Jodi Ziesemer
Director, Immigrant Protection

Jodi leads the large team of innovative and passionate immigration advocates that is NYLAG’s Immigrant Protection Unit. In addition to overseeing staff, she works with senior management to establish and implement a strategic vision for the unit, undertakes the management and reporting on grants and deliverables, and develops effective programs to meet client needs. Prior to joining NYLAG, Jodi was a Supervising Attorney at Catholic Charities’ Unaccompanied Minors Program.  She has worked for the past fifteen years advocating for a wide variety of immigrants with Immigration Court, USCIS, and federal court. Jodi was also an adjunct professor at St. John’s University. 

Jodi has a J.D. from New York Law School, a Master’s in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University, and Bachelor’s Degree from Grinnell College.  

Melissa Chua
Associate Director, Immigrant Protection

Melissa provides legal and programmatic guidance to the Immigrant Protection Unit’s team in all areas of the unit’s wide-ranging practice.  She began her career at NYLAG in 2008, serving for over seven years as a Staff Attorney and Supervising Attorney in IPU.  In those roles, Melissa worked on a wide range of immigration matters, including removal defense, asylum, and relief for survivors of violence.  During that period, Melissa also worked NYLAG’s Special Litigation Unit in filing federal challenges in immigration cases, including Tsamcho v. Napolitano, and served on Judge Katzmann’s New York Immigrant Representation Study Group, contributing to the Group’s 2011 report, Accessing Justice: The Availability and Adequacy of Counsel in Removal Proceedings.  In 2015, Melissa joined the International Rescue Committee as the Director of Immigration, where she was responsible for developing agency-wide policies and practices on immigration and supervising the oversight of immigration field staff in the IRC’s 24 field offices.  Melissa later served as an Adjunct Professor at Cardozo Law School, where she taught the course on Immigration Law.  Melissa rejoined NYLAG in 2019.

Following law school, Melissa spent three years as a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, handling a range of complex commercial litigation and pro bono matters, including detained and non-detained asylum cases.  Melissa received her J.D., cum laude, from Georgetown University Law Center, where she also received a certificate in Refugee and Immigration Law, and her B.A., magna cum laude, from Colgate University.

Fernando Andrade
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Olga Avrasina
Supervising Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Olga is the Supervising Attorney of the NYLAG naturalization project. She also represents immigrants in all stages of the naturalization process. Olga began her tenure at NYLAG in 1999, specializing in immigrants’ rights and public benefits. Prior to coming to work at NYLAG, Olga worked as a supervisor at CAMBA Eviction Prevention Unit. Before she immigrated to the U.S., Olga worked as an attorney in Moscow, Russia, representing clients in both criminal and civil cases. Olga received her L.L.M degree from Fordham University School of Law.

Noora Barakat
Staff Attorney, Matrimonial & Family Law and Immigrant Protection

Noora represents immigrant survivors of domestic violence in family and immigration law matters. Prior to joining NYLAG, Noora was a family law attorney at the Urban Justice Center’s Domestic Violence Project. Noora has held a variety of domestic and international public interest positions throughout her career, including in Jordan where she advocated on behalf of refugees. Noora received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and her B.A. magna cum laude from Tufts University. Noora is fluent in Arabic.

Amanda Bernardo
Supervising Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Amanda supervises the case work of staff attorneys representing clients in removal proceedings, with a particular focus on immigrants newly released from detention, minors, and parents in proceedings with their children. Amanda also provides direct representation to clients in removal proceedings. Prior to joining NYLAG, Amanda was the senior associate attorney at a boutique immigration firm in downtown Manhattan where she specialized in removal defense and complicated matters involving fraud and criminal issues. Amanda is a frequent speaker on immigration law for several affinity bar associations. She is the  Immigration Law Committee Co-Chair for the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY), which AABANY named the Committee of the Year.  The Filipino American Lawyers Association of New York (FALA New York) gave Amanda the Rising Star Award and she currently serves on FALA New York’s Board of Directors. In addition, Amanda is a Delegate for the Embassy of the Philippines’ Filipino Young Leaders Program. Amanda received her juris doctorate from Brooklyn Law School and her bachelor’s degree from American University, where she graduated summa cum laude with honors.

Josephine Blount
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Marina Brodsky
Senior Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Marianne Bruswitz
Data Coordinator, Immigrant Protection

Marianne is a Data Coordinator at NYLAG and is responsible for compiling and analyzing data for city, state, and federal government grants as well as providing the required reports.  Prior to working at NYLAG, she worked in financial services at Music Together LLC.  Marianne graduated from Berkeley College with a degree in Paralegal Studies.

Elvis Candelario
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Jennifer Chao
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Katsiaryna Colka
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Alisia Cordero
Grants Supervisor, Immigrant Protection

Alisia is the Grants Supervisor of NYLAG’s Immigrant Protection Unit. She works closely with the Director and all levels of staff to develop programmatic and operational strategies, and manages new and existing grant programs to achieve the highest level of service provision to New York’s immigrant community.  Prior to joining NYLAG, Alisia was the Development Coordinator for a nonprofit fighting the cycle of poverty through education. In 2010, she proudly served as a National Service Member with AmeriCorps. Alisia has a Bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Business Law from CUNY Lehman College and is a candidate for an Advanced Certificate in Immigration Law at the CUNY School of Professional Studies.

Deborah Chen
Coordinating Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Deborah is a Coordinating Attorney in the Immigrant Protection Unit focusing on NYLAG’s Naturalization and Training Services Project, with specific outreach to Chinese lawful permanent residents in New York City. She also represents low-income clients in a variety of immigration matters including adjustment of status and Temporary Protected Status. Deborah was previously an attorney with a New York City law firm.  She received her B.A. from Rutgers University and her J.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law where she participated in the Health Law Clinic, representing clients before the Social Security Administration. She is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey.

Allison Cutler
Coordinating Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Daniela Czemerinski
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Helen Drook
Senior Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Helen is a Senior Staff Attorney with the Immigrant Protection Unit. She represents clients in a variety of immigration matters, including adjustments of status, naturalizations, applications under Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and U-visa petitions. Helen has been working for non for profit agencies in New York City for over 15 years. Prior to joining NYLAG Helen served as Assistant Director of Immigrant Services at the UJA Federation of New York. She is a graduate of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Michael Eatroff
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Michael is one of NYLAG’s New York State Office for New Americans’ (ONA) legal counsels. Pursuant to the ONA grant, he conducts legal screenings at ONA centers and reviews citizenship and DACA applications prepared by center staff. Prior to joining NYLAG, Michael worked as an Asylum Officer for USCIS and as U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s Senior Immigration Counsel. Michael has a Juris Doctor from the University of Florida and an M.A. in International Relations from New York University.

Crystal D. Fleming
Coordinating Attorney, Immigration Protection

Crystal Fleming is a Coordinating Attorney in the Immigrant Protection Unit where she leads the Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and Unaccompanied Children’s Project. Crystal supervises and mentors attorneys and legal fellows representing immigrant children in Immigration and Family Court. She leads the Project’s work on behalf of unaccompanied children and immigrant youth seeking asylum and other relief from removal in Immigration Court. She represents clients in a variety of immigration matters, including removal defense litigation, asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, T-visas, U Nonimmigrant Status, adjustment of status, and VAWA self-petitions. Crystal previously served as a staff attorney in the Immigrant Protection Unit and joined NYLAG as a justice AmeriCorps Fellow representing unaccompanied minors in removal defense cases. Crystal received her law degree from Capital University Law School, where she was a member of the Moot Court Program. While in law school, Crystal worked at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. She also participated in the Capital University Law School Legal Clinic, where she represented clients in criminal and civil matters. Crystal received her undergraduate degree from George Mason University. She is a native Spanish speaker. Crystal is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey.

Allison Gao
Paralegal-Navigator, Immigrant Protection

Elizabeth Gibson
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Elizabeth Gibson is a staff attorney in the Immigrant Protection Unit (IPU). She represents clients in a variety of immigration matters, including removal defense. She also sits on the New York City Bar’s Immigration & Nationality Law Committee as well as the International Migrants Bill of Rights Initiative Steering Committee. Elizabeth previously served as an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow, clerked at the New York Immigration Court, and worked at the Open Society Justice Initiative, the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Federation of the Red Cross, and the U.S. Departments of Justice, Treasury, and State. She also worked as a research assistant for the U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees. She received her J.D. and Certificate in Refugee and Humanitarian Emergencies from the Georgetown University Law Center, where she was a Global Law Scholar and Human Rights Associate. During law school, she participated in the Center for Applied Legal Studies asylum clinic. Elizabeth was awarded the 2014 Bettina Pruckmayr Award for Human Rights, and her team’s research on statelessness in the Dominican Republic received a special commendation from the United Nation. Before law school, Elizabeth worked as a newspaper reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, and she has a B.S. and M.S. from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.  She is admitted to practice law in New York.

Diana Giler
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Shelley R Goldfarb
Staff Attorney, Immigrant protection

Polliann Hardeo
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Jillian Hernandez
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Jillian represents unaccompanied minors and other clients in a range of immigration matters, including removal defense, SIJS, asylum, and T-visas. Prior to joining NYLAG, she worked as a staff attorney at the Urban Justice Center, where she provided direct legal services to human trafficking survivors. In law school, Jillian interned with the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Unit, the Urban Justice Center, MADRE, and FESPAD, a human rights organization in El Salvador. She obtained her J.D. in 2014 from Columbia Law School, where she was a member of the Journal of Gender and Law and the Human Rights Clinic. She received her B.A. in Philosophy cum laude from the College of New Jersey. Jillian is admitted to practice in New York and speaks fluent Spanish.

Whitney Hood
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection and Matrimonial & Family Law

Whitney represents immigrant survivors of domestic violence in family law and immigration matters. Prior to joining NYLAG, Whitney was an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Sanctuary for Families. In her career, Whitney has worked at several legal services and human rights organizations focused on women’s rights and gender-based violence and advocated for improved responses to sexual violence on college campuses, for access to reproductive health in Latin America, and investigated sexual violence against indigenous women in Papua New Guinea. Whitney graduated a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar from Columbia Law School.

Stephanie Horta
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Alexander Hu
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Maria Huel
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Alla Kazakina
Supervising Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Alla is a Staff Attorney in the Immigrant Protection Unit. Since joining NYLAG in 2002, she has assisted clients in a wide-range of immigration matters including family-based immigrant petitions, adjustment of status, VAWA self-petitions, U-Visas, humanitarian parole, naturalization applications, disability waivers, and temporary protected status. In 2007, she was appointed a Coordinator of the Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence Program (VAWA/U Visa Project) that focuses on providing legal services to battered women residing in New York. Having moved to the United States from St. Petersburg, Alla served as a Russian Legal Consultant at Patterson, Belknap, Webb and Tyler LLP from 1989 until 2000. She has law degrees from St. Petersburg State University Law School in Russia and New York University Law School.

Min Kim
Staff Attorney, Immigration Protection Unit

Min is a staff attorney with NYLAG’s Immigrant Protection Unit. She represents clients on various immigration matters including family-based petitions and naturalization. Min previously interned at Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund advocating for rights of low-wage workers. Min graduated from CUNY School of Law in 2013 where she participated in the Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic. She received her B.A. from Stony Brook University.

Edith Leonardo
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Sara Levine
Senior Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Ilia Velazquez Llanes
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Jonathan R Lissmann
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Melissa Maltez
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Kyle K. Mann
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Kyle is a Staff Attorney with the Immigrant Protection Unit.  She represents clients in various immigration matters, including Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitions, U-visas, battered spouse waivers, applications for adjustment of status, naturalization, Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  She earned her B.A. from New York University and her J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Jessica Marroquin
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Andrew Mickler
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Valerie Mitchell
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Valerie handles a variety of immigration cases, including removal defense and affirmative applications. Prior to joining NYLAG, Valerie practiced criminal defense and civil litigation at Raiser & Kenniff, P.C., volunteered at The Bronx Defenders, and was an Executive Fellow at the California Health & Human Services Agency. During law school, she participated in Fordham’s Immigrant Rights and Access to Justice Clinic. She also interned at the Executive Office for Immigration Review, The Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit and Criminal Defense Practice, and the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. Valerie earned her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law and her B.A. cum laude from Boston College.

Safiya N. Morgan
Senior Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Safiya is a Senior Staff Attorney in NYLAG’s Immigrant Protection Unit working on-site at the Family Justice Center. She represents clients in a variety of immigration matters including family-based petitions, adjustment of status and naturalization, Deferred Action, U visa and Violence Against Women Act self-petitions. Prior to joining NYLAG, she represented immigrants in private practice and in a pro bono capacity. Safiya earned her J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School, where she served as Article Editor of the Environmental Law and Policy Annual Review. She is admitted to practice in California and Tennessee and is a member of the New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She earned her B.A., magna cum laude, from Howard University.

David Mullins
Supervising Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Jennifer Pacheco
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Jennifer works on-site at the Manhattan Family Justice Center (FJC), providing legal services to immigrant victims of domestic violence. She provides advice and counsel and representation in immigration matters, including VAWA self-petitions, U nonimmigrant status/U-visa applications, battered spouse waivers, adjustment of status, removal defense, T-visas, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Prior to joining NYLAG, Jennifer worked at the Hudson Valley Justice Center in Yonkers, NY through being awarded the Westchester County Bar Foundation (WCBF) Fellowship. Jennifer was also an intern at Empire Justice Center and at John Jay Legal Service’s Immigration Justice Clinic at Pace Law School. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Jennifer received her J.D. from Pace Law School and her B.S. cum laude in Biology from Pace University.

Jin Sun Park
Supervising Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Jin Sun is a supervising attorney in the Immigrant Protection Unit where she represents low-income clients with adjustment of status, temporary protected status and other humanitarian relief, U-visa, VAWA self-petitions, asylum and removal defense.  Jin Sun co-chaired IPU’s Haitian TPS Project, which included a pro bono legal clinic that assisted hundreds of Haitian nationals to apply for temporary protected status.  In law school, she received an Excellence in Litigation award for her work in her school’s immigration clinic. Jin Sun earned her B.A. from Boston University and her J.D. from the University of Maryland School of Law. She is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey.

Elvira Pinkhasova
Supervising Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Elvira is a Supervising Attorney in the Immigrant Protection Unit. She formerly served as Associate Director, where she supervised all IPU student interns and paralegals in addition to handling many types of cases. Elvira also provides trainings for law students, social workers and the general public on citizenship and naturalization issues. Prior to immigrating to the U.S., Elvira worked as a Professor at Tashkent State University School of Law, teaching criminal law and criminology. In 1995, she began her work as a paralegal in NYLAG’s General Legal Services Unit, and in 2000, she started to practice immigration law in NYLAG’s IPU. Elvira has an L.L.M degree from Fordham University School of Law.

Lauren M Reiff
Supervising Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Jackeline Rodriguez Rojas
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Jackeline is a Staff Attorney with the Immigrant Protection Unit. She works on the NYCitizenship program, rotating between the Queens library locations. Prior to joining NYLAG, Jackeline was a staff attorney at Catholic Charities’ Unaccompanied Minors Program where she represented minors before USCIS, Family, and Immigration Court.  She received her J.D. from Andres Bello Catholic University and a Master of Laws from Fordham University.

Abraham Romero
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Sthelyn Romero-Singh
Coordinating Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Natalia Rozov
Senior Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Maybeline Saharig
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Shahzod Saydaliev
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Hannah Silver
Coordinating Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Andrea Sosa
Paralegal, Immigrant protection

Nina Strongin
Senior Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Jorge Eduardo Ramirez Trejo
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Anali Valdez
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Leah Wissow
Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Leah is a Staff Attorney with the Immigrant Protection Unit. She works on the NYCitizenship program, rotating between the Queens library locations. Prior to joining NYLAG, Leah worked for the Open Society Foundations as a Strategy Specialist focusing on access to justice, good governance, and public safety programs and as a Litigation Fellow for the Open Society Justice Initiative. She received her J.D. from American University Washington College of Law and her M.A. in International Affairs from American University School of International Service.  Leah earned her B.A. in Political Science and Middle Eastern Affairs from McGill University in Montreal, QC.

Gabrielle Woods
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection

Elizabeth Wu
Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow, Immigrant Protection Unit

Elizabeth is an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow in the Immigrant Protection Unit.  She represents clients on a variety of immigration matters, including asylum applications, VAWA self-petitions, U-visas, removal defense litigation, and adjustment of status.  Prior to law school, Elizabeth worked in the New York State Senate.  During law school, she interned in Cardozo Law School’s Immigration Justice Clinic, the Appellate Division of the Federal Public Defender of the Northern District of Texas, and the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Appeals Bureau.  She received her J.D. from Cardozo Law School and her B.A. from New York University.

Yessica Yi
Senior Staff Attorney, Immigrant Protection

Yessica Yi is a Senior Staff Attorney in the Immigrant Protection Unit. Her areas of practice include family-based petitions, adjustment of status, naturalization, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Temporary Protected Status, U Nonimmigrant Status, asylum, and removal defense. Yessica also helps coordinate NYLAG’s Community Immigration Clinics, which provide legal services and community education to immigrants in safe, convenient, and family-friendly environments across New York City. Prior  to joining NYLAG, Yessica served as an Associate Attorney with Malik and Popiel, P.C., focusing on immigration matters such as employment-based petitions and Department of Labor compliance and audits concerning foreign workers. Yessica received her B.A. from Cornell University and her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law.

Grace Zhang
Paralegal, Immigrant Protection