Meet Our Members

The Atalayas: One Family, a Brighter Future

Isela and Angel and their two children, Alesi and Angel Jr., came to the United States from Peru over a decade ago in search of economic opportunities. They settled in Suffolk County, where Isela worked cleaning the local public library at night and Angel was a day laborer. The children attended Brentwood High School.

Since then, they’ve all become involved in MRNY. Isela learned English through our adult education classes and became a leader in our campaign for immigration reform. She also joined MRNY’s housing committee to learn about tenants’ rights so she could advocate for herself with her landlord. When DACA was first announced, Alesi secured this form immigration relief with support from MRNY lawyers, and then became a leader in our Youth Power Project. And when Vilma, Isela’s elderly mother, was hit with unmanageable medical bills, MRNY advocates helped her renegotiate them. After Superstorm Sandy, Angel, who had worked at dangerous clean-up sites, trained in workplace health and safety with MRNY, learning about his rights as a worker and becoming involved with our immigrant rights organizing alongside his wife and daughter.

Martín Batalla Vidal

Martín Batalla Vidal was nervous to apply for DACA. He’d lived in New York since he was 7, when he moved from Mexico with his mother and brothers. But applying for DACA meant revealing confidential information to the government–the same government with the power to deport him. Finally, he worked up the courage to apply, with our help, and received DACA status. The work permit enabled him to financially support his mother and afford college by working at nursing home for people with health issues. But now Martín is fighting for his right to keep working and helping others. MRNY joined Martín, the National Immigration Law Center, Yale Law School’s Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic, and five other DACAmented defendants to file a lawsuit challenging Trump’s termination of DACA. The suit has the potential to benefit hundreds of thousands of immigrant families.

“My mom told me to be strong and not to give up,” Martín says. “At the end of the day, I’m not really fighting for myself — I’m fighting for my community.”

Daniel Cortes

Daniel Cortes wanted respect and fair treatment at work. Daniel came to the US 30 years ago, and has worked in the food industry for decades. For years, the owner of a restaurant where he waited tables took all of Daniel’s tips, giving him back just $15 per night. In another restaurant, he often worked from 10 in the morning until midnight, without overtime. For many years, pay was so low that Daniel worked two jobs to support his family. When Daniel got injured on the job while hauling heavy bags of sugar and huge jugs of milk, Make the Road helped him find a lawyer and fight to receive workers’ compensation. Daniel enrolled in our English classes to try to find work outside of the restaurant industry. Our organizing work caught Daniel’s attention immediately, and Daniel became one of our fiercest leaders in the workplace justice committee. He was a leader in our work on the Fight for $15, speaking to workers and the public about the need to raise the minimum wage, based on his personal experience. Daniel authored an op-ed on the importance of policies to prevent wage theft, and met with dozens of elected state officials about the need for stronger protections for workers.

Zuleima Dominguez

Zuleima’s family came to the US from Mexico when she was 10, and she became DACAmented with legal assistance from Make the Road in 2013. It was a great year — she got a job, enrolled in community college with a scholarship MRNY helped her secure, and traveled abroad for the first time. She became the first in her family to graduate college. Now, with the end of DACA, Zuleima is afraid that she and other DACAmented people will be targeted. Joining the Youth Power Project in our Queens office gave her the push she needed to come out of the shadows and fight for her rights, and the rights of all immigrants, like her parents. Zuleima put herself on the front lines of this fight, leading a 3,000-person march to defend DACA, and writing an open letter to President Trump in the New York Daily News, asking him not to revoke DACA.

“We’re going to continue the fight, and this time I’m going to ask for something that protects my parents and gives them the respect and dignity they deserve.”

Isaiah Quiñones (IQ)

IQ helped organize a peaceful walkout after their school, where most students are black and brown and must walk through metal detectors every morning, refused to honor a statewide policy change allowing students to bring their phones. Before the walkout could take place, the school called NYPD officers who questioned IQ without notifying their mother and threatened to charge IQ with inciting a riot. They cited IQ for disorderly conduct (which the court later dismissed) and IQ was suspended from school. Since 2014, IQ has honed their skills in organizing and leadership with our Youth Power Project, helping to organize campaigns on policing, education, and LGBTQ rights. At their graduation ceremony, IQ’s high school awarded them its first-ever community leader award, which Make the Road presented to them. IQ is now in college and plans to become a geologist.

“Make the Road has helped me understand how to be an organizer — that I already am an organizer — and how to do outreach and speak to people who haven’t done it before.”

Mateo Guerrero

Mateo’s family moved to the US from Colombia in search of a better future. Mateo joined our Youth Power Project at the age of 15 and he helped to create curricula for youth at Make the Road and in the schools. With the support of Make the Road staff, he stabilized his immigration status, came out as a transgender man, and learned the skills that allowed him to step into a staff organizer role. Mateo has led some of our most powerful organizing work at the intersection of TGNCIQ and immigrant rights, highlighting the importance of a holistic approach to end systemic and interpersonal oppression, outside and within our communities. By sharing his story of complex identities and building with the community, he has inspired hundreds of people into action. Having recently graduated college, Mateo is now the Leadership Coordinator at MRNY, working to expand the very trainings that have supported him to build the next generation of organizers.

Maria Rubio Torres de Chavarria

Maria came to the US after surviving persecution in her home country, and later, cancer. MRNY’s health team enrolled her in Medicaid to cover the costs of her expensive treatments and connected her to our organizing programs, where she became active in our work to defend the Affordable Care Act and hold corporations accountable for their role in financing private prisons and immigration detention centers. Maria learned more and more organizing skills and became an outspoken leader of our Corporate Backers of Hate campaign. She has attended JPMorgan Chase shareholder meetings and directly questioned CEO Jamie Dimon on his company’s support for private immigration detention centers, an exchange which won national press coverage from dozens of media outlets.

Maria Castillo

Maria Angelica Castillo’s landlord has been trying to drive her out since 2008, refusing to make repairs to an enormous hole in her floor and denying her other critical services, in an attempt to drive her family out of her Brooklyn apartment and hike the rent. She has succeeded in remaining in her home through legal help provided by Make the Road New York. Maria is a leader in MRNY’s tenant committee, BASTA, where she organizes her community to keep families in their homes and resist landlord harassment and exploitation. She is currently enrolled in English language classes at MRNY. Maria was recently featured in a BASTA video.

“Now I can honestly say that we live with more dignity,” Maria says. “But to live with dignity, you always have to fight for it.”

Our Neighborhoods

Staten Island
Long Island
Northern Brooklyn

Residents of our core neighborhood of Bushwick, are among the poorest in the city: half of all households survive on less than $33,162 a year. Over 35% of households are made up of foreign-born immigrants, many of whom are undocumented. Bushwick is historically one of the most populous Latinx communities in the city and is home to some of MRNY’s most vibrant and creative organizing, from the annual Bushwick Pride march to the campaign that led to the creation of the Bushwick School for Social Justice and the Bushwick Campus Community School.

Western Queens

Our core neighborhood of Jackson Heights is among the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the country: more than half of residents were born outside the US. Many struggle with limited job opportunities, low educational attainment and lack of healthcare access. Jackson Heights is a hub for TGNCIQ New Yorkers, especially trans Latinas, who have fought back against waves of hate violence with inspiring and brave organizing.

Port Richmond, Staten Island

The enclave of Port Richmond on Staten Island's North Shore is home to the city's fastest-growing immigrant population including one of the biggest Mexican communities in NYC. MRNY members in Port Richmond typically speak limited English and lack of educational opportunities, decent healthcare and good jobs are three key issues. MRNY members in Staten Island have come together with other Staten Islanders of color to organize powerful campaigns for police justice, affordable housing and more.

Brentwood, Long Island

The Latinx community of Brentwood has boomed, and is now 70% of this hamlet’s total population. Immigrant Latinxs in Long Island are the target of anti-immigrant policy initiatives and public anger. Some public officials have built their careers on anti-immigrant platforms, inciting racism and xenophobia across the island. Today, Long Islanders who are Latinx have lower per capita incomes and lower educational attainment than black, Asian and white Long Islanders. Despite this, immigrants and residents of color are working together to build a more just and inclusive Long Island.

White Plains, Westchester County

The US Census Bureau ranks Westchester as one of the most unequal counties in America and second most unequal in New York State, in terms of the gap between wealth and poverty. Westchester’s Latinx community has grown in recent years. Latinxs now make up 23% of the population. Politicians often use anti-immigrant attacks to bolster their campaigns, further marginalizing the immigrant community there. MRNY’s Westchester center provides critical legal support, including domestic violence resources, along with grassroots organizing and civic engagement efforts to build the political power of Latinx and immigrant voters in Westchester.