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Luis Gutierrez: A guiding light for Latino progress


Luis Gutiérrez is a name shared name by two prominent local figures in the pro-immigrant movement: Congressman Luis Gutiérrez (D – Illinois) and the Mexican community activist and educator José Luis Gutiérrez.

However, our Luis Gutiérrez does not plan on changing his name.

“Don’t get confused. I’m the younger one; I’m 40,” he says with a laugh. “Each has his own area to develop his talent, and mine is definitely not politics.”

Nonprofit organizations are the specialty for this Chicagoan, born and raised in Little Village (La Villita).

In 1997, when he was just 24 years old, Gutiérrez founded Latinos Progresando, which helps Latino immigrants navigate the complexities of the U.S. immigration system. Nearly 16 years later, it holds the distinction of being, the largest family-based immigration legal services agency led by Latino in the State of Illinois, Gutiérrez says.

“We help all people equally, be it a Mexican seeking U.S. citizenship, a Guatemalan filing an immigrant petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) so that his or her mother can come from Guatemala to the United States, or a young person filing a Deferred Action request,” Gutiérrez explains.

Latinos Progresando also offers university scholarships for Undocumented students, and there is even a theatre company where young people can “share their immigrant experiences,” he adds.

Furthermore, Gutiérrez brought together 15 nonprofit organizations under a group called the Marshall Square Resource Network. “We meet once a month to discuss issues that affect the community and to grow as organizations,” says Gutiérrez of the network, established in 2010.

Illinois General Assembly Rep. Silvana Tabares (D – 21st District) and Chicago Alderman George Cárdenas (D – 12th Ward) both have met with the network “in order to inform us about how we, as organizations, can work with the support of their offices,” Gutiérrez explains.

The origins of Gutiérrez’s involvement in community service trace back to the early 1990s, when a friend invited him to volunteer at a citizenship workshop in Piotrowski Park.

“I was surprised to see so many youth volunteers helping older people fill out citizenship applications,” Gutiérrez says. “Those adults reminded me of my own parents. It made me happy; it opened up my heart.”

Originally from Mexico, Gutiérrez’s parents taught him lessons that go beyond his degree in nonprofit management from DePaul University. “They taught me to respect and help other people, just as other people helped them when they first arrived in the United States,” he says.

Their teachings – and his visit to Piotrowski Park – prompted him to quit his job as a Burger King manager and launch Latinos Progresando. He quickly learned the challenges inherent in running a non profit organization.

“It isn’t just about motivating your team, but rather it’s more about making your organization grow through donations. It’s very difficult,” he says.

However, Gutiérrez says he has been fortunate in his drive to keep Latinos Progresando and its mission intact.

“I have always heard other people say, ‘People don’t give.’ That has never been my experience. There has always been someone willing to help us out, either as a volunteer or through a donation,” Gutiérrez says.

Last January, the foundation celebrated its 15th year.

“Latinos Progresando would never have reached 15 years without the support of its volunteers, of educational institutes, and of the African American and white communities as well,” Gutiérrez says. “We are the reflection of the efforts of a united Chicago.”

Much like Gutiérrez and Latinos Progresando helps Latinos in need of legal services; ComEd is dedicated to helping its customers during financial hardships. That’s why, through the ComEd CARE programs, we offer a range of financial assistance programs to help qualified customers with paying their electric bills, and we support energy-assistance programs that help those in need.