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Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center's staff is composed of dedicated human rights activists from a broad range of advocacy and legal backgrounds. Our legal services staff includes licensed attorneys, paralegals, and Board of Immigration Appeals-accredited representatives.

Staff members can be contacted by email using the following format: [first initial][last name]@heartlandalliance.org.

Heidi Altman is the director of policy. Previously, she served as the legal director for the Capital Area Immigrants' Rights Coalition, where she oversaw the provision of legal services to men, women, and children in immigration custody as well as the provision of training and resources to pro bono attorneys and criminal defense attorneys. Heidi previously created the in-house immigration services program at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem and served as a Teaching Fellow in the immigration clinic at Georgetown Law School. She regularly provides analysis of immigration laws and policy proposals to news outlets including VICE, CNN, The New York Times, and Politico. Heidi is a graduate of New York University School of Law.

Julissa Alvarez is a pro bono  coordinator with the Immigrant Legal Defense Project. Previously, Julissa worked as a paralegal with NIJC's Immigrant Legal Defense Project, and as the front desk coordinator for Institute for Learning at BMO Financial Group. She received her bachelor’s degree from York University in Toronto, Ontario, majoring in political science. As an international student in Canada, she devoted most of her time engaging other international students through athletics and orientation programs. She interned with Filici-Palacio Immigration Services, Inc. and has experience working in the Canadian immigration system. Julissa holds a Basic Vocational Specialist Paralegal certificate from Elgin Community College.

Michele Amatangelo is the resource development director. Michele previously served as a Sudan Program manager at USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives in Washington, D.C. Prior to USAID, she spent a number of years in the private sector and also served as an economic development volunteer in the Peace Corps in Honduras. She received a bachelor of science in finance from Boston College and an master's of science in foreign service with a certificate in refugee and humanitarian emergencies from Georgetown University.

Erika Asgeirsson is an Equal Justice Works/Crime Victims Justice Corps Fellow with NIJC’s Counter-Trafficking Project. She provides direct representation and victims’ rights advocacy to survivors of human trafficking, and conducts outreach and training to improve early identification of trafficking survivors. Prior to joining NIJC, Erika was a legal fellow at Human Rights First, where she advocated for policies to combat hate crime. Before law school, she served as a community health development volunteer in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso. She earned her J.D. from New York University School of Law and her B.A. from the George Washington University. She is licensed to practice law in New York.

Joann Bautista is a policy associate in NIJC’s D.C. office. Joann graduated from the University of Maine School of Law, where she served as a student attorney in the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic and an LSO Fellow at Yale Law School’s Worker and Immigrants Advocacy Clinic. Prior to attending law school, Joann worked as a paralegal at an immigration law firm in Iowa City, Iowa. She received her bachelor’s degree in journalism and international studies from the University of Iowa

Erik Bingham is a DOJ Accredited Representative with the Immigrant Legal Defense Project. Prior to joining NIJC, Erik taught English in Spain. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Spanish from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. During college, Erik volunteered with the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center.

Madeline Birky is a paralegal working with the Asylum and Immigrant Legal Defense Projects at NIJC’s Goshen, Indiana office. She graduated from Goshen College with a double major in Spanish and journalism. During college she studied abroad for a semester in Nicaragua and a semester in Spain. Prior to joining NIJC, Madeline was a medical interpreter with Goshen Health.

Gianna Borroto is a senior attorney with NIJC's Federal Litigation Project. Previously, Gianna was a staff attorney with the Children's and Immigrant Legal Defense Projects, and a supervising attorney with the Children's Protection Project. She graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor's of science in psychology. Gianna obtained her J.D. from Harvard Law School and is licensed in the state of Illinois. Prior to joining NIJC, she interned at Legal Services: NYC and the Department of Justice. She also participated in Harvard’s Immigration and Refugee Clinic, where she represented asylum seekers and asylees.

Hannah Cartwright is a supervising attorney for NIJC's Adult Detention Project. She supports the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) to provide legal information to detained individuals in Chicago-area immigration detention centers and also serves as a Qualified Representative for detained clients with serious mental health conditions and competency issues through the National Qualified Representative Program (NQRP). Prior to joining NIJC, she served as a staff attorney in the detained program at the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center and clerked for the Philadelphia Immigration Court as a part of the DOJ Honors Program. She graduated with a BA in Middle Eastern Studies from Valparaiso University and holds a Master of Social Work and a Juris Doctor from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

Natalie Chait is a paralegal with NIJC’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative. Natalie graduated from the University of Rochester in 2018, where she studied economics and anthropology.

Peter Claassen is a legal supervisor with the Asylum, Immigrant Legal Defense, and Immigrant Children's Protection Project at NIJC's Goshen, Indiana office. Peter graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, where he participated in the Immigration Clinic and interned at Jewish Family & Community Services and the Community Justice Project. Prior to law school, Peter worked as a BIA accredited representative at RAICES in San Antonio, TX in their Unaccompanied Immigrant Children's program, and at the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic in Indianapolis, IN. He is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania. 

Ana Cristina Chavez Andonie is a paralegal with NIJC's Immigrant Legal Defense Project and the Chicago Legal Protection Fund. Prior to NIJC, Ana Cristina worked at Andre House of Hospitality in Phoenix, Arizona where she provided direct services to people experiencing homelessness and recently-arrived asylum seekers. She graduated from St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas with a bachelor's of science in Behavioral Neuroscience. Her independent work focused on the push and pull factors of migration and her thesis explored the relationship between the ALEC Public Safety Task Force and the private prison sector and its effect on the passing of Arizona's controversial immigration bill, SB 1070. As an undergraduate, she was actively involved in an ESL teaching and job-searching program for immigrants who were detained at the border and were recently released. 

Elaine Cleary is a paralegal with NIJC's Detention Project. She has prior experience in VAWA and U-visa petitions, asylum claims, and employment-based immigration law. Elaine graduated in 2017 from Ohio State University with dual degrees in political science and economics.

Nadia Danilovich is a legal supervisor with NIJC’s Immigrant Children’s Protection Project. Previously, she was a staff attorney with NIJC’s Immigrant Children’s Protection Project. Prior to joining NIJC, Nadia was a staff attorney at the Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, where she also represented unaccompanied immigrant children. Nadia received her bachelor's degree in anthropology and Spanish from Scripps College and her J.D. from the University of Southern California Gould School of Law. During law school she participated in USC’s Immigration Clinic, and interned at NIJC, Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, and the Wage Justice Center. She is licensed to practice law in California

Mary Meg Donnelly is a coordinator with NIJC's Federal Litigation Project. She holds a BA in Modern Language and Philosophy from Seton Hall University and an MA in Philosophy from Georgia State University. After graduating from Seton Hall, she spent a year teaching English with children aged 5-17 in Milan, Italy. Throughout her studies, she worked with several organizations dedicated to human rights and children’s welfare, including Amnesty International and Family Promise, a non-profit committed to helping families facing homelessness.

Jennifer Erl is a paralegal with NIJC’s Immigrant Legal Defense Project. She graduated from Knox College with a degree in Modern Languages. She volunteered with the Dilley Pro Bono Project as a Legal Assistant/Spanish Interpreter at the South Texas Family Residential Center. She has also volunteered with the Immigrant Justice Campaign.

Vanessa Esparza-López is a supervising attorney with the Immigrant Legal Defense Project, where she represents individuals before the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Department of Justice. Vanessa is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), where she currently serves on the Chicago AILA District Director Liaison committee. She obtained her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 2009 and her Bachelor of Arts with honors in International Studies from DePaul University in 2006. During law school, Vanessa was the cofounder of a new student group, the Society for Asylum & Immigration Law.

David Faherty is a staff attorney with NIJC's Detention Project. Dave previously worked as a staff attorney at the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Chicago Immigration Court. Before law school, he worked at the Open Society Foundations and was a teaching fellow in Malaysia with Princeton-in-Asia. Dave graduated from Dartmouth College and the University of Maine School of Law, and is licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Carolina Fernandez is a paralegal with the Immigrant Children's Protection Project. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2019, with a degree in Law and Society and a minor in Art History. Prior to NIJC, she interned at the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami and with the domestic violence prevention team at the Bay Area Legal Aid in San Francisco, California. 

Mark Fleming is the associate director of NIJC's Federal Litigation Project. Mr. Fleming focuses on strategic litigation and public policy related to immigration enforcement and detention.  NIJC’s work on enforcement issues was recognized with the 2014 Daniel Levy Award of the National Immigration Project. Prior to joining NIJC, Mark was a staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights focused on migrants' rights in the western hemisphere.  In that capacity, he coordinated the Inter-American Commission's investigation into human rights concerns with U.S. immigration enforcement, detention, and due process detention's impact on due process. Mark graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center in 2006. While in law school, he worked on a host of immigrants' rights projects, including representing asylum seekers and coordinating a fact-finding mission to Ecuador to investigate the impacts of changes to U.S. immigration law on Colombian refugees. Mark is licensed by the State of New York. 

Jesse Franzblau is the senior policy analyst for NIJC's D.C.-based Policy Team. He works on NIJC's Transparency and Human Rights Project, and conducts investigative research on human rights abuses at the U.S.-Mexico border. Previously, Jesse worked at Open the Government, directing the FOIA projects and specializing in open government laws to increase access to information on immigration policies, and has published articles with Al Jazeera, The Nation, The Intercept, Truthout, Huffington Post, Michigan Journal of Public Affairs, Proceso (MX), the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, and other outlets. He holds an MPP from the University of Michigan Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. 

Aneesha Gandhi is the managing attorney for NIJC’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative. Prior to joining NIJC, Aneesha was a legal fellow at the Diocese of Kalamazoo, Immigration Assistance Program. During law school she interned for NIJC, the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, the Greater Boston Legal Services' Immigration Unit, and the Vera Institute. Aneesha currently serves on the board of the National Lawyers Guild and is a collective member of Chicago Desi Youth Rising. She holds a B.A. from Smith College and a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law. Aneesha is licensed in the state of Michigan.

Maddy Garber is a paralegal with NIJC’s Family Integrity and Asylum Projects at NIJC’s Goshen, Indiana office. She graduated from Goshen College with a double major in psychology and piano. As an undergraduate, Maddy studied for a semester in Peru. Before joining NIJC full time, Maddy was an intern at NIJC’s Goshen office as well as a volunteer interpreter at the Center for Healing and Hope, a low-income medical clinic.

Amanda Y. Garcia is a staff attorney with NIJC's Adult Detention Project Legal Orientation Program. Previously, she was a staff attorney under the NIJC Legal Protection Fund. Before joining NIJC, Amanda served as a pro bono attorney for NIJC’s Detention Project. She has practiced multiple areas of law including family, employment, and business. Prior to practicing immigration law, she served as a pastoral care volunteer for detained immigrants in the Chicago metropolitan area. Amanda earned her J.D. at Loyola University of Chicago School of Law in 2006 and her B.A. in philosophy from the University of Michigan in 2002.

Alli Gattari is a paralegal with NIJC’s Immigrant Children’s Protection Project. She graduated from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign with a bachelor’s of arts in English and Spanish. After graduating college, Alli was a bilingual teaching assistant for Urbana School District in Urbana, Illinois, and community organizer for Champaign-Urbana Immigration Form. Prior to joining NIJC, she was a Fulbright English teaching assistant in Chiapas, Mexico and worked a migrant shelter with asylum seekers.

Oswaldo Gomez is a paralegal with the Immigrant Children’s Protection Project. He graduated from Lawrence University in 2018, with a degree in international relations and a minor in Latin American studies. Prior to NIJC, he interned at the Middle East Institute in Washington D.C. where he helped edit the Institute’s academic journal. While attending university, he conducted field-research on security issues and youth empowerment in Sierra Leone, Morocco and Jamaica. He has also worked with local organizations like The Pilsen Alliance in fighting for reforms in affordable housing, education, and immigration.

Rebekah González is a staff attorney with NIJC’s Immigrant Children’s Protection Project. Previously, Rebekah was the staff attorney on the Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project of LAF. She graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Arts in biology and international studies and a minor in psychology. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in Latin American and Caribbean studies from the University of Chicago. Rebekah graduated summa cum laude from DePaul University College of Law and is admitted to practice law in the state of Illinois and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

Angela Hernandez is a managing attorney with NIJC’s Immigrant Legal Defense Project (ILD). In addition to supervising a team of attorneys and paralegals, Angela oversees the Counter-Trafficking Project as well as manages the Citizenship and Post-Asylee/Refugee pro bono projects. Prior to law school, Angela worked at NIJC as a BIA accredited representative where she helped to launch NIJC's current VAWA/U Visa pro bono project. Following law school, Angela returned to NIJC contributing to the Children’s Project and later, leading the Counter-Trafficking Project. Angela has served as the director of the Domestic Violence Program at the Casa Cornelia Law Center in San Diego, staff attorney at CARECEN in Los Angeles, and senior staff attorney at The Door’s Legal Services Center in New York. Angela received her B.A. from University of Chicago and her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois.

Brittany Herschberger is a paralegal working with the Asylum and Immigrant Legal Defense Projects at NIJC’s Goshen, Indiana office. She graduated from Goshen College with a major in biology and secondary education and a minor in Spanish. During college she studied abroad in Guatemala. Prior to joining NIJC, Brittany was a teacher in the Goshen area and a Peace Corps volunteer in Costa Rica, where she worked with local English teachers in the Teaching English as a Foreign Language program.

Ashley Huebner, associate director of legal services, oversees NIJC's Asylum Project and immigrant children's programs.  Ashley conducts legal trainings and provides technical support to pro bono attorneys representing individuals seeking asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and other relief through NIJC.  She specializes in asylum issues related to gender-based claims and unaccompanied children and regularly speaks at national conferences regarding these and other asylum topics. Ashley is actively involved in impact litigation related to complex asylum issues, including gender and gang-based asylum claims, the particular social group definition, and the terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds.  Ashley received her B.A. from Marquette University and her J.D. from Boston University School of Law.

Sara Jacobs is a paralegal with NIJC's Detention Project. She holds an M.A. in Oral History from Columbia University and a B.A. in Spanish/Latin American Studies from American University. During college, she studied in Nicaragua and Mexico and did an oral history project through the Servicio Jesuita para Migrantes with Nicaraguan participants in the Caravan of Mothers of Disappeared Migrants.

Jesse Johnson is the Detention Project’s pro bono coordinator and is a Department of Justice Fully Accredited Representative. Prior to joining NIJC, Jesse was a legal assistant supervisor at an immigration law firm where he worked on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), asylum, and all removal defense processes. As an undergraduate, he interned at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and studied abroad in Costa Rica. Jesse received his bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies with a concentration in immigration, and in English from Davidson College.

Elizabeth Juarez is the receptionist for NIJC’s office in downtown Chicago. She provides clerical and administrative support services, facilitates scheduling of intake appointments, and manages the reception area.

Olivia Judd is a staff attorney with NIJC’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative. Prior to joining NIJC, she interned with the International Refugee Assistance Project and with the International Rescue Committee. She earned a B.A. from the University of Minnesota in Global Studies & French. She received her J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School, where she worked with the Immigration & Human Rights Clinic and received the 2018 Human Rights Center Award for Outstanding Contribution. She is licensed to practice law in the State of Illinois.

Elizabeth "Libby" Kalmbach Clark is a coordinator with NIJC's Federal Litigation Project. She previously worked as an Accredited Representative with NIJC's Adult Detention Project. Prior to joining NIJC, Elizabeth worked at Annunciation House, an organization that runs migrant shelters in El Paso, Texas. She holds a B.A. in international studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an M.A. in writing and publishing from DePaul University. 

Joshua Karsh is NIJC’s Legal Director. Before joining NIJC, Josh was a litigator in private practice for almost thirty years, primarily representing civil rights plaintiffs in class and collective actions. Josh is a member of the American Law Institute (ALI), a fellow of the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, a graduate of Yale College and the University of Chicago Law School, and was a law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge Hubert L. Will.

Colleen Kilbride is a senior attorney with NIJC's Family Integrity Project. Previously, she was a staff attorney with NIJC’s Immigrant Children’s Protection Project. Prior to joining NIJC, Colleen was a paralegal at Catholic Charities Legal Services to Immigrants in Milwaukee, where she worked with victims of domestic violence on U visa and VAWA cases. She also worked at Diocesan Migrant Refugee Services in El Paso as a family-based immigration paralegal handling extreme hardship waiver cases and served as an ESL and citizenship instructor. Colleen graduated magna cum laude from Augustana College with a B.A. in Spanish. She received her J.D. with pro bono honors from Georgetown University Law Center and is licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Lisa Koop, associate director of legal services, directs NIJC's asylum project, handles federal litigation, and provides representation and supervision in deportation defense matters.  Lisa specializes in litigation, policy, and direct services advocacy on behalf of immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. Lisa heads NIJC’s Indiana office and is an adjunct professor at Notre Dame Law School. Lisa graduated magna cum laude from Indiana University McKinney School of Law in 2004.

Danae Kovac is the Chief Operational Officer at NIJC. Previously she served as the deputy director for Lawndale Christian Legal Center where she was responsible for development, finance, and operations and helped the organization triple in size over four years. Prior to LCLC, she worked in marketing and operations at the Women’s Business Development Center. Danae received her B.A. from Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL.

Daniel Kreider is a paralegal with NIJC’s Immigrant Children’s Protection Project, Immigrant Legal Defense Project and Asylum Project. He graduated from Indiana University in 2018 with a double major in international studies and Hispanic linguistics. During college, Daniel studied abroad in both Mexico and Ecuador. He interned at NIJC’s Goshen, Indiana office for two summers before joining the team full time.

Marisa LaBella is the VAWA/U Visa pro bono project paralegal on the Immigrant Legal Defense Project. Marisa graduated magna cum laude from Loyola University Chicago with degrees in anthropology, Spanish, and Latin America studies. During college, Marisa conducted research with deportees in Mexico City and Salvadoran Temporary Protected Status holders, focusing on legal strategies and community organizing. Marisa presented her research at the annual Society for the Anthropology of North America conference in Puerto Rico and received honors for her contributions to im/migration studies. Previously, Marisa interned with NIJC’s Detention Project.

Julian Lazalde is the Civic Engagement and Policy Analyst at NIJC. Previously, Julian served as the Civic Engagement Manager at the Latino Policy Forum where he oversaw the organization's local and state level immigration policy initiatives. He received his B.A. from Williams College and M.P.A. from the School of Public Service at DePaul University.

Youyang “Mona” Li is a staff attorney with NIJC’s Immigrant Children’s Protection Project. Mona received her bachelor’s degree in international studies and Spanish from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law. During law school, Mona worked on family immigration issues at the Immigration Project in Champaign, Illinois. Mona is licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Tania Linares Garcia is a senior attorney with NIJC’s Federal Litigation Project and LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative. Prior to joining NIJC, Tania served as a staff attorney at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Granger, Washington. She earned her J.D., magna cum laude, from Southern Illinois University. While in law school, Tania interned with the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project, the Illinois Innocence Project, and NIJC’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative.

Ruth Lopez-McCarthy is a managing attorney with the Legal Protection Fund Project. Ruth holds over 14 years of experience in the immigration movement both locally and nationally. After working as an organizer in her local community in Chicago, Ruth obtained her J.D. from Chicago- Kent College of Law. Ruth has served as deputy field director with the Reform Immigration FOR America campaign, coalition coordinator for the Northern Borders Coalition, and as the deputy legislative associate/legislative liaison for Field for the Alliance for Citizenship campaign in Washington, D.C. She joined the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights as the comprehensive immigration reform implementation director in 2013 where she built the IL is READY Campaign in preparation for administrative relief. Ruth has worked as a consultant for national immigration advocacy organizations coordinating immigrant focused programs across the country. She is licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Ruben Loyo is a senior litigation attorney with NIJC's Federal Litigation Project. Ruben was previously a clinical teaching fellow at Yale Law School, where he worked with students in the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic and Immigration Legal Services Clinic. From 2012 to 2016, he was a staff attorney at the Brooklyn Defender Services in New York City, where he defended clients from deportation and detention as part of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP), the nation’s first universal representation program for detained immigrants facing deportation. Ruben previously clerked for the Honorable Solomon Oliver, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. He is a graduate of NYU School of Law and Georgetown University, and is licensed in New York and New Jersey.

Karin Machalová is a paralegal with the Immigrant Legal Defense Project. Karin graduated summa cum laude from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a bachelor's of arts in political science. She also received a Certificate in Business Anthropology from the College of Dupage. Prior to joining NIJC, she worked as an intern for Human Rights Watch and participated in New Leadership Illinois, a program hosted by the Conference of Women Legislators and the Institute of Government and Public Affairs. She is fluent in Czech and Spanish.

Hena Mansori is the managing attorney of the NIJC’s Adult Detention Project. Since joining NIJC in 2008, Hena has represented detained immigrants in removal proceedings before the Immigration Court and Board of Immigration Appeals. In addition to supervising NIJC’s detention team, she also manages NIJC’s Legal Orientation Program (LOP) and provides trainings and consultations to criminal defense attorneys through NIJC’s Defender’s Initiative program.  Hena works on all areas of immigration law as they pertain to detained immigrants but has a special interest in the intersection between criminal and immigration law.  She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Chicago in 2002 and her J.D. from NYU School of Law in 2006, where she was in NYU’s Immigrant Rights Clinic. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois.

Mary Meg McCarthy is the executive director of Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC), one of the nation’s leading immigrant and human rights advocacy organizations. Under Mary Meg’s leadership, NIJC has become a leading immigrant and human rights advocacy organization, contributing to national and international analysis, debate and reform of  immigration law, policy, and practices. She has built a network of 1,500 pro bono attorneys who are essential to providing legal services to thousands of individuals each year. An expert in immigration law, Mary Meg has testified before Congress and is quoted often in major news outlets such as MSNBC, The New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune. Prior to joining NIJC, she practiced civil litigation and was an NIJC pro bono attorney. Earlier in her career she worked in local communities in Chile to help safeguard the rights of individuals under a dictatorship. Mary Meg has been honored with several awards including: American Constitution Society Chicago Lawyer Chapter Ruth Goldman Award (July 2015), Chicago Inn of Court 2015 Don Hubert Public Service Award, Pax Christi 2013 Teacher of Peace Award, and the Damen Award from Loyola University (June 2015).

Katherine "Rin" Meehan is the executive coordinator for NIJC. Previously, she worked in the Illinois Department of Human Service’s Office of Grants Administration. Katherine graduated cum laude from DePaul University in 2017 with a degree in political science, as well as a minor in Spanish.

Ellen Miller is the pro bono manager. Prior to this position, Ellen worked in Child and International Protection with the UNHCR throughout Central America. She received her B.A. in International Studies from DePaul University; she also has an M.A. in International Human Rights Law and a post-graduate diploma in Psychosocial Interventions for Forced Migration from the American University in Cairo- Egypt. 

Rachel Milos is a senior attorney with NIJC’s Asylum Project. Before joining NIJC, Rachel clerked for Judge Bauer of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and worked as a public defender in Colorado, handling juvenile criminal appeals. She received her B.A. from Northwestern University and her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law.

Kate Melloy Goettel is an associate director in NIJC’s federal litigation unit. Prior to joining NIJC, Kate worked for seven years in the Department of Justice’s Office of Immigration Litigation, most recently as senior litigation counsel. Kate has practiced in nearly 40 federal district courts, seven courts of appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Before joining DOJ, Kate clerked for two years for a U.S. District Judge. Kate graduated with distinction from the University of Iowa College of Law. During law school, she worked in the law school’s immigration clinic and interned in NIJC’s asylum project. Kate previously served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kosrae, Micronesia. She is licensed by the state of Iowa.

Soledad Mendoza is a paralegal with NIJC's Legal Protection Fund. Prior to joining NIJC, Soledad was a New Americans Democracy Project fellow with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. In 2016, she graduated from Princeton University with a bachelor of arts in politics. Her independent work focused on Latino politics and her thesis explored restrictive state immigration laws and their effect on the naturalization patterns of Latinos. As an undergraduate, she tutored GED students through the Petey Greene Prison Tutoring Program, and was actively involved in an ESL teaching program and a student group that helped mentor high school Dreamers in Trenton.

Vivian Millan is a staff attorney with NIJC’s Immigrant Children’s Protection Project. Prior to joining NIJC, she represented clients in dissolution of marriage and parentage cases in the Cook County Domestic Relations Division, was a paralegal with Orlando Center for Justice where she worked with victims of domestic violence on VAWA cases and with individuals seeking asylum, and was a legal assistant at a personal injury firm. Vivian graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor’s degree in legal studies. She received her J.D. from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, where she participated in the school’s family law clinic. Vivian is licensed to practice in Illinois.

Karem Muksed is a paralegal with the Immigrant Children's Protection Project. Previously, he worked at the Illinois Migrant Education Program serving migrant farm workers all over the state of Illinois. Karem grew up in Iraq and Syria and came to the United States at age 14. His undergraduate experience at St. Olaf College involved a variety of experiences such as interning in multiple countries, conducting immigration research, and interning domestically in the United States Senate and Department of State. 

Ritika Narayanan is a staff attorney with NIJC's Immigrant Children's Protection Project. Prior to joining NIJC, Ritika received a Bachelor's degree in Rhetoric, minor in Latin American Studies, and a certification for Human Rights and Social Justice from the University of Texas. Ritika then joined the Immigration Clinic at the University of Houston Law Center, where she additionally received a J.D. degree and harnessed linguistic skills including Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi, and Urdu. As a licensed Texas attorney, Ritika previously worked as a corporate counsel within the real estate & title industry before relocating to Chicago to join NIJC's Immigrant Children's Protection Project.

Alejandra Oliva is NIJC's communications coordinator. She graduated from Harvard Divinity School with a Master's in Theological Studies. Before joining NIJC, she volunteered as an interpreter and translator for those applying for asylum with New York's New Sanctuary Coalition, and as a court observer with Boston Immigration Accompaniment Network. Her writing on immigration has previously been published at Zora Mag, Bookforum, Christian Century and Electric Literature.

Rosa E. Ortiz de Gasca is a staff attorney with the Immigrant Legal Defense Project. Previously, she was the staff attorney for the Victim Legal Assistance Network at the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services. Before that, Rosa worked at a boutique law firm practicing family based immigration and removal defense. During law school, she gained a variety of immigration law experience as a student attorney at UDM Law's Immigration Law Clinic, a law clerk at the Detroit Immigration Court, and a legal intern at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Rosa earned a Juris Doctor from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, a Certificate in Paralegal Studies from Loyola University Chicago, and a Bachelor of Arts from DePaul University where she majored in Sociology with a double minor in Latin American and Latino Studies and Spanish.

Alejandra Palacios is a staff attorney with the Immigrant Children's Protection Project. Prior to joining NIJC, Alejandra was the Fellow at the International Human Rights Clinic at the John Marshall Law School, where she was a clinical instructor and provided direct representation to asylum seekers. Alejandra graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and political science. Alejandra earned her J.D. from the John Marshall Law School and is admitted to practice law in the State of Illinois. 

JuanCamilo Parrado is a senior attorney with NIJC’s Immigrant Legal Defense Project. JuanCamilo previously worked as a staff attorney at World Relief Chicago, where he represented a wide variety of cases including U visas, DACA, and citizenship applications, and managed the legal lead position for the New Americans Initiative at World Relief Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree magna cum laude from Florida State University (FSU) majoring in French and Psychology. He also attended FSU College of Law, during which time he was a student attorney at the Public Interest Law Center immigration clinic and graduated with a certificate in international law. JuanCamilo was also a legislative assistant with the Florida Senate, where he worked on anti-human trafficking and healthcare legislation. He is barred in New York.

ManoLasya Perepa is a staff attorney with NIJC's Asylum Project, where she represents individuals, children, and families seeking asylum and other relief before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Chicago Immigration Court. Before joining NIJC, her experience was in filing U-Visas and VAWAs for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. She graduated from the John Marshall Law School, where she  previously interned with NIJC. ManoLasya graduated with distinction from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she majored in Global Studes, minored in Spanish, and completed a Capstone thesis: Narcotrafficking in Mexico. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois. 

Guadalupe Perez is a senior attorney with NIJC’s Legal Orientation Program (LOP) and Detention Project. Guadalupe graduated from Macalester College with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and political science. She obtained her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law where she participated in various immigration clinics. During law school, Guadalupe was a Public Interest Law Initiative intern at NIJC with the Detention Project and an intern at Legal Assistance Foundation. Prior to law school, she served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jordan.

Kate Ramos is a supervising attorney with NIJC. Kate previously worked as an associate attorney for five years with a private immigration law firm. She obtained her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 2011 and her B.A. in history and Spanish from the University of Notre Dame. During law school, she interned with NIJC’s Immigrant Legal Defense Project and participated in the DePaul University Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic. Kate is licensed in the state of Illinois.

Diana Rashid is a supervising attorney working with NIJC’s Detention Project. She provides legal representation to detained immigrants in removal proceedings before the Immigration Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals. As part of NIJC’s Defender Initiative Program, Diana advises federal and state public defenders on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. Diana holds a B.A. in economics and political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and obtained her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. Diana is licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois. 

Hillary Richardson is a supervising attorney with NIJC’s Asylum Project, focusing her work on unaccompanied immigrant children and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Prior to joining NIJC, Hillary worked in family law at the Legal Assistance Foundation’s Children and Families Practice Group, and served as a staff attorney at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Tacoma, Washington, where she provided legal orientation and removal defense for detained adults. Before attending law school, she worked as a paralegal and BIA accredited representative with NIJC’s Adult Detention project. Hillary holds a B.A. from Earlham College and a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law. She is licensed to practice law in Illinois.

Mary Roche is the compliance and coordination supervisor for NIJC's Children's Protection Project. Previously, she worked with NIJC's Immigrant Legal Defense Project as a BIA-Accredited Representative. Mary graduated with honors from Tulane University in 2007 with a bachelor of arts in Latin American studies and art history. Before coming to NIJC, Mary taught ESL at Poder Learning Center in Chicago. She has also studied and taught in Spain and worked as a citizenship volunteer.

Charles Roth is NIJC's director of appellate litigation. He has appeared in hundreds of appellate matters resulting in more than 60 published Court of Appeals decisions, and has overseen the filing of dozens of amicus briefs at the Supreme Court and the Courts of Appeals. He was counsel of record in Ali v. Achim, 552 U.S. 1085 (2007) (Mem.) and Machado v. Holder, 130 S.Ct. 1236 (2010). He also has represented immigrant classes in Ramos et al. v. Ashcroft, 08 cv 8266, and Hmaidan v. Ashcroft, 258 F.Supp.2d 832 (N.D.Ill 2003). NIJC commonly litigates in collaboration with pro bono law firms, in which case Charles co-counsels in the case and provides technical and legal support.

Lizbeth Sanchez is a paralegal with the Immigrant Children's Protection Project. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from DePaul University with a B.A. in Latin American and Latinx studies and a minor in Women's and Gender Studies. While at DePaul, she worked with Telpochcalli Community Education Project (TECP) in Chicago's Little Village area, coordinating programs and events to engage youth. After graduating, she worked as a Community Outreach Coordinator/Paralegal with Mil Mujeres Legal Services in Chicago. While a student at DePaul, her research was published in 2015 and in 2016 for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences' Creating Knowledge journal, on the subjects of the mobilization of mothers during the 1980s civil war in Nicaragua as well as on the politics in the U.S. of protecting asylum seekers victimized by domestic violence. 

Anna Sears is the Asylum and Pro Bono Coordinator at NIJC. She provides direct support to attorneys representing asylum seekers through NIJC, in addition to coordinating training and outreach opportunities for interested pro bono attorneys. Before coming to NIJC, she worked as a case manager for refugee resettlement with Catholic Charities in Buffalo, New York. Anna obtained a master’s degree in International Relations and Arabic from the University of Edinburgh in 2016. She received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from Wesleyan University.

Beatriz Schaver Eizaguirre is a paralegal with the Immigrant Children's Protection Project. Bea is from Madrid, Spain. She graduated in 2019 from the University of Chicago with honors in public policy with a specialization in human rights. She has previously worked with the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic in Chicago, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Tacoma, and CASA of Cook County.

Tovia Siegel is the Compliance and Implementation Specialist for the Immigrant Legal Defense Project. Before joining NIJC, Tovia taught English in public schools in Chile more than a year. She received her bachelor’s degree with honors in sociology from University of Chicago in 2015.

Marie Silver is a supervising attorney with the Immigrant Children’s Protection Project, where she represents unaccompanied immigrant children in their removal proceedings and applications for relief. Marie received a B.S. in Spanish and a B.A. in communications from Northwestern University, and she graduated magna cum laude from DePaul University College of Law. While a law student, Marie interned at NIJC with the Immigrant Legal Defense Project, and at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. She also participated in the DePaul Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic and the Human Rights Practicum in Chiapas, Mexico. Prior to law school, Marie worked as a senior case manager in the Heartland Alliance shelters for unaccompanied immigrant children and interned with the American Red Cross.

Amanda Crews Slezak is a supervising attorney with NIJC’s Asylum Project, where she represents adults, children, and families seeking asylum and other relief before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Chicago Immigration Court. She was previously a supervisor with NIJC’s Immigrant Children’s Protection Project. Amanda graduated from Loyola University Chicago School of Law where she was a Civitas ChildLaw Fellow. Prior to law school, Amanda spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cape Verde working in education and community development. She received her Bachelor of Arts in international studies from Baylor University.

Lynn Stopher is a staff attorney with NIJC’s Asylum Project. Lynn graduated from Vanderbilt Law School, where she received the Bennett Douglas Bell Memorial Award. During law school, she interned with NIJC, TN Justice for our Neighbors, and Human Rights Watch. Before attending law school, Lynn worked as an educator in Colombia and with immigrant populations in the greater Boston area. She holds a B.A. from the University of Virginia and an M.Ed. from Harvard University. Lynn is licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois.

Karolyn Talbert, associate director of legal services, provides leadership to NIJC’s Immigrant Legal Defense Project and NIJC’s Self Help Desk at the Immigration Court. She provides legal representation to immigrants in removal proceedings and in applications for immigration benefits. As a former Equal Justice Works Fellow, Karolyn specialized in representing immigrant victims of notary fraud. Karolyn is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and a frequent presenter on immigration law. Before joining NIJC, she was the attorney advisor for the Immigration Court in Chicago. Karolyn is a graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law and is licensed in the state of Illinois.

Trisha K. Teofilo Olave is a senior legal supervisor for NIJC’s Immigrant Legal Defense project. Prior to joining NIJC, Trisha was a BIA-Accredited representative at World Relief-Chicago and Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. While at Catholic Charities, she supervised the Crime Victims Program, was the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) coordinator and the pro bono coordinator. Trisha also worked as the senior legal assistant for a private immigration firm. She has participated in the VAWA/U Visa collaborative in Chicago since 2005. Trisha graduated magna cum laude from Loyola University Chicago with an honors bachelor of arts degree in political science and minors in Spanish and international studies.

Naiara Testai is a staff attorney with NIJC's Immigrant Legal Defense Project. Naiara graduated with honors from the University of Chicago with a degree in Latin American and Caribbean studies. Previously, she was a policy fellow with NIJC before obtaining her J.D. at the University of Chicago. In law school, Naiara served as a child advocate for unaccompanied immigrant children through the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, for which she was awarded the Edwin F. Mandel Award for her contribution to the law school’s clinical program, and volunteered with the International Refugee Assistance Project and Latinos Progresando. Prior to graduating, she returned to NIJC as a volunteer for the U Visa clinic and as an Equal Justice America intern with the Immigrant Legal Defense Project. Naiara is licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois.

Alice Thompson is the Legal Orientation Program coordinator for NIJC’s Detention Project. Alice graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a bachelor’s of arts in political science, Spanish literature, and international studies. During college, Alice studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she researched the migratory experiences of Peruvian and Paraguayan domestic workers. She was also the recipient of a two-year research fellowship to examine the gendered dimensions of the DACA application process at a Chicago-area legal clinic. Previously, she was a paralegal with NIJC's Detention Project.

Tara Tidwell Cullen is NIJC's director of communications. She works with the news media and leads NIJC's communications strategy and content development to tell stories about the need for fair and humane immigration laws. She helped launch and co-authored the inaugural reports for NIJC's Immigration Detention Transparency and Human Rights Project, which monitors the Department of Homeland Security's immigration detention contracting and inspections system. Tara previously was the managing editor of Cultural Survival Quarterly. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and international studies from Northwestern University and a master’s in media, culture, and society from DePaul University. Her writing on human rights  has been published by Change.org, Huffington Post , The Christian Science Monitor, Rewire, and Alternet.

Julia Toepfer is the marketing and online engagement manager at NIJC. Julia has more than ten years of experience working in nonprofit communications, management, and fundraising for organizations in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Boston. She has provided training and consulting services for nonprofits, unions, and organizations to strengthen their social media channels and develop impactful online campaigns. Prior to joining NIJC, Julia was a legal assistant for an immigration law firm in Boston, worked on a collaborative campaign to achieve in-state college tuition for immigrant students in Massachusetts, and worked on advancing human rights in Guatemala with the Chicago-based Health, Education and Relief Foundation. Julia attended Boston College where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Latin American studies.

Ana Valenzuela is a supervising attorney with NIJC's Immigrant Legal Defense Project. She also supervises the Immigration Court Helpdesk. Ana represents immigrants in removal proceedings and in applications for immigration benefits. She received a bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies from Northwestern University. She is a graduate of DePaul University College of Law where she participated in the Asylum & Immigration Law Clinic. While a law student, Ana was an intern with LAF’s Immigration Project and an extern with NIJC’s Adult Detention Project. Prior to law school, Ana worked for six years as a legal assistant at an immigration law firm in Chicago.

Lee VanderLinden is a staff attorney for NIJC’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative. Lee graduated with a degree in politics from Princeton University and obtained their J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. While in law school, they interned with GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), the Irish International Immigrant Center, the People’s Law Office, and NIJC’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative. Lee is licensed in the state of Illinois.

Michelle Velazquez is the Pro Bono Project Coordinator for NIJC’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative. She graduated from DePaul University with a B.A. in international studies and minors in Spanish and communication. After graduating college, Michelle completed a research fellowship at the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Latin American and the Caribbean in Mexico City. After returning to the United States, she worked at the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, in the southwest side of Chicago, as a youth and immigration organizer. Prior to joining NIJC, she was a youth development coordinator at Telpochcalli Community Education Project in Chicago.

Marypaz Ventura-Arrieta is a paralegal with NIJC's Legal Protection Fund. Marypaz graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a B.A. in political science. During her time at Loyola she worked with Heartland Alliance's Marjorie Kovler Center and RefugeeOne. She also received her masters of science in international politics from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland with a focus on the refugee crisis and migrant's rights. 

Keren Zwick is NIJC’s director of litigation and oversees the LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative. Keren co-chairs the committee of the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA) that acts as the liaison between government enforcement officials and private attorneys. She is also a key contributor to the Chicago LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition. Keren has led or participated in federal litigation in seven different Circuit Courts and before the United States Supreme Court. Keren joined NIJC following two years of clerking for the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. While Keren was a law student at Columbia Law School, she successfully represented clients in the Sexuality & Gender Law Clinic in both immigration and civil rights matters. Before law school, Keren attended the University of Chicago and worked as NIJC’s asylum project coordinator. Keren is licensed to practice law in Illinois.