Immigrant Justice Corps Announces 2018 Justice Fellows

Immigrant Justice Corps Announces 2018 Justice Fellows

25 top law graduates chosen for selective fellowship to represent immigrants fighting deportation

New York, NY — Immigrant Justice Corps (“IJC”), the country’s first fellowship program wholly dedicated to meeting immigrants’ need for high-quality legal assistance, announced today its 2018 fellowship class, a select group of talented and promising new lawyers who will represent immigrants fighting deportation and seeking lawful status and citizenship.  Twenty-five graduates from top law schools from around the country were chosen from a select pool of law graduates for the prestigious fellowship at IJC, which was conceived of by Robert A. Katzmann, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and incubated by The Robin Hood Foundation in 2013.

“With their high-quality representation, this extraordinary group of fellows will work to ensure the fair and effective administration of justice for all concerned – for immigrants and their families, for courts and litigants,” said Judge Katzmann. “Because of Immigrant Justice Corps, lack of resources will no longer impede access to justice for thousands of immigrants. Because of Immigrant Justice Corps’ fellows, immigrants with worthy claims will have a far greater opportunity to live the American Dream.”

The new class of fellows brings a wealth of immigration experience.  As befits a national program, they are graduates of the leading law schools with exceptional immigration law programs, including: Yale, NYU, Columbia, UC Berkeley, Boston University, Fordham, American University, Case Western, University of Florida, Cardozo, St. Johns, Pace, CUNY, Quinnipiac, Northeastern, Loyola, Chapman, and William & Mary.  All the new Justice Fellows are bilingual – 80% of the class speak Spanish.  In addition, members of the new class speak Arabic, Cantonese, French, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Mandarin, and Urdu.  Almost half of the class speak more than three languages.

The fellows will serve for two years in and around New York City – including the lower Hudson Valley, upstate New York, Long Island, and northern New Jersey – as well as in New Haven, Connecticut, San Antonio, Texas, Miami, Florida and Baltimore, Maryland. They will be placed at top legal services agencies, where they will join the 2017 class of 26 Justice Fellows already in the field. 

“The exceptional quality of our 2018 class affirms one of the core tenets of the IJC, that there exists an enormous wealth of talent ready, willing and able to devote effort to address our country’s immigration representation crisis. We are extremely excited to welcome these dynamic Fellows who are focused on making a difference and committed to maximizing high quality representation for immigrants,” said Jojo Annobil, Executive Director of IJC. 

Immigrant Justice Corps also employs Community Fellows, college graduates who provide outreach and screening in underserved immigrant communities and assist with preparing benefit applications for immigrants.  Applications for the next class of Community Fellows are being accepted now at

The full list of 2018 Justice Fellows is as follows:


Javeria Ahmed

Javeria knew what a crime of moral turpitude was before she learned geometry or read Romeo and Juliet.  Growing up, Javeria watched her parents struggle to find immigration legal representation with extremely limited access to community support and resources.  Javeria’s personal experience with the legal immigration world led her to pursue a career as an immigration lawyer.   While attending the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Javeria immersed herself in the immigration world interning with UnLocal, Inc., Brooklyn Defender Services, and The Legal Aid Society. Javeria also participated in Cardozo’s Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic during her second and third year of law school. Javeria will be placed at Sauti Yetu, a community-based organization dedicated to mobilizing African immigrant women. She will represent women and children, many of whom have experienced trauma in their home countries or on their journey to safety in the United States.


Nicole Alanko

Nicole’s main mission is to advocate relentlessly on behalf of survivors of violence. Throughout her time at William & Mary Law School, she found every opportunity to pursue this aim, including writing a Note for the William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law on gender-based asylum claims, taking every immigration course offered, interning at the Georgia Asylum, Immigration Network, and Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), and training prosecutors in Virginia on working with immigrant survivors of violence. Nicole will be placed at Safe Horizon’s  Immigration Law Project where she will assist immigrant victims of crime, domestic violence and severe trafficking..  As an IJC Justice Fellow, Nicole hopes to amplify the voices of survivors of violence.



Alejandra Aramayo

The daughter of immigrants, Alejandra has long been passionate about immigrants’ rights.  Growing up, her mother was undocumented until Alejandra turned twenty-one and could petition for her residency.  Alejandra went to law school to pursue a career in immigration law advocating for immigrants’ rights.  At American University Washington College of Law, Alejandra interned with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office, the Arlington Immigration Court, and was a student attorney in the Immigrant Justice Clinic. She is joining IJC after clerking at the U.S. District Court – Western District of Texas. Alejandra will work at Catholic Charities Community Services providing front line immigration relief to low-income immigrants in the Lower Hudson Valley, a region with a dearth of access to complex immigration representation.



Emerson Argueta

Emerson was born in El Salvador and emigrated to the United States with his family in the early 1990s, and settled in Long Island. Emerson’s experience working in immigration started in his first year at Fordham University School of Law when he volunteered with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project. He continued advocating for immigrants through four service trips to the family detention center in Dilley, Texas, and internships with Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) and Human Rights First. Emerson will be working with Immigrant Justice Corps’ Adults with Children project where he will represent underserved vulnerable women and children facing removal to Central American countries where they fear gang and domestic violence.



Jasmine Brito

While attending The University of Florida Levin College of Law, Jasmine interned with the Florida Rural Legal Services’ Migrant Farmworker Unit and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in Atlanta. Additionally, she volunteered with CARA’s Family Detention Pro Bono Project and SPLC’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) where she provided legal services to detained immigrants. Jasmine is excited for the opportunity to fulfill her passion for immigrants’ rights by joining the IJC in expanding access to quality legal services to all immigrants. She will work with Catholic Legal Services of Miami where she will provide a full range of immigration-related legal services, from initial advice and assistance to full representation, to detained immigrants at the Broward Transitional Center.  Jasmine will primarily represent asylum-seekers, unaccompanied minor children, and immigrant survivors of domestic violence.



Victor Cheng

In 2015, after more than a decade of work in the for-profit sector, Victor decided to embark on a legal career to provide legal assistance to immigrants.  Victor’s decision to become an immigration attorney was inspired by his father who fled China during the Chinese Communist Cultural Revolution and his family’s personal struggle with the immigration legal system in the U.S.  While attending City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law, he interned at the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, New York Immigration Coalition, and Lutheran Social Services of New York. He also participated in CUNY’s Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic. Victor will work at Lutheran Social Services of New York where he will represent low income immigrants in removal proceedings who cannot afford counsel.



John DeBellis

John’s dedication to defending individuals caught in our criminal justice system has spurred a strong desire to work at the intersection of immigration and criminal law. Before law school, he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco.  While attending Columbia Law School he participated in Columbia’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, and interned at The Legal Aid Society, New Hampshire Public Defender, and Neighborhood Defender Service.  John will work with Brooklyn Defender Services’(BDS) Padilla, Youth & Communities Team, representing Brooklyn community members before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the New York Immigration Court, and in Family Court.




Emily Echeverria

As the proud daughter of Salvadoran and Colombian immigrants, Emily inherited her parent’s resiliency, grit and passion and is dedicated to serving the immigrant community at large.  She honed her legal advocacy skills at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law where she worked with the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic and Cardozo’s Criminal Defense Clinic.  Emily also interned at The Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit Youth Project, Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project and volunteered at the Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas. Emily is honored to continue to fight alongside her community as a Justice Fellow at IJC’s Central American Protection Project in partnership with Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) in Hempstead, Long Island.  As a Justice Fellow, Emily will represent vulnerable Adults with Children and unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America.



Taqwa Elhindi

While Taqwa’s family’s migration story altered their life trajectory, she recognizes that for many, being an immigrant in the U.S. is an experience that can be marked by fear, anxiety, and stigma. Taqwa was compelled to work with refugees and immigrants through direct services while attending The University of California Berkeley School of Law, “in an effort to combat the existing structural barriers.” Taqwa will be placed as an IJC Justice Fellow at Capital Area Immigrants’ Right (CAIR) Coalition in Washington D.C. where she will work with the Coalition’s detained adult program, representing adult immigrants in Maryland and Virginia who are either new arrivals in pursuit of protection under international law, or long-term residents of the U.S. with deep ties to local communities – both of whom are facing removal from the U.S.



Lorena Espino-Piepp

As a Latina immigrant, Lorena has personally experienced the very real fear of suddenly losing everything and the powerlessness of being at the mercy of the U.S. government.  Her own immigrant experience fostered a strong sense of obligation to advocate for members of the immigrant community who do not have access to the same opportunities.  While attending The Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Lorena interned at Make the Road New York, where she worked on asylum and humanitarian visas for crime victims and juveniles. She also interned with  the New York Legal Assistance Group’s Domestic Violence Clinical Center, where she assisted Intimate Partner Violence survivors in Family Court as well as in immigration-related matters, such as Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitions. Lorena is currently a student-intern at the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic at Cardozo Law School. Lorena will work at Lutheran Social Services of New York, where she will represent asylum seekers and unaccompanied minor children in removal proceedings.


Denise Feliciano

Denise began her studies at St. John’s University School of Law at a time when advocates were struggling provide access to justice to  Central American unaccompanied minor children and adults with children fleeing violence in their home countries.  Denise volunteered to work with unaccompanied minors and women who had suffered domestic abuse while interning at Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services and at the Safe Center in Long Island. Denise was also a student attorney with the St. John’s Immigrant and Refugee Rights Litigation Clinic where she worked on family court petitions and asylum applications on behalf of unaccompanied minors fleeing from domestic and gang violence.  Denise has also traveled to Texas to assist women and children immigrants, detained at Karnes County Detention Center.  Denise will work at the Safe Passage Project representing unaccompanied minor children fleeing violence in their home countries and facing deportation.


Dalia Fuleihan

Dalia’s commitment to immigrant justice and human rights was inspired by her experiences growing up in an Arab immigrant family and as a community organizer in Chicago.  As a law student at Boston University School of Law, Dalia worked with the National Immigrant Justice Center, International Refugee Assistance Project, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and participated in Boston University’s international human rights clinic. Dalia will be working at the New Haven Legal Assistance Association assisting asylum seekers and long-term immigrants in removal proceedings throughout the state of Connecticut.




Ilana Herr

The daughter and sister of Colombian immigrants, Ilana grew up in a bilingual household in Baltimore, Maryland.  Like many immigrant families, Ilana was raised listening to stories of loved ones’ journeys to unfamiliar countries.  Her upbringing inspired her to devote her career to assisting immigrants, especially those most vulnerable to deportation.  After college, she worked as a case manager at Sanctuary for Families, serving immigrant survivors of human trafficking. This experience led Ilana to enroll at New York University School of Law where she participated in the NYU Immigrant Rights Clinic for two years; she also interned with the Bronx Defenders’ Immigration Practice. Ilana will join the American Friends Service Committee in Newark, NJ where she will assist indigent immigrants detained in New Jersey and facing deportation, or seeking to be reunited with their family.



Anjelica Mantikas

In 2007, Anjelica co-founded One is Greater than None, a non-profit focused on sponsoring the rescue missions of trafficked children in Ghana.  Working with the children her organization sponsored, Anjelica realized there were few laws that offered justice to this vulnerable population.  Her experience with One is Greater than None sparked her interest in becoming a lawyer; envisioning herself as an advocate who helps provide the platform for individuals to take control of their narrative and tell their stories.  While attending St. John’s University School of Law, Anjelica gained experience volunteering at the Karnes Family Detention Center in Texas by preparing women for credible fear interviews.  She has also represented unaccompanied minors in Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases, applied for affirmative asylum relief for a family fleeing violence, and conducted immigration relief intakes for clients of different socioeconomic backgrounds.  As an IJC Justice Fellow at Make the Road New Jersey, Anjelica will be representing immigrants on a wide range of affirmative and defense cases for immigration relief.


Jose Miranda

As a native New Yorker born to immigrant parents who came to the U.S. in search of economic security, Jose is ever-conscious of the marginalization of immigrants.  While attending Columbia Law School, Jose gained experience in a variety of immigration law matters and organized law students and advocates to empower immigrant communities through Know-Your-Rights workshops at Bronx Legal Services.  As an extern at the Center for Popular Democracy, he contributed legal research to a campaign aimed at disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline in New York City public schools. At the Environmental Justice program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Jose provided legal support to New York City communities in their efforts to create healthier environments for neighborhood residents.  As an IJC Justice Fellow, Jose hopes to empower marginalized populations to create their own change.  Jose will be placed as an IJC Justice Fellow at Catholic Migration Services’ Removal Defense Project where he will work to empower underserved immigrant communities and strengthen immigrant families.


Emily Niemel

Emily’s goal of becoming an immigration lawyer began as an abstract idea in high school and continued through her undergraduate studies.  She augmented her interest in immigration law by studying, traveling and volunteering in Latin America where she witnessed firsthand the desperate situations that often force immigrants to flee their home countries.  Because of these experiences, she developed a profound commitment to facilitating immigrants’ legal entry into the U.S. and ensuring fair treatment under the law.  At Case Western Reserve University School of Law, and through working with the American Bar Association’s ProBAR Children’s Project, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and Catholic Charities, she gained extensive experience representing asylum-seekers, victims of crimes, and survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking.  As an Immigrant Justice Corps Justice Fellow, Emily will be working at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) where she will represent unaccompanied minor children residing in New Jersey.


Erika Nyborg-Burch

Erika is a founding member of the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project – a coordinated network of law students and lawyers defending women and children seeking asylum, which she helped organize as a student at Yale Law School.  Through her work with the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project, Erika developed a deep understanding of the barriers that immigrants face in advocating for themselves.  After graduating law school, Erika clerked at the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and with a Federal District Court Judge in Delaware.  As a law clerk, Erika witnessed immigrants poorly represented by counsel, and immigrants who were forced to defend themselves because they could not afford counsel, struggle to develop the legal basis for their claims, and how the limited scope of judicial review constrains federal courts from granting relief.  As a volunteer with Mighty Writers, Erika mentored a second-grade student born in the U.S. to undocumented parents.  Her student’s parents spoke of their fears of deportation and their confusion over the changing legal regime, as well as the traumatizing effects of the political climate on their community.  Her personal and professional experiences have deepened her commitment to use her law degree to defend undocumented immigrants and their families.  Erika will be working with The Bronx Defenders advocating for detained clients in New York City and for immigrant members of the community in the Bronx.


Brizeyda Parada Umana

Born in El Salvador to a family of farmers, Brizeyda emigrated to the U.S. with her mother and sister in 1999.  Brizeyda’s immigration journey, and her personal struggles as an immigrant, are the driving force behind her desire to become an immigration attorney.  Brizeyda has been involved in the immigrant rights movement for many years – advocating for herself, her loved ones, and her community.  Brizeyda previously served as a Dream Summer Fellow working to advocate for immigrant workers; she’s also participated in the Law Student Union Summer program, and the Peggy Browning Fund.  As a Student Attorney for the Immigration Justice Clinic at the Elizabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University, Brizeyda helps provide direct services to low-income non-citizen community members.  She will be working with Catholic Legal Services of Miami where she will provide immigration legal services to asylum-seekers, unaccompanied minor children, and immigrant survivors of domestic violence detained at the Broward Transitional Center.


Denia Perez

Denia has been immersed in the immigration world her entire life.  When Denia was 9, a notario filed a fraudulent asylum application on behalf of her parents, resulting in the initiation of removal proceedings. Denia spent her adolescence and early twenties concerned that at any given moment, her mixed-status family could be torn apart by an outdated system.  Her parents’ legal battle to remain in the U.S., and her personal experiences as an undocumented immigrant woman, have inspired her professional and educational aspirations.  She’s had to work hard to overcome various legal and financial obstacles to pursue her education. As a student at Quinnipiac University School of Law, Denia has focused on working with organizations representing immigrants in removal proceedings.  Denia’s experience, combined  with her personal challenges with the immigration system, has enabled her to serve the immigrant community with empathy, integrity, and love.  As an IJC Justice Fellow at Make the Road New York, she will continue to build upon her immigration knowledge to defend immigrants due process rights.


Diana Ricaurte

At the age of eleven, Diana emigrated from Colombia to the U.S.  As an immigrant, she struggled with assimilating into her new country and its language and culture.  Experiencing the complexities of the American immigration system first hand while adjusting her own status, fueled Diana’s passion to pursue a career in immigration law.  Moreover, as a first-year law student at St. John’s University School of Law, Diana learned about the harsh reality of detention centers while helping women prepare for their credible fear interviews with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services at the Karnes Family Detention Center.  Diana has interned at Human Rights First and Catholic Charities where she helped individuals in removal proceedings.  Diana has also worked with immigrants seeking workers compensation, social security disability benefits and assistance in Family Court proceedings.  Diana will be working with IJC’s Central American Protection Project a partnership with Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) providing legal assistance to unaccompanied minor children and immigrant families with children seeking asylum in Hempstead, Long Island.


Kate Richardson

Prior to attending Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, Kate taught Spanish at Delgado Community College and worked as a reporter and producer at 89.9 WWNO New Orleans Public Radio where she reported on the Latino immigrant community in New Orleans.  While she loved the work, her desire to engage more directly with immigrant justice led her to enroll in law school.  During law school, Kate interned at Sin Fronteras in Mexico City and Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. She received Gillis Long internship grants to work at the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services in San Antonio, Texas. Kate was also a student practitioner with the Immigration Law Section of the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice. Kate will work with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) Family Detention program in San Antonio, Texas, where she will represent detained mothers and children seeking asylum and facing expedited removal proceedings.


Allison Richman

Allison began law school seeking a career that would allow her to provide direct legal services to vulnerable populations.  Allison is pursuing a dual Juris Doctor and Masters of Social Work degree at Fordham University School of Law to acquire the skills necessary to sensitively and holistically address the complex needs of clients in crisis.  After working with several immigrant clients,  Allison realized that immigrant communities are among the most vulnerable in our society.  This led her to focus her career aspirations on representing vulnerable immigrants.  During her first year of law school she interned at New York Legal Assistance Group, where she represented immigrant survivors of intimate partner violence.  She also clerked at the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review.  Last summer, Allison interned at The Legal Aid Society, where she assisted in representing detained immigrants and immigrant youth in removal proceedings.  She also spent a year at the non-profit Graham Windham, providing trauma-focused therapy to children; the experience fortified her passion for juvenile justice. She will bring her passion, knowledge and experience to The Door where she will represent low-income immigrant youth.


Mary Slattery

Before law school, Mary worked for four years as an Immigration Paralegal, first with the Immigrant Worker Project in Canton, Ohio, and later at The Legal Aid Society in New York City, as a Department of Justice Partially Accredited Representative.  Her work as a Paralegal provided her the privilege and responsibility of being entrusted with her clients’ stories of abuse, violence, and daily trials.  Mary’s experience as a paralegal motivated her to attend law school to better represent her clients and their communities.  At Northeastern University School of Law, she interned with the Mekong Migration Network, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, Legal Centre Lesbos, the Department of Justice Executive Office for Immigration Review, and Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York.  Mary will be placed at Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York where she will represent indigent detained New York State prisoners, located in upstate New York correctional facilities, and facing removal.


Marie Sutton

Marie’s previous careers in medicine, international business, and international education exposed her to, and helped her value, many cultures and populations worldwide.  Additionally, as a first-generation immigrant to the U.S., she personally understands the hope that fuels members of the immigrant community to achieve their present and future dreams.  She plans to spend her legal career representing immigrants most in need of legal assistance.  As a law student at Chapman University Fowler School of law, Marie has worked with undocumented immigrants, detained asylum seekers and immigrants seeking a variety of humanitarian forms of immigration relief.  Marie will be placed with Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition in Washington D.C., where she will be part of the detained adult program, representing adult immigrants in Maryland and Virginia who are either asylum seekers, or long-term residents of the U.S. with deep ties to local communities – both of whom are facing removal from the U.S.


Elizabeth Wu

Elizabeth comes from a family of immigrants; her grandparents, mother, and three uncles emigrated to the United States as Vietnam War refugees thus providing her with the opportunities she has today.  Before law school, Elizabeth worked as Communications Director for a New York State Senator where the constant stream of constituents seeking immigration advice solidified her commitment to immigrant justice. While attending Cardozo School of Law, Elizabeth participated in the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic for two years where she represented detained asylum-seekers and challenged the legality of immigration detainers. She also interned at the Federal Public Defender of the Northern District of Texas and at The Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Appeals Bureau.  Because of her background and legal education, Elizabeth is determined to dedicate her legal career to deportation defense.  Elizabeth will be joining the New York Legal Assistance Group where she will represent immigrants seeking a diverse array of immigration relief including asylum, non-detained removal, VAWA, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and U & T Visas.


The Fellows will begin their intensive training course on September 4, 2018 and be deployed to agencies around the region at the end of that month.

About Immigrant Justice Corps

Launched in 2014, Immigrant Justice Corps is the country’s first fellowship program dedicated to meeting the unprecedented need for high-quality legal assistance for immigrants. Since then, IJC has served 38,659 immigrants and their families, and the fellows have had a success rate of 93% in their cases – nearly seven times the success rate of those without lawyers.  In a little over three years, IJC has trained 140 Justice Fellows (lawyers) and Community Fellows (college graduates) to provide exceptional legal services to low-income immigrants who cannot afford lawyers.  50 Justice Fellows have graduated from the fellowship program – 96% of whom continue practicing in the immigration field after completing the IJC Justice Fellowship.  The Immigrant Justice Corps has been featured in major news outlets including two New York Times editorials calling IJC a “groundbreaking effort.”   For more information about the work of our Fellows you can view our video “Home of the Brave”.


Immigrant Justice Corps’ Board of Directors – William Zabel (chair), founding partner of Schulte, Roth & Zabel; Judge Robert Katzmann, Robert Morgenthau, former District Attorney of New York County, Professor Alina Das of NYU School of Law, former immigration judge Sarah Burr, Steve Kuhn, Co-Founder and President of the Ask Foundation, Stephanie Khurana, Managing Director of Draper Richards Kaplan, and Robie Spector, Director of Spector Charitable Fund.



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