Consular Locally Engaged Staff Dedicated to Servicing American Citizens During Crisis

By: Mery Arcila

Our highest priority abroad is to protect the lives and interests of U.S. citizens overseas, especially during times of crisis. Our consular officers and local staff serve American citizens during their most important moments – births, deaths, disasters, arrests, and all kinds of emergencies. They are usually the first to respond to the needs of U.S. citizens while they travel or when they live abroad.

None of this work would be possible without the dedication and diligence of our Locally Engaged Staff (LES). Many of them have devoted their life to public service and work hand-in-hand with American officers providing them with vital institutional knowledge. Elaine Gutierrez is an exemplary LES who continues to inspire others through her commitment to consular work. Elaine has worked at the U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo since 1992 and specifically has been helping U.S. citizens in our American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit for 18 years. She has been awarded numerous awards and recognitions for her work and leadership of 11 LES members. In 2014, she received the highest LES award given in Embassy Santo Domingo.

Elaine considers every case involving an American citizen a reminder of the critical work done each day at the Embassy. She is especially proud of the team’s accomplishments during the 2010 Haiti earthquake and now during COVID-19. She states, “In 2010 ACS Santo Domingo led ‘Operation Safe Return,’ when the entire Mission’s united efforts repatriated more than 1,000 U.S. citizens home from Haiti. ACS staff processed and disbursed more than $400,000 USD in repatriation loans to those U.S. citizens…a huge success story!” 

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Gustavo Albaladejo, a flight engineer for Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., provides hearing protection to Haitian Americans prior to an air evacuation to Homestead, Fla., on Jan. 20, 2010. One of the United States’ key missions is to evacuate U.S. citize

Currently, ACS staff like Elaine have been working around the clock to assist U.S. citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of calls have been answered and tens of thousands of Americans citizens have returned home. Elaine describes that during emergencies, her priority is to provide the best service she can, and do so humanely and with respect.

Empathy, resiliency and professionalism are at the core of consular work. Elaine has exemplified these qualities throughout her years of service. Elizabeth Arias, also an LES at Embassy Santo Domingo’s ACS Unit, states that “working with Elaine for more than a decade has shown me not only how 

great she is as a professional while helping U.S. citizens in distress and during emergencies, but also while treating others compassionately.”

The U.S. Embassy in Santo Domingo would like to thank and appreciate all of our Locally Engaged Staff for their commitment and hard work, especially during this global pandemic.

A little more about Elaine:

Elaine was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and after high school participated in a student exchange program with the American Field Service, where she lived with an American family in Wisconsin. Elaine has a Bachelors Degree in Computer Systems Engineering from Instituto Tecnologico de Santo Domingo – INTEC – and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra – PUCMM. Elaine is currently the Senior Supervisor and Consular Services Specialist in Embassy Santo Domingo’s American Citizens Services Unit.