her American husband from Mexico to Spokane in 1991, she was a nervous mother of three with only a sixth-grade education. But the support of two local Americans helped her become a successful and devoted community member. The first was her English as a Second Language teacher at Spokane Community College who gave her the confidence to pursue a social work degree. “I think of him as my guardian angel. I’m so grateful he was able to see my potential when I couldn’t see it myself,” she says. The second influential American was a prosecutor who hired her as an intern and opened her eyes to the disparities of the justice system.
Gutierrez became convinced that getting the right help—whether in the form of legal assistance or job counseling—could make a big impact on people’s lives. In 2018, she became a community advocate at Latinos en Spokane, a nonprofit organization that supports Latino families and immigrants in Spokane County. There, she helps connect people to services like rental assistance, voter registration, medical help, immigration lawyers and coronavirus vaccinations.
It feels rewarding to help people navigate the system. That’s the way I give back
Gutierrez sees daily how these services help her clients integrate into society, build careers and find their own calling. But she also understands that such work can only go so far. She says the entire immigration process needs to be overhauled, especially the long wait times. “Sometimes people wait decades, and their lives are on hold,” she says.
In the meantime, she welcomes the support that Washington and the city of Spokane give local organizations like Latinos en Spokane. “There’s enough resources out there for everyone,” she says. Newcomers simply need advocates like her community college teacher who believe in their potential.