Marielena Hincapié, Los Angeles office
Marielena Hincapié is the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, the main organization dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants in the U.S. Under her executive leadership, NILC has grown to be one of the premier immigrants’ rights organizations, strategically using a combination of litigation, policy, communications, and alliance-building strategies to effect social change. Ms. Hincapié is highly respected for her legal and political strategies and is seen as a bridge builder within the immigrants’ rights field as well as across broader social justice sectors.
Fully bilingual and bicultural, Ms. Hincapié serves as a resource and is often interviewed by media outlets such as Univision, Telemundo, CNN en Español, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. She also is a frequent lecturer at national and international conferences, addressing issues of migration, and she works closely with emerging leaders in the social justice movement. Ms. Hincapié began her tenure at NILC in 2000 as a staff attorney leading the organization’s labor and employment program. During that time, she successfully litigated law reform and impact-litigation cases dealing with the intersection of immigration laws and employment/labor laws. She then served as NILC’s director of programs from 2004 to 2008, after which she became executive director.
Before joining NILC, Ms. Hincapié worked for the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco’s Employment Law Center, where she founded the Center’s Immigrant Workers’ Rights Project. She holds a juris doctor degree from Northeastern University School of Law, served on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration, and is currently a member of the Jobs with Justice board of directors. Ms. Hincapié immigrated as a child from Medellín, Colombia, to Central Falls, Rhode Island. She is the youngest of 10 children.
Executive Assistant: Claudia Lara
Legal & Policy Team
Sonal Ambegaokar, Health Policy Attorney, Los Angeles office
Ms. Ambegaokar monitors, analyzes and makes recommendations concerning federal, state and local policies affecting low-income immigrants' access to affordable health care. Prior to joining NILC in 2005, she served as supervising attorney of the Health Consumer Center of Los Angeles, a project of Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, overseeing a multi-language consumer hotline that provides callers with help on a variety of health-related issues. Prior to her law career, Ms. Ambegaokar worked for several years as a business analyst. She earned her juris doctor degree from the University of California at Davis. Follow Sonal on Twitter: @Sonal_NILC.
Ellen Battistelli, Policy Analyst, Washington, DC, office
Ms. Battistelli works on behalf of the health and wellbeing of immigrant populations. She has more than 25 years of experience in public policy and program development focused on women's and children's health issues. She worked for three members of Congress, then served for six years on the staff of the Civil Service Subcommittee chaired by former Rep. Patricia Schroeder. Prior to joining NILC, Ms. Battistelli was a policy analyst for a number of nonprofit advocacy organizations, including the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Child Welfare League of America.
Tanya Broder, Senior Staff Attorney, Oakland
Ms. Broder specializes in the laws and policies affecting access to health care, public benefits and education for low-income immigrants across the United States. She writes articles and policy analyses, provides technical assistance, co-counsels on litigation, and presents trainings to legal and social service providers, government agencies, legislative staff, and community-based organizations. Before joining NILC in 1996, she worked as a policy analyst for the Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights and as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County in Oakland. Ms. Broder holds a juris doctor from Yale Law School.
Shiu-Ming Cheer, Immigration Attorney, Los Angeles office
Ms. Cheer focuses primarily on providing technical, legal, policy and other forms of support for organizations in Arizona that are fighting state and local immigration enforcement measures. Prior to working at NILC, she held the positions of Soros Justice Fellow and managing attorney at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network’s Los Angeles Detention Project and children’s attorney at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. In those roles, she represented detained immigrants facing deportation. She also was the civil rights coordinator at South Asian Network and a public benefits attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County. She holds a juris doctor degree from the UCLA School of Law.
Kamal Essaheb, Immigration Policy Attorney, Washington, DC, office
Mr. Essaheb engages in advocacy and technical assistance relating to state and local enforcement of immigration law and access to legal status for immigrants. At NILC, his advocacy focuses on passage of the DREAM Act, implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and state and local enforcement of immigration law. Prior to joining NILC, Mr. Essaheb was a practicing immigration attorney at CUNY Citizenship Now, a nonprofit immigration legal services provider in New York City. He is a graduate of Fordham Law School, where he was a Stein Scholar in Public Interest Law and Ethics. He is an immigrant from Morocco and is fluent in Arabic.
David Hernandez, Policy Associate, D.C. office
Mr. Hernandez provides advocacy, writing, and research support to NILC’s immigration reform campaign. Previously, he served as NILC’s D.C. office manager/research coordinator. Prior to joining NILC, Mr. Hernandez worked as a translator, interpreter, and consultant for agencies and individuals in North Carolina. He was born and raised in Mexico City and immigrated to the United States as a child. He holds a degree in International Business from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he worked extensively to advocate for diversity and immigrants’ rights in higher education.
Alvaro M. Huerta, Skadden Fellow, Los Angeles office
Mr. Huerta works to defend and advance the rights of low-income immigrants and their family members through litigation, administrative advocacy, and community education. His fellowship aims to ensure that low-income immigrant families are not wrongly denied access to quality health care as states and municipalities implement federal health care reform. Before joining NILC as a Skadden Fellow in 2011, Mr. Huerta clerked for Judge Harry Pregerson of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Prior to law school, Mr. Huerta worked at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, where he directed the organization’s communications, community education, and advocacy strategies on various local, state, and federal immigration issues. Mr. Huerta holds a bachelor of science from Yale College and a juris doctor from Stanford Law School. He is the son and grandson of Mexican immigrants to the United States. Follow Alvaro on Twitter: @AlvaroMHuerta
Mai P. Lam. Huynh, Policy Associate, Washington, DC, office
Ms. Huynh, monitors developments in federal appropriations, immigration and public benefits policy. Prior to joining NILC, she worked at several direct-service organizations, dealing with women's issues and low-income youths. She also has worked abroad with several NGOs that dealt with victims of human trafficking and domestic violence survivors. She received her bachelor's degree from Wellesley College and is currently working towards her Master in Public Administration at George Washington University. She is an immigrant from Vietnam.
Linton Joaquin, General Counsel, Los Angeles office
Mr. Joaquin became NILC's first general counsel in September 2008 after having served as executive director since 2004. Prior to that, he was NILC's legal director. In his 30 years of legal practice, Mr. Joaquin has gained national recognition for his expertise in immigration law and in litigation to preserve and promote immigrants' legal rights. He has served as lead or principal counsel in numerous class action lawsuits, such as Walters v. Reno, requiring the Immigration and Naturalization Service to comply with due process in charging immigrants with civil document fraud; Orantes-Hernandez v. Meese, prohibiting the INS from coercing a nationwide class of Salvadoran refugees into abandoning their right to seek asylum, and requiring the agency to allow detained class members access to counsel and legal rights materials; and Perez-Funez v. District Director, enjoining the INS from having detained children waive their right to a hearing without first having access to legal advice. Prior to joining NILC in 1990, Mr. Joaquin served as executive director and director of litigation for the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) in Los Angeles, and staff attorney for the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO. He also has taught immigration law on an adjunct basis at the University of Southern California Law School (1997) and Southwestern University School of Law (1991-1996). Mr. Joaquin holds a juris doctor degree from the University of California (Boalt Hall).
Melissa Keaney, Staff Attorney, Los Angeles office
Ms. Keaney focuses on promoting the rights of low income immigrants through litigation, technical assistance, and administrative advocacy. Her main work areas focus on immigration enforcement, with particular focus on programs that permit local law enforcement to collaborate in immigration enforcement. She also serves on the litigation teams challenging anti-immigrant measures in Arizona, Utah, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama. Prior to joining NILC, Ms. Keaney worked for a non-profit in Israel/Palestine. Ms. Keaney holds a juris doctor degree from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles.
Don Lyster, Director of NILC's Washington, DC, office
Mr. Lyster manages the DC office and provides strategic support to its staff by helping direct their legislative and administrative advocacy. He also helps to develop an overall vision for NILC's policy agenda. Prior to joining NILC, Mr. Lyster was a congressional aide for ten years, serving in various capacities for Sen. Paul Sarbanes, Sen. Edward Kennedy at the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, and Congresswoman Hilda Solis, for whom he was legislative counsel and, later, chief of staff. He also worked at the American Immigration Law Foundation and a government relations consulting firm. Mr. Lyster holds a juris doctor from The Catholic University of America and a bachelor of arts from Loyola University in Maryland. He is the son and grandson of Irish immigrants. Follow Don on Twitter: @Don_NILC.
Sheila Miller, Senior Paralegal, Los Angeles office
Ms. Miller has extensive experience with case management, multidistrict litigation, investigative research, and court liaison at the state and federal levels. Prior to joining NILC, she worked as a supervising paralegal for a national securities litigation firm in Los Angeles. She has gained a wide breadth of knowledge in the areas of management while holding positions in several prominent law firms focusing on securities litigation, criminal defense and civil rights, including serving as an office administrator with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. A certified professional in her field, she is pursuing her master's degree in business management. She is a Herbert Lehman Scholar and has served as the vice president of the board of Dare2Dream Scholarship Society, LLC.
Nora A. Preciado, Staff Attorney, Los Angeles office
Ms. Preciado focuses on promoting the rights of low-income immigrants through litigation, technical assistance, and administrative advocacy. Her main areas of focus include immigration enforcement and workers’ rights issues. Before joining NILC, Ms. Preciado was an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Orange County office of the ACLU of Southern California, where she litigated cases dealing with immigrants' rights issues and conducted extensive community outreach and education. She then joined the ACLU/SC's Los Angeles office, where she focused on immigration detention litigation and advocacy on conditions of detention. Ms. Preciado holds a juris doctor degree from the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall).
Jenny Rejeske, Health Policy Analyst, Washington, DC, office
Ms. Rejeske advocates for federal, state, and local policies giving low-income immigrants meaningful access to affordable health care. Prior to joining NILC, she directed the health advocacy program at the New York Immigration Coalition, where she organized advocacy campaigns aimed at improving and protecting immigrants’ access to affordable health care and health insurance, working in partnership with community-based organizations, health care providers, legal services and social services agencies and other advocacy groups. Prior to that, she worked at community health centers in New York City and Estes Park, CO. She earned her MS in nonprofit management from Milano the New School for Management and Urban Policy. Follow Jenny on Twitter: @Jenny_NILC.
Joshua Stehlik, Employment Attorney, Los Angeles office
Mr. Stehlik engages in policy advocacy, strategic litigation, technical assistance, and community education focused on enforcing and expanding the workplace rights of low-wage immigrant workers. Prior to joining NILC, Mr. Stehlik served as a supervising attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, where, for over ten years, he represented low-wage workers in a variety of wage-and-hour cases, unemployment insurance benefit appeals, and criminal record expungement proceedings to enhance employability. In that capacity, he also coordinated and supervised three weekly workers′ rights self-help legal clinics that assisted nearly 2,000 low-wage workers each year. Mr. Stehlik holds a juris doctorate from Yale Law School.
Nina Torres, Legal Assistant, Los Angeles Office
Ms. Torres assists with litigation as well as with organizing files and other projects. Her ultimate goal is to educate and inspire people about their rights. Currently she is also a senior at California State University, Los Angeles, majoring in political science. She aspires to become an attorney in order to make a positive difference in people’s lives. Her previous work experience includes serving as a generalist records clerk at the United States District Courthouse and working at a law firm that specializes in workers’ rights. She also interned at the Los Angeles Superior Courthouse.
Emily Tulli, Policy Attorney, Washington, DC, office
Ms. Tulli’s advocacy focuses on maintaining and expanding the rights of low-wage immigrant workers; she monitors and analyzes federal legislative developments affecting immigrants in the workplace. Prior to joining NILC, Ms. Tulli served as a staff attorney at Change to Win in Washington, DC, and, prior to that, at Legal Services of New Jersey in Bridgeton, NJ. While at Legal Services, she represented low-wage immigrant clients in a variety of wage and hour cases, including a class action, and participated in a significant amount of farm labor camp outreach and community education. Ms. Tulli holds a juris doctorate from The College of William and Mary. Follow Emily on Twitter: @Emily_NILC.
Karen Tumlin, Managing Attorney, Los Angeles office
Ms. Tumlin focuses on promoting the rights of low-income immigrants through litigation and administrative advocacy. Currently she is litigating cases challenging state anti-immigrant ordinances and federal immigration detention policies. Her practice also includes litigation on due process, detention, and employment issues. Before joining NILC as a Skadden Fellow in 2005, Ms. Tumlin clerked for Judge Dorothy W. Nelson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Prior to law school, she worked as a research associate at the Urban Institute, where she coauthored studies on immigration, welfare, and language access issues. She also spent a year as a Luce Scholar in Bangkok, Thailand, where she conducted a study on child trafficking in the region for the U.N. International Labor Organization. Ms. Tumlin holds a juris doctor degree and a master of public policy from the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall).
Communications & Development
Marisa Aguayo, Development Manager, Los Angeles office
Ms. Aguayo helps implement NILC's fund-raising goals. This includes developing fund-raising strategies, researching funding prospects and coordinating all development-related communications activities. Prior to joining NILC in 2004, she worked as a program director for the MultiCultural Collaborative, a social justice organization created after Los Angeles' 1992 civil unrest. Prior to that, she was a development associate for El Rescate, a legal and social services agency serving immigrants in Los Angeles.
Adela de la Torre, Communications Manager, Los Angeles office
Ms. de la Torre coordinates communication and media outreach efforts for NILC. She serves as the organization's media contact person and facilitates interview requests. Prior to joining NILC in 2009, Ms. de la Torre served as a media relations specialist for The George Washington University. She may be contacted by phone at 213-674-2832 or 213-400-7822.
Acasia Flores, Development Coordinator, Los Angeles office
Ms. Flores is responsible for coordinating the planning and implementation of fundraising events, including the organization’s annual awards dinner. She supports the organization’s ongoing fundraising and development efforts and maintains the administrative systems of the development department. Prior to joining NILC, she was the Director of Operations for the National Hispanic Media Coalition.
Richard Irwin, Editor, Los Angeles office
Mr. Irwin helps write, edits, designs, and produces the written resources NILC publishes, both online and on paper. He has edited NILC's newsletter, Immigrants' Rights Update, since 1993. He is also primarily responsible for maintaining and updating NILC′s website and its contact relationship management (CRM) system. Prior to joining NILC in 1991, he wrote funding proposals and grant reports, staffed special events, and performed a variety of public relations/communications functions as development officer for St. Joseph Center in Venice, CA. He broke into advocacy work by serving first as a case aide, then a legalization office manager, then a developer of training and informational materials for Los Angeles Catholic Charities′ IRCA Legalization Program. Prior to that, he taught English composition at Cal Poly Pomona and UCLA.
Nayeli Pelayo, Online Communications Associate, Los Angeles office
Ms. Pelayo is responsible for helping to create a real-time Web presence for NILC through online social networking. She also helps manage NILC’s website by keeping its content current to reflect the breadth and impact of NILC’s mission and work. In addition, Ms. Pelayo works with NILC’s contact relationship management (CRM) system, keeping it up-to-date and facilitating its use by program staff to connect with supporters on relevant issues. Prior to joining NILC, Ms. Pelayo worked in human rights advocacy at Equality California, California’s largest LGBT rights organization, where she served as a Field and Data Associate.
Finance & Administration
Reza Badiee, Chief Financial and Administrative Officer, Los Angeles office
Mr. Badiee is responsible for NILC’s finances and administration. A seasoned professional with more than 30 years of nonprofit finance and management experience in organizations such as the YWCA of Oakland and Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, he works to ensure that NILC’s internal operations enhance the organization’s programmatic work. Prior to joining NILC, Mr. Badiee served as executive vice president and CFO of Life Chiropractic College West, a nonprofit institute in northern California, where he oversaw diverse aspects of the college’s daily operations and ensured its fiscal well-being. Mr. Badiee has served on the boards of directors of several charitable organizations, including Moraga Parks and Recreation Foundation; Our Family, Napa; Lincoln Child Center, Oakland; and the Moraga Education Foundation. He earned his MBA from Armstrong College. He is an immigrant from Iran.
Alex Casillas, HR & Administration Manager, Los Angeles office
Ms. Casillas is responsible for all human resources administration as well as the overall supervision of information technology matters for the National Immigration Law Center. In this capacity, she works to ensure that NILC is compliant with human resource regulations in states in which the organization operates. In addition, Ms. Casillas uses her advanced technological expertise to ensure the safety and stability of NILC’s technological systems. Before serving at NILC, Ms. Casillas was the operations manager for a worldwide scientific and technical communication software development and marketing company. Ms. Casillas holds a PHR certification as well as a BA from California State University, Pomona.
Maria Cisneros, Junior Staff Accountant, Los Angeles office
Ms. Cisneros is responsible for helping maintain fiscal order at NILC. Before coming to NILC, she served as an accounting clerk for Give More Hope, a Los Angeles–area nonprofit focused on rehabilitation. She also has served as a volunteer tax preparer with the California State University, Los Angeles Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, preparing individual tax returns and answering common tax questions. Ms. Cisneros expects to earn a B.S. in business administration from CSU-LA in August 2013.
Claudia Lara, Senior Executive Assistant, Los Angeles office
Ms. Lara provides executive assistant support to NILC's executive director, executive team, and board of directors working out of the Los Angeles office. Prior to joining NILC in 2011, Ms. Lara served as executive administrative assistant to the Saro Mortgage Co. for 3 years, and as legal administrative assistant with the Bander Law Firm for 1 year before that. She is working to complete her bachelor degree in political science, and volunteers with the Union Station Homeless Shelter in Pasadena as well as with the Pediatric Heart Transplant at UCLA in Westwood, CA.
Ashley Reveles, Executive Assistant/Office Manager, Los Angeles office
Ms. Reveles provides executive assistant support to NILC's chief financial and administrative officer and manages the daily operations of NILC's Los Angeles office. Prior to joining NILC, Ashley served as an administrative assistant at Sony Pictures Entertainment, International Media. She also volunteers as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles. Born and raised in Boyle Heights, CA, Ashley received a B.A in American Studies from Cal State Fullerton in 2010, where she was an active member of Alpha Delta Pi Sorority.