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.
Ava BenachBenach Collopy, LLPacbenach@benachcollopy.com(202) 644-8600
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).
Lauren ConnellAkin Gump, Pro Bono Counsellconnell@akingump.com212.872.7410
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.
Sabrina DamastLaw Office of Sabrina Damastsabrina@sabrinadamast.com(323) 475-8716
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.
Bashir GhazialamLaw Offices OF Bashir Ghazialambg@lobg.net(619) 795-3370
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.
Jodi GoodwinLaw Office of Jodi Goodwinjodi@jodigoodwin.com956-428-7212
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.
Cori HashLincoln-Goldfinch Lawcori@lincolngoldfinch.com(512) 599-8500
Cori Has 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.
Maka Y. HutsonAkin Gump, Counselmhutson@akingump.com214.969.2781
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.
Taylor LevyTaylor Levy Lawtaylorlevylaw@gmail.com(321) 998-9993
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.
Kate Lincoln-Goldfinchkate@lincolngoldfinch.com(512) 599-8500
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.
Jessica MilesMiles Immigration Lawjessie@milesimmigrationlaw.com(915) 308-7001
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 Raymondviriginiaraymond@icloud.com(512) 472-6270
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. ReedAkin Gump, Partnermreed@akingump.com214.969.2713
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.
Steven H. SchulmanAkin Gump, Partnersschulman@akingump.com202.887.4071
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.
Norma SepulvedaThe Law Office of Norma Sepulvedansepulveda@abogadanorma.com(956) 230-4888
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.
Dennis Jared WindscheffelMember, Board of Directorsdwindscheffel@akingump.com210.281.7176
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.