An immigration question for Alexa? This teen Latina coder created a Skill for it

By Gwen Aviles
Suguey Carmona working on a laptop in class.

Alexa, am I allowed to get a driver’s license? Alexa, how long does it take to get a visa?

These are the kinds of questions immigrants are now able to ask the virtual Amazon assistant in Spanish and English, thanks to “Immigration Bonds,” an Alexa Skill created by a 14-year-old Latina high school student at KIPP Brave High School in Austin, Texas.

Suguey Carmona first developed an interest in coding after taking a computer class in the sixth grade. She then joined Hello World, a K-12 computer science program based in Austin and San Francisco. She became exposed to different programming languages and discovered a way to meld her love of coding with an idea to help out immigrant families in her community.

“I chose to work on this technology because I see my own friends and family who have questions and who are struggling to make a living, and I thought maybe I should do something about it,” Carmona, whose family is from Mexico, told NBC News.

Language barriers and lack of access to information can be a major source of confusion for immigrants and can prevent them from accessing the services they need, according to numerous studies. Carmona’s technology addresses those challenges by providing a judgment-free zone to ask questions at people’s pace and in their own language.

After interviewing people about their most pressing immigration questions and conducting research on the logistics of obtaining paperwork, finding employment and navigating other areas of life as an immigrant, Carmona began working on the technology, which she named “Immigration Bonds.” And so began a monthslong process paved with coding challenges.

“I’d work on it for hours each day,” Carmona said. “I’d start a new paper and it would crash and break and I’d be like, ‘Oh, shoot. Now I have to start over again.”

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