VECINA’s nationally recognized expert mentors work with pro bono attorneys to provide them with the guidance they need to zealously represent their clients. Learn more about our attorney mentorship program.
Benach Collopy, LLP
Ava Benach is a founding partner of Benach Collopy. Ava has represented clients in immigration courts across the country, addressing cutting edge issues in asylum, the immigration consequences of criminal convictions, jurisdiction and due process, and eligibility for relief. Ava has taken a lead role in representing transgender asylum seekers before the asylum office and the immigration courts. She has pioneered an innovative collaboration with Whitman Walker Health to provide quality representation to transgender immigrants while training the next generation of lawyers in representing LGBT immigrants.
In May 2017, Whitman Walker Health honored Ava with the Fenner Award for Community Service for her work representing Whitman Walker clients. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the Capital Area Immigrant Rights Coalition, where she works to protect the rights of immigrants in the detention system. In June 2017, Ava was awarded the Edith B. Lowenstein Award for Excellence in Advancing the Practice of Immigration Law by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
Akin Gump, Pro Bono Counsel
Lauren Connell works with Akin Gump’s Pro Bono Partner to manage the firm’s pro bono practice and develop pro bono opportunities for our lawyers. Lauren maintains an active immigration practice, with a particular focus on defensive asylum and representation of detained migrants. She also advises nonprofit organizations on corporate governance matters. Before becoming pro bono counsel, she practiced corporate law at Akin Gump, with a focus on mergers and acquisitions and securities transactions.
Lauren began her Akin Gump career working as the coordinator of the Karnes City Immigrant Family Pro Bono Project in San Antonio, Texas. In this role, she represented detained Central American women and children refugees seeking asylum in the United States and also coordinated the pro bono effort to match lawyers to clients. Her work was profiled in the National Law Journal and also recognized in The New York Times Magazine. While in law school, Lauren served as an executive editor of The University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law.
Law Office of Sabrina Damast
Sabrina Damast is a Los Angeles-based attorney and currently chairs the Executive Committee for the Immigration & Nationality Law Section of the Los Angeles Bar Association. For the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), she serves on the Amicus and Removal Defense Committees, and is the present Chair of the Due Process Track for the 2020 AILA National Conference. She teaches and speaks throughout the country as an expert on many topics related to immigration law and has written articles for the American Bar Association. In 2018, she was awarded the Pro Bono Award by Public Counsel for her work with the Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Jackie is a native New Yorker whose friends will tell you that they knew she was destined to be an immigration attorney before she even knew it. In high school, their diverse circle of friends – referred to fondly by their parents as the United Nations – was suddenly confronted with a stark, arbitrary divide; those who could get driver’s licenses and fill out the FAFSA, and those who would not. Then, everyone began buzzing about what President Obama might do for Dreamers, and her path was revealed. She studied Sociology and Spanish at Quinnipiac University, focusing on issues facing immigrants and women, and began working at a refugee resettlement agency. Upon graduating in 2013, Jackie relocated to Austin as an AmeriCorps member at Casa Marianella, a shelter for immigrants and asylum seekers, and from there fell in love with the Austin immigrant community and its allies. In 2016, she joined Lincoln-Goldfinch Law to obtain experience as a legal assistant and volunteered at the Karnes detention center and citizenship and TPS clinics. She returned to New York to attend the City University of New York School of Law in 2017 and organized credible fear interview training and volunteer trips to the Berks, PA and Dilley, TX family detention centers with students, professors, and alums. Jackie graduated from law school in 2020 and relocated permanently to Austin with her husband and their dog. She is now an associate attorney at Lincoln-Goldfinch Law, predominantly working on deportation defense and humanitarian visa cases.
Law Offices of Bashir Ghazialam
Bashir Ghazialam is in his 20th year of practice as a CA licensed lawyer. Although he began his legal career as a criminal defense and civil Plaintiff’s lawyer, it did not take long for him to become an immigration lawyer. He blames his own immigrant background as well as strong passion towards immigrants’ rights and plight for this. For the past 3 1/2 years, his practice has focused on representing a lot of clients who are detained and/or who face imminent and immediate removal from the U.S.. This includes bond hearings, credible/reasonable fear reviews (including related habeas litigation), representing asylum seekers placed in the MPP, and petitions for writ of habeas corpus, declaratory and mandamus actions, and other federal immigraiton related federal practice, including prolonged and arbitrary detention, and lately, COVID-related federal litigation all across the country.
Between 2003 and 2007, Bashir took time off from the practice of law and returned to his birthplace of Afghanistan where he took part in the legal reform efforts there and served in many legal capacities, including advisor to the Minister of Justice, Legal Consultant to several international law organizations, and legal advisor to the U.S. Department of State.
Law Office of Jodi Goodwin
Jodi Goodwin practices immigration law in the trenches on the border in Harlingen, Texas. Since 1995 she has represented 1,000’s of asylum seekers, economic migrants, long-term permanent residents, businesses, families, and United States citizens in immigration and nationality matters. Jodi also represents immigrants and United States citizens in federal court in both criminal and civil proceedings.
Jodi went to school at the University of Texas (Hook ‘Em!) and St. Mary’s University. She believes the heart and soul of every lawyer should be deeply grounded in truth and a search for justice. She enjoys teaching, especially to new practitioners, and devoting her time to community and pro bono projects. Jodi has published decisions from the Fifth and the Eighth Circuits as well as the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Jodi has many accolades including Texas Super Lawyer and Best Lawyers in America and Texas Lawyer’s Top Notch Immigration Lawyer. She was awarded the Arthur C. Helton Award for Advancing Human Rights and the Michael Maggio Pro Bono Award. Jodi is past-Chair of the Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and has served as a Director for the Cameron County Bar Association. She also chaired the Cameron and Willacy County Subcommittee of the Unauthorized Practice of Law Committee for the Texas Supreme Court from 1998 to 2015. She was an Advisory Member of the ABA’s Commission on Immigration and is a member of IMMLAW, the national consortium of immigration lawyers. She is currently directing the Project Dignity Legal Team in Brownsville/Matamoros for MPP. In her spare time, she devotes hours and hours to her children through active education, traveling and Girl and Boy Scouting.
Lindsay M. Harris
University of the District of Columbia
Lindsay M. Harris is an Associate Professor and Director of the Immigration and Human Rights Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law. She was the 2020 recipient of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching Award.
Previously, Lindsay worked at the American Immigration Council focused on efforts to end the detention of immigrant families and at the Tahirih Justice Center as an Equal Justice Works fellow and staff attorney leading the African Women’s Empowerment Project. She clerked on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and previously taught at Georgetown Law and as an adjunct at George Mason.
Lindsay regularly publishes on contemporary issues in asylum law and policy as well as best practices in clinical pedagogy. She has published widely, including in the Wisconsin Law Review, the New York Review of Law and Social Change, the Columbia Human Rights Law Review, and the Clinical Law Review, and writes shorter pieces in the Washington Post and other outlets. With Professor Laila Hlass, Lindsay is the co-creator of the Legal Interviewing and Language Access Film Project, a teaching tool and resource to address legal interviewing and collaboration across difference.
Lindsay earned her J.D. from Berkeley Law and her L.L.M. from Georgetown. She serves as Vice-Chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s National Asylum Committee and as the Vice-Chair of AsylumWorks. She is a mother of two and originally from the U.K.
Cori Hash has nearly 15 years of experience in complex immigration matters such as asylum, removal defense, and complicated humanitarian cases. Before joining Lincoln-Goldfinch Law, Cori served as the Managing Attorney of Human Rights First’s Washington, D.C. office, where she trained and mentored hundreds of volunteer attorneys. Cori currently serves as a member of the American Immigration lawyers Association’s Pro Bono and Distance Learning committees.
University of Idaho College of Law
Geoffrey Heeren is an Associate Professor of Law and the Director of the Immigration Litigation and Appellate Clinic at the University of Idaho College of Law. Before joining the University of Idaho, he was a professor at Valparaiso University Law School, where he founded and directed the Immigration Law Clinic. Previously, he was a clinical teaching fellow at Georgetown Law. He first practiced immigration law at Legal Aid Chicago, where he handled direct representation of immigrants in detention, federal appellate work, and affirmative civil rights litigation. While working as a legal aid attorney in Chicago, he also taught asylum law as a lecturer at the University of Chicago. He received his JD from New York University School of Law.
Founder, UT Law School Immigration Clinic
Barbara Hines is a former clinical professor and founder of the University of Texas Law School Immigration Clinic. She directed and co-directed the immigration clinic of the University of Texas School of Law from 1999 to 2014. Professor Hines was awarded the 2014 University of Texas School of Law Massey Award for Teaching. She currently teaches as an adjunct professor at the law school.
From 2014 to 2017, she was a Senior Fellow at the Emerson Collective and worked on local and national immigration issues, focusing primarily on the detention of immigrant families.
She served on the Board of the National Immigration Project from 1997 until 2019. She is currently the Co-Chair of the Board of Grassroots Leadership, an abolitionist organization dedicated to reducing mass immigration and criminal incarceration.
Professor Hines has practiced in the field of immigration law since 1975. She has received numerous teaching and professional awards, including the 2020 Texas Law Review Association Leon Green Award, 2018 Ohtli Award for Outstanding Service to the Mexican Community in the U.S. from the Foreign Secretary of Mexico, 2015 National Women’s Political Caucus Women of Courage Award,2015Spirit of CHLSA award of the Chicano/Hispanic Law Students Association of University of Texas School of Law, 2010 National Lawyers Guild Carol King Award; 2009 MALDEF Excellence in Legal Services Award; 2007 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Elmer Fried Excellence in Teaching and 1992 AILA Jack Wasserman Award for Excellence in Litigation.
Professor Hines was a Fulbright scholar in Argentina in 1996 and 2004, helped establish the first immigration clinic there and continues to collaborate on immigration issues in Argentina.
She has litigated many issues relating to the constitutional and statutory rights of immigrants in federal and immigration courts including the lawsuit leading to the closure of the Hutto immigrant family detention center in 2009. She was a founding member of the Karnes Pro Bono Project, which provided legal services to families detained at the Karnes Detention Center. She was involved in the drafting and passage of in-state tuition legislation for undocumented students in Texas, the first of such laws in the country. Professor Hines continues to work on national immigration issues and advocacy.
Professor Hines received her B.A. with honors in Latin American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 1965, attended the University of Texas School of Law and received her J.D. from Northeastern University in 1975.
Maka Y. Hutson
Akin Gump, Counsel
Maka Hutson regularly advises clients on various aspects of immigration and nationality law, including: employment visas, permanent residency, naturalization, I-9 compliance (including in mergers and acquisitions), immigration-related internal investigations, foreign national hiring practices, diplomatic visas, EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, visa issuance abroad, waivers of inadmissibility, family-based immigration petitions, legislative and regulatory immigration policy proposals.
She represents businesses and individuals before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of State (DOS) and Department of Labor (DOL) in obtaining employment-based immigrant and nonimmigrant visa status, including: specialty occupation professionals (H-1B), intracompany transfers of executives and specialists (L-1), treaty-based investors and traders (E-1 and E-2), exchange visitors (J-1), individuals of extraordinary ability (O-1), short-term visitors (B-1 and B-2), permanent residency categories for individuals of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, multinational managers and executives, and other professionals (EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3; labor certification), and immigrant investors (EB-5).
Maka is active in the firm’s pro bono practice and has handled multiple asylum and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) cases. She works closely with several nonprofit organizations that provide assistance to underserved immigrant communities. She has also represented clients in impact litigation under the Torture Victims Protection Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
While attending law school, Maka represented clients as a student attorney in the immigration clinic and won a case in immigration court.
Prior to law school, Maka worked as a program coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin advising international students and faculty on immigration and tax matters. She was a member of NAFSA: Association of International Educators and served as a liaison with the DHS, DOS and Social Security Administration.
Jezic & Moyse, LLC
Tamara is an immigration and personal injury attorney in Jezic & Moyse’s offices in Stafford and Fairfax, Virginia. She focuses on asylum law and appellate practice. Tamara represented the noncitizens in Hernandez Avalos v. Lynch, 784 F.3d 944 (4th Cir. 2015) and Zavaleta-Policiano v. Sessions, 873 F.3d 241 (4th Cir. 2017), two published cases in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit which greatly improved asylum law in states throughout the Fourth Circuit. She also represented the noncitizen in Jaghoori v. Holder, 772 F.3d 764 (4th Cir. 2014), a published case of first impression in the Fourth Circuit on the stop-time rule for cancellation of removal for lawful permanent residents.
Taylor Levy Law
Taylor Levy is an immigration attorney in El Paso, Texas. She previously served as the legal Coordinator at Annunciation House, a migrant and refugee house of hospitality located on the U.S.-Mexico border. During the summer and fall of 2018, Taylor worked with dozens of pro bono attorneys providing free legal representation to immigrant parents separated from their minor children.
Currently, Ms. Levy focuses her work on asylum-seeking families who have been returned to Mexico under the “Remain in Mexico” program, formally known as the “Migrant Protection Protocols” and referred to as MPP. Taylor wrote an MPP practice advisory that is relied upon by attorneys throughout the country.
President, Board of Directors
Kate serves as the pro bono liaison for the American Immigration Lawyers Association Texas Chapter and serve on the boards of Casa Marianella, a homeless shelter for immigrants, and is the President of the VECINA board. She regularly mentors and train attorneys in an effort to encourage pro bono work by all lawyers, including hosting a monthly pro bono trip to the Karnes Family Detention Center. She was active in working to reunite separated families during the Zero Tolerance policy implemented by the Executive Administration during the summer of 2018.
Miles Immigration Law
Jessica Miles represents immigrants on the US/Mexico border in El Paso, TX. She pursues many forms of advocacy on behalf of migrants, including legal, political, and policy work. She is a co-founder of the Borderland Immigration Council (BIC), which is a bi-national coalition of attorneys, non-profits and NGOs committed to documenting human rights abuses at the US/Mexico border and advocating for migrants’ rights at all levels of government. She has been featured in several articles regarding the situation at the border due to her work on the frontlines of immigration advocacy since 2014, including work during the Trump Administration’s family separation policy. In January of 2019, Jessica opened Miles Immigration Law to focus on better meeting the needs of her asylum clients and their families and to expand her immigration policy advocacy.
Virginia Marie Raymond earned her A.B. in Psychology from Bryn Mawr College, and her J.D., M.A., and Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. Virginia began volunteering with Proyecto Libertad in Harlingen, Texas, as a law student and then in 1987 spent several months there as a volunteer lawyer. Returning to Austin, she gathered friends who together founded the Political Asylum Project of Austin/Proyecto de Asilo Político de Austin (PAPA), where Virginia remained a volunteer and board member until 2000. PAPA later morphed into American Gateways. Meanwhile, Virginia was raising three kids with Tom Kolker while immersing herself in Mexican American literature, history, and anthropology.
Between 2007 and 2011, she directed the Texas After Violence Project, an independent oral history project on the death penalty. Returning to immigration law in 2012, she has directed most of her energy towards removal defense of people incarcerated in, or alumnx of, Karnes, T. Don Hutto, Joe Corley, Pearsall, Robstown, and the three adult immigration prisons in Laredo.
Michelle A. Reed
Akin Gump, Partner
Michelle Reed has nearly two decades of experience advising companies, boards, and executives on navigating the evolving risks in privacy and cybersecurity regulation, enforcement, and class action litigation. She assists clients in conducting comprehensive privacy and security risk assessments, and develops policies and procedures to mitigate and remediate privacy and cybersecurity threats. Michelle is especially adept at working across business units in finding practical, compliant solutions for clients.
As a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US, International Association of Privacy Professionals), Michelle counsels corporations in data breach investigations and notifications, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) cybersecurity compliance and regulatory issues, privacy and data protection compliance, and cloud computing advice.
Michelle also represents clients in a variety of complex civil litigation matters, including securities class actions, derivative suits and consumer class actions.
Michelle L. Saenz-Rodriguez
Saenz-Rodriguez & Associates
Michelle L. Saenz-Rodriguez is the co-founder of Saenz-Rodriguez & Associates in Dallas, Texas. Now in her 30th year of practice, Michelle is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the State Bar of Texas. She started as a Judicial Law Clerk under the Attorney General’s Honor Program for 7 Immigration Judges in Harlingen, Texas. She began her immigration practice shortly thereafter and has remained a passionate advocate for immigrants from around the world.
Michelle is former Chair for the Texas Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers. She is an Elected Director for the AILA Board of Governors and has served in that capacity for 3 years. She is also a member of IMMLAW which is a top tier group of immigration lawyers nationwide. Saenz-Rodriguez & Associates has been named one of the “Top Tier Immigration Law Firms in America” for almost two decades. Michelle has recently been awarded the 2020 W Page Keeton Award for Excellence in Continuing Legal Education from the University of Texas Law School. She is on the AILA EOIR National Liaison Committee and also serves as the EOIR Liaison in Dallas, Texas.
Steven H. Schulman
Akin Gump, Partner
Steven Schulman has handled dozens of asylum and other immigration cases, with a particular emphasis on complex matters, such as those involving the application of terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility. He joined Akin Gump in 2006 as its first full-time pro bono partner, and he has seen participation in the pro bono practice increase substantially in every office and across every practice group. The firm’s lawyers now devote an average of more than 100 hours annually to pro bono client matters.
Under Steven’s leadership, the firm has built strong relationships with local and national legal services organizations and has developed experience in several areas of pro bono practice, such as representing charter schools, working with refugees and victims of human rights abuses, and providing legal counsel to military personnel and their families.
Steven leads and supervises the firm’s Pro Bono Scholars Program. Started in Washington in 2008, this two-summer program, now in Dallas, Los Angeles, Washington, New York and Houston, identifies and develops top law students to become the next generation of Akin Gump lawyers committed to building the firm’s pro bono practice.
Before joining the firm, Steven led the pro bono practice at another large international firm as its first pro bono counsel. He developed and implemented that firm’s signature Child Refugee Project, assisting unaccompanied alien children in the United States through individual representation, legislative advocacy and systemic reform. As a result of this project, thousands of children were moved from detention to foster care.
Steven is an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, where he teaches seminars on law firm economics and pro bono practice. He has also taught at Stanford Law School and The George Washington University Law School.
The Law Office of Norma Sepulveda
Norma Sepulveda received her J.D. from The Thurgood Marshall School of Law and was licensed by the State of Texas in 2010 and licensed in the Southern District of Texas in 2011. Norma also serves on AILA’s Southern Border Taskforce and serves as AILA’s EOIR liaison in South Texas.
In 2011, Norma opened The Law Office of Norma Sepulveda, PLLC in Harlingen, Texas and since then has been its principal attorney. She chose to open her firm right on the border, where it can have the greatest impact in defensive immigration. The Law Office of Norma Sepulveda is committed to serving the immigrant community in Texas and all over the U.S. by offering expert, highly personalized immigration and criminal defense. Whenever she is not working, Norma spends her time with her husband and her two sons.
The Law Office of Justin Tullius
Justin has practiced immigration law since 2008. Born and raised in San Antonio, he studied law in Austin and Mexico City and graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 2007. Before entering private practice, Justin has focused on asylum work at immigration legal services organizations including the South Texas Pro Bono Representation Project (ProBAR) and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), where he was part of the team launching RAICES’s office to represent underserved community members and support organizing in the Texas Coastal Bend. In addition to representing immigrant clients, Justin has focused on training practitioners and developing legal access programs as a Senior Program Associate at the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City and later as Associate Executive Director at RAICES. Justin started his immigration practice in 2018, based in San Antonio and Corpus Christi.
Justin is admitted to practice in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Court for the Western Districts of Texas and is a certified mediator. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. Justin has served as a board member of the South Texas Human Rights Center and is a past member of the State Bar of Texas Immigration and Nationality Section Council. Justin is a frequent speaker on immigration issues and believes lawyers can help foster systemic change through collaborating with community-led organizations while continuing to learn from organizers.
Jennifer Walker Gates
Walker Gates Vela
Jennifer Walker Gates was born and raised in Austin and Central Texas, and is a two-time graduate of the University of Texas at Austin (B.A. in English, 1995. J.D. 2005). She has practiced exclusively immigration law since becoming licensed in 2005.
Jennifer’s practice is centered on family-based immigration and visas for survivors of crime and domestic violence. She has extensive experience with complex immigration matters including asylum, withholding of removal, cancellation of removal, visas for victims of crime and human trafficking, waivers of inadmissibility, and federal litigation including habeas corpus, mandamus, and unreasonable delay cases under the Administrative Procedures Act.
Jennifer is Board Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She has been admitted to practice in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and U.S. District Courts for the Northern and Western Districts of Texas. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. She is a frequent speaker and presenter to the immigrant and legal communities.
Dennis Jared Windscheffel
Dennis Windscheffel represents both plaintiffs and defendants in complex commercial disputes. He has represented a diverse body of clients in a variety of industries, including:, insurance, securities, energy, real estate, construction, oil and gas, intellectual property, and telecommunications.
Dennis has handled numerous matters on a pro bono basis, including representing more than a hundred refugees over the last ten years. He has repeatedly been recognized for his long-standing commitment to pro bono legal services. In October 2018, Dennis was selected as a “Pro Bono Champion” by the Texas Access to Justice Commission. In 2015, Dennis was part of a group of Akin Gump attorneys who received the State Bar of Texas Frank Newton Award. In 2014, Dennis was recognized as Akin Gump’s pro bono counsel of the year.
Dennis is also part of a group of attorneys who organized and participated in the Karnes City Project, a collaborative project that provides pro bono representation to refugees from Central America.