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[Congressional Record: February 13, 2003 (Extensions)]
[Page E224-E225]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []



                           HON. BARNEY FRANK

                            of massachusetts

                    in the house of representatives

                      Wednesday, February 12, 2003

  Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts. Mr. Speaker, one of the most difficult 
issues that we have been dealing with in these past years has been that 
of immigration. Sadly, it has become politically popular to blame 
immigrants for a wide variety of problems for which they are not, in 
fact responsible, and people have increasingly overlooked the important 
cultural and economic contributions immigration continues to play in 
our Nation of immigrants.
  In my efforts to provide fair treatment for immigrants, both as a 
matter of equity and as a matter of correctly assessing our national 
interest in a sensible immigration policy, I have benefited enormously 
from the counsel, advocacy and commitment of Helena Marques. She has 
been an extraordinary asset to all of us who are charged with helping 
to make national policy on this matter, and she has been a beacon of 
strength for those in the immigrant community and their families who 
have been affected by our policies. I concur wholeheartedly with the 
decision of the New Bedford Standard Times to designate her the south 
coast woman of the Year, and I ask that the article describing her work 
from the Standard times be printed here, because I believe our 
colleagues will benefit from reading about her important work on the 
immigration issue.

       After Sept. 11, 2001, Helena Marques had bad news for the 
     mothers of area residents deported from the area to Portugal.
       As she delivered the news during a meeting in a South End 
     Holy Ghost club, she

[[Page E225]]

     couldn't maintain her composure, an wept with the women. She 
     wept because she felt helpless. She wept for the victims of 
     the terrorist attack.
       The following day, she was back at her office at the 
     Immigrants' Assistance Center, advocating for immigrants' 
     rights with the same energy she always carried, even if the 
     woes were now almost insurmountable.
       Those who know Ms. Marques say she is the kind of woman: 
     one who easily gets involved in the suffering of those she 
     helps, but also one who can be a non-nonsense advocate and 
     diplomat, businesswoman and lobbyist.
       Ms. Marques, 42, picked up an agency in tatters when she 
     took over the helm in 1996, led it through its greatest 
     growth, and is now fighting on several fronts to maintain the 
     level of service she helped create.
       For all she has done since 1996, Ms. Marques is The 
     Standard-Times' 2002 SouthCoast Woman of the Year.
       Ms. Marques, a mother of one from Acushnet, with a 
     bachelor's degree in business administration, started her job 
     with IAC as a secretary more than 20 years ago, when the 
     agency had only four employees and a small budget.
       She rose through the ranks and in 1996 became the executive 
     director of the now much bigger 31-year-old agency.
       Coincidence or not, the year 1996 would forever be engraved 
     in the history of IAC and of immigrant rights in America.
       The agency was placed on probation by the United Way due to 
     administrative shortcomings and it had also suffered severe 
     cuts in funding from the state and federal governments.
       Nationally, immigrants were losing welfare benefits and a 
     new, stiffer deportation law was quietly coming into effect, 
     which would soon devastate many area families.
       ``When I got promoted to this position it was at a time 
     things were the worst,'' Ms. Marques said. ``The worst year 
     anybody can take over an agency.''
       Nevertheless, Ms. Marques, one of seven Madeiran immigrant 
     children and the product of the New Bedford public schools, 
       She rolled up her sleeves and got to work.
       In four years, Ms. Marques tripled IAC's size, turning it 
     from a struggling agency into a major immigrant services and 
     advocacy group. New programs sprung up during the time and 
     the agency opened two branch offices, including one in 
       Some of the programs Ms. Marques helped create include the 
     native language citizenship classes, educational in-jail 
     programs for individuals facing deportation and citizenship 
     programs in schools. Additionally, she helped form the Women 
     Immigrants Support Hub for family members of deportees.
       The agency also expanded beyond the Portuguese community 
     and started serving other immigrant groups in the city.
       One major effort included raising national and 
     international attention to the effects of the 1996 
     deportation laws, which locally have resulted in the 
     deportation of more than 400 Portuguese nationals and more 
     than 100 Cape Verdean nationals.
       The plight of those immigrants struck a chord because many 
     were being deported for seemingly minor crimes after living 
     most of their lives in the United States.
       Ms. Marques took the cause whole-heartedly.
       As a deportation fighter, sometimes she stood in the rain 
     with WISH members, holding signs in front of District 
     Attorney Paul F. Walsh Jr.'s office to stop a local 
     deportation program. She also shared hugs at community events 
     and personally talked with anyone who wished to speak with 
       Other times she traveled to Washington to bring the local 
     message to politicians or appeared on television and radio 
     shows to spread the word.
       She also became a well-known person in the community, 
     befriending Sofia Milos, the star of the yet-unreleased 
     romantic comedy ``Passionada.''
       What's surprising, or not, is that she has played all the 
     roles well, say those who know her.
       ``What I'm struck by in Helena is how she is so committed 
     but careful,'' said congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., who 
     has consulted Ms. Marques on several pieces of legislation. 
     ``It's easy to be a diplomat if you don't care. It's very 
     difficult to find someone that is both a zealot and a 
     diplomat. She doesn't allow her passion to impair her 
       Rep. Frank said he met Ms. Marques around the time she took 
     over IAC. He said his office has worked with her since that 
       I think she does a great job representing the immigrant 
     community,'' Rep. Frank said.
       Ms. Marques says that what she does comes naturally.
       ``A lot of times, the immigrant populations are in fear of 
     speaking about issues that are important to them,'' she said. 
     ``Being an immigrant myself, seeing what my parents have gone 
     through, I can relate.
       ``Not too many people have jobs that they feel they're 
     helping out the community. At the end of the day I know that 
     I've made a difference. To me it's a very humble job,'' she 
       Ms. Marques works behind her desk at the Crapo Street IAC 
     offices; dinners with politicians and her networking efforts 
     have helped turn IAC into a $450,000 agency, but it's her 
     advocacy work that has made her visible in the community.
       ``She's deeply committed to the work that she does, and 
     she's deeply rooted in the community,'' said Nancy Lee Wood, 
     a sociologist who helped form the WISH group with Ms. 
     Marques. ``She has a deep sense of compassion and caring 
     about what happened to her people.''
       Ms. Wood has accompanied Ms. Marques on vigils, meetings 
     with public safety officials and politicians and has helped 
     organize WISH meetings and other programs.
       Ms. Marques' enthusiasm has impressed her.
       ``I think she has worked very hard to build up the IAC. 
     That takes a lot of energy, a lot of faith in the future,'' 
     she said. ``It just takes a lot of courage to just forge 
     ahead and implement a lot of programs.''
       Ms. Marques became the executive director of IAC at a time 
     when the agency was under scrutiny and executive directors 
     changed with the tide.
       Today, the members of the board of directors of the 
     organization think they made the right choice when they 
     decided to name Ms. Marques executive director.
       ``She totally believes in what the center stands for. We 
     have complete trust in her,'' said Edward Macedo, president 
     of the board. ``She deals with the board very well, she knows 
     where the board is coming from. We work very closely 
       Mr. Macedo has been president of the board at IAC for three 
     years, but has been a member at least since Ms. Marques took 
     the job.
       He said that during that time he has seen her go beyond her 
       ``She goes way beyond,'' he said. ``She gives of herself 
     beyond her time also.''
       Ms. Marques, who is currently working hard to secure 
     $150,000 in lost state funds, said she is as committed as 
     ever in her job, despite the difficulties.
       ``I'm looking anywhere and everywhere for money,'' she 
     said. ``Now, more than ever, I feel I need to do what I'm 
     doing. When the immigrant population is being targeted like 
     it is right now, people like me need to be vocal.''
       Ms. Marques' dedication started when she first stepped into 
     IAC as a secretary.
       ``Because (IAC) was so small I did everything,'' she said. 
     ``I was like a sponge, I wanted to learn as much as I could 
     about the agency.''
       Ms. Marques said at times, when the job seems to be too 
     much to handle, the gratification from helping others has 
     kept her going.
       ``I do feel with so much tragedy coming in, I see it on a 
     daily basis, that I feel lucky,'' she said. ``I don't take 
     anything for granted because of what I see here.''


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