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Defending Immigration Removal Proceedings 2017

Speaker(s): Barbara Camacho, Cheryl David, Claire R. Thomas, Cristina M. Velez, Cristina Romero, Cyrus D. Mehta, Deborah Lee, Hon. Amiena A. Khan (personal capacity), Hon. Mimi Tsankov (Personal Capacity), Joanne Macri, Mia Unger, Rachel Salazar, Sarah Deri Oshiro, Thomas Vanasse, Victoria Neilson
Recorded on: Jul. 20, 2017
PLI Program #: 180000

Cyrus D. Mehta, a graduate of Cambridge University and Columbia Law School, is the Managing Partner of Cyrus D. Mehta & Partners PLLC in New York City. He currently serves as the Vice Chair of AILA’s Ethics Committee overseeing the publication of the multi-volume AILA Ethics Compendium. Mr. Mehta is on the editorial board of the AILA Law Journal and Bender’s Immigration Bulletin. He is a board member of The New York Immigration Coalition and a board member of Volunteers of Legal Services. He is also special counsel on immigration matters to the Departmental Disciplinary Committee, Appellate Division, First Department, New York.

Mr. Mehta was formerly a member of AILA’s Administrative Litigation Task Force; AILA’s FOIA Strategy Committee; AILA’ s EB-5 Committee, former chair AILA’s Ethics Committee; former chair of AILA’s Pro Bono Committee, former chair of AILA’s New Member Division, former chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Immigration Council and former chair of the Committee on Immigration and Nationality Law of the New York City Bar and Secretary of the New York City Bar. Mr. Mehta is the former chair of the Board of Trustees of the American Immigration Council and former chair of the Committee on Immigration and Nationality Law of the New York City Bar Association. 

He is a frequent speaker and writer on various immigration-related issues, including on ethics, and is also an adjunct professor of law at Brooklyn Law School, where he teaches a course entitled Immigration and Work. Mr. Mehta received the AILA 2018 Edith Lowenstein Memorial Award for advancing the practice of immigration law and the AILA 2011 Michael Maggio Memorial Award for his outstanding efforts in providing pro bono representation in the immigration field. He has also received three AILA Presidential Commendations in 2010, 2016 and 2020. Mr. Mehta is ranked highly by Who’s Who Legal – Corporate Immigration Law 2021 and also by Chambers USA and Chambers Global 2021 in immigration law, among other rankings. 

Cheryl R. David has been practicing immigration law since 1995.  She handles all aspects of immigration law with an emphasis on removal and family-based cases.  Prior to opening her own practice she was an associate for five years at Bretz & Coven, LLP where her main area of concentration was deportation defense of individuals with criminal convictions.  She is a frequent lecturer on issues related to removal and complicated family based cases.  She is the Chair for AILA of the Removal Defense Steering Committee and she serves on the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Service Headquarters committee for AILA.  She currently is on the Board of Directors of Asista.  Previously she served on Department of State national committee of AILA from 2018-2020.  Some of her additional past positions and membership include:  Co-Chair, NY-AILA  ICE committee; Member, AILA ICE National Committee, 2016-18; Director, American Immigration Lawyers Association Board of Governors, 2007-2013; Member, Board of Directors of the City Bar Fund of New York – 2007-2013; Chair, National Liaison Committee for the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Executive Office for Immigration Review, 2010-2012; Chair, National Liaison Committee for the American Immigration Lawyers Association and U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), 2007-2010, Chair, AILA NY ICE - Detention & Removal Committee, 2007-2009; Chair and Founder, NY AILA Chapter of the juvenile pro-bono committee with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, 2007-2009; Member, Immigration & Nationality Committee of the City Bar, 2008-2011 Co-Chair, NY AILA Chapter Pro Bono Committee -2007-2009. 

Claire R. Thomas is an attorney, advocate, and professor interested in migration, statelessness, human rights, and empowerment for women and girls facing poverty and gender-based violence. She graduated from the University of Chicago and also studied at the Université de Paris X, Nanterre. She holds a graduate degree from New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, a law degree from New York Law School, and was a Visiting Scholar at The New School’s Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility.

Currently, she is professor at New York Law School, where she directs the Asylum Clinic, a year-long immigration law clinic for adults and children facing removal from the United States, as well as teaches the introductory immigration law course. Ms. Thomas provides legal assistance for naturalization applicants through bi-monthly immigration clinics with CUNY Citizenship Now as a contract attorney. She also supervises two attorneys as a consultant with The Door’s Legal Services Center. In addition, Ms. Thomas volunteers assisting refugee mothers and children with the CARA Pro Bono Project in Dilley, Texas and with asylum-seekers in Tijuana, Mexico with the bi-national organization Al Otro Lado.

Previously, Ms. Thomas served as Director of Training at Safe Passage Project, a non-profit housed at New York Law School, in which she mentored pro bono attorneys representing immigrant children; supervised law students, fellows and staff; coordinated a monthly Juvenile Docket at the New York Immigration Court; planned, organized and conducted local and national trainings for over 5,000 interested persons; and engaged in advocacy efforts with other non-profit organizations as well as city, state, and federal agencies. Before, she advocated for the rights of African, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern immigrants as a legal intern, then staff attorney at African Services Committee, a Harlem-based non-profit that assists persons living with HIV/AIDS. Additionally, Ms. Thomas provided pro bono representation for survivors of gender-based violence, including minors, in immigration proceedings. Ms. Thomas also directed “Projet Aimée,” African Services Committee’s women’s empowerment group for survivors of gender-based violence, funded by a Community Action Grant from the American Association of University Women (AAUW).

Ms. Thomas is a member of the Immigration & Nationality Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association. Her writings have appeared in various law journals and she is frequent Op-Ed contributor for news outlets. She was an opinion columnist for Anthropology News, a publication of the American Anthropological Association. She speaks French fluently and is learning Spanish.

Deborah Lee is the Deputy Attorney-in-Charge within the Immigration Law Unit of the Legal Aid Society, where she helps manage the legal representation of a wide-range of immigrants before U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review.  Prior to joining The Legal Aid Society, Deborah Lee was a Senior Staff Attorney with Sanctuary for Families’ Immigration Intervention Project, where she represented foreign-born victims of domestic violence, trafficking and gender violence.  Her previous experience includes serving as Supervising Attorney for the Children’s Legal Project at Americans for Immigrant Justice (previously known as Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center) and a Jesuit Refugee Service Fellow with Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC).  Ms. Lee frequently trains and writes on immigration legal remedies for vulnerable populations.  She has published articles in the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Immigration & Nationality Handbook, as well as a practice advisory with AILA on immigrant youth issues.  Ms. Lee is a graduate of Swarthmore College, Harvard Divinity School, and Georgetown University Law Center. 

Joanne Macri currently serves as the Director of Regional Initiatives for the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services where she is currently engaged in the agency’s development and implementation of a network of statewide Regional Immigration Assistance Centers.  She is also a member of the New York Office of Court Administration Advisory Council on Immigration Issues in Family Court and co-chair of the New York State Bar Association Committee on Immigration Representation.

Prior to joining ILS, Ms. Macri served as the director of the Criminal Defense Immigration Project (CDIP) and the Immigrant Defense Project of the New York State Defenders Association (NYSDA) where she has provided immigration support to criminal and family law attorneys across New York State and conducted numerous continuing legal education trainings on the immigration consequences of New York criminal convictions and family court dispositions. She was also an adjunct professor at Sage College and at the State of New York University at Buffalo Law School where she has taught courses on prisoners’ rights law, U.S. immigration law, immigration law practice and criminal/immigration law for several years.

For her service, Ms. Macri was recognized by the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) Criminal Justice Section for her Outstanding Contribution to Criminal Law Education, the NYSBA Committee to Ensure Mandated Quality Representation and Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York for her commitment to providing support to indigent representation.  She was also recognized by the Upstate New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) as the 2015 recipient of the Mark T. Kenmore Mentor of the Year Award.  Most recently, Ms. Macri received the Unsung Hero Award for Government Services as an Albany Law School Alumni and was honored by the New York State Defenders Association as the first female attorney recipient of the Wilfred R. O’Connor award for her commitment to client-centered representation.

Ms. Macri also currently serves as a member on the Committee for Gender Fairness for the Third Judicial Department and has previously served on the NYSBA Immigration Litigation Committee, the New York City Bar Association Criminal Justice Operations Committee and the Upstate New York AILA Chapter Subcommittees for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection.  She earned her JD degree at Albany Law School and received an honors BA degree from the University of Ottawa.

Thomas Vanasse is a litigator at the Law Office of Thomas W. Vanasse, PLLC, in New York City. He represents clients in complex immigration cases before USCIS, Immigration Court, and Federal Court.  He speaks frequently about immigration topics at national and local American Immigration Lawyers Association conferences.  He is the former co-chair of the NY District Director Liaison Committee.  Mr. Vanasse has worked for a corporate immigration law firm, for a non-profit immigration legal services organization, and as an Asylum Officer for the United States Department of Justice where he adjudicated asylum and refugee claims for six years at the New York Asylum Office.

Tina Romero is senior staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society.  She specializes in immigrant youth representation, practicing in both state and federal courts.  She advises the Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Rights Practice on immigration matters, supervises pro bono attorneys, and coordinates the New York City SIJS Advocates' group, which engages in local and national policy advocacy.  In 2014, she started the Immigrant Youth Advocacy Externship at Columbia Law School. She also assisted in the creation of the ICARE coalition to ensure unaccompanied children in New York City obtained representation in immigration court.  Tina graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2001 magna cum laude.  She received her J.D. from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 2005.  She is admitted in New York and Illinois.

Barbara Camacho is Pro Bono Counsel at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP. As Pro Bono Counsel, Barbara is responsible for managing the firm’s pro bono initiatives throughout the United States.  She has overall responsibility for coordinating and mentoring Fragomen attorneys in the United States in their pro bono representation of clients in removal proceedings, asylum, and applications for a variety of available immigration benefits. She is also responsible for developing and providing training to volunteer attorneys, supervising and litigating pro bono cases, and acting as the firm’s liaison to various non-profit legal service providers with which the firm partners. Barbara is a frequent panelist on a variety of immigration issues, including removal defense and children’s immigration issues before bar associations, community groups and child protective agency personnel.

Previously, as the Fragomen Fellow at the City Bar Justice Center, Barbara directed the Center’s Immigrant Outreach Project, which included the Varick Removal Defense Project. She worked to expand the Justice Center’s recruitment, training and mentoring of pro bono attorneys from leading law firms to address the crisis in lack of counsel for detained immigration cases in the New York metropolitan area. Barbara served as a mentor to pro bono attorneys in addition to providing direct representation to immigrant clients, both detained and non-detained. She developed, supervised and strengthened pro bono immigration outreach clinics and activities to benefit the community at large.

Barbara Camacho graduated from Drew University, B.A., 2000 and received her J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law. She is admitted to the practice of law in New York, New Jersey, Third Circuit, Second Circuit, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  

Victoria Neilson is managing attorney of the Defending Vulnerable Populations Program at Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC). She is the former legal director of Immigrant Justice Corps and Immigration Equality, where her practice focused on the intersection of LGBT issues and immigration law.  Ms. Neilson has also worked for the Office of Chief Counsel at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services at the New York Asylum Office and is the former legal director of the HIV Law Project. She has taught as an adjunct professor at City University of New York School of Law and at New York University School of Law.  She is the co-chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) National Asylum Committee and the former chair of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association. She is a former member of AILA’s National Ethics Committee and the former co-chair of AILA New York’s Ethics Committee. She is a co-author of AILA’s Representing Clients in Immigration Court. Ms. Neilson received her J.D. from the City University of New York School of Law and her B.A. from Harvard University.

Cristina Velez has practiced immigration law in New York City for more than a decade and currently works as an attorney and consultant.  She is a graduate of Oberlin College and Cornell Law School.  Following law school, she clerked for the Honorable Denny Chin, then of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. From 2007-2017 she worked at the HIV Law Project, where she supervised the representation of HIV-positive immigrants seeking asylum, permanent residence, naturalization, VAWA/U visas, and relief from removal. Ms. Velez received the 2013 Cornell Law School Alumni Exemplary Public Service Award.  Ms. Velez has authored articles regarding the intersection of HIV and immigration law for various publications including the CUNY Law Review.

Hon. Amiena Khan (personal capacity) was appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder in December, 2010.  Judge Khan received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1983 from New York University Washington Square College of Arts and Science and a Juris Doctorate in 1987 from the New York Law School.  Judge Khan is a member of the New York State Bar.  She is a member of the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ) and serves as the co-chair of the NAIJ Vulnerable Populations Committee. In her personal capacity, she is a member of the Federal Bar Association and is a Board member and the Committees Chair of the  Federal Bar Association Immigration Law Section. Judge Khan is also a member of the National Association of Women Judges, the New Jersey Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, Southern District of New York Chapter Immigration Law Committee and the New York City Bar Association.

Hon. Mimi Tsankov (personal capacity) has been a U.S. Immigration Judge since 2006.  She has held a variety of roles during this time including Pro Bono Liaison Judge, contributing editor to the Immigration Judge Benchbook, Attorney Discipline Adjudicator, Chair, Immigration Court - Board of Immigration Appeals Precedent Committee, Mentor Judge, and Juvenile Docket Best Practices Committee.  She is currently active in a variety of roles in the National Association of Immigration Judges (NAIJ), focusing on women’s issues and vulnerable populations cases.  In her personal capacity, she is the Chair of the Federal Bar Association (FBA) Southern District of New York (SDNY) Chapter Immigration Law Committee, and the Deputy Chair of the FBA International Law Section.  She is a member of the National Association of Women Judges (NAWJ) Human Trafficking Subcommittee, and a Board Member of the American Bar Association (ABA) Immigration Law Section.  Judge Tsankov serves as an adjunct faculty member of the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law, and the University of Colorado, School of Law.  She has published articles in the U.S. Department of Justice, Immigration Legal Advisor, and in various academic law journals. She speaks regularly before members of the immigration law community at international, national, and regional conferences.

Mia Unger is a Staff Attorney with the Immigration Law Unit of the Legal Aid Society, where she represents immigrants in removal and bond proceedings before the Immigration Court and before the Board of Immigration Appeals. Mia is a part of the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, the first universal representation project in the country for detained immigrants in removal proceedings. Prior to working with the Legal Aid Society, Mia was a Staff Attorney with the Immigrant Protection Unit of the New York Legal Assistance Group, where she handled diverse types of immigration cases before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and before the Immigration Court. Mia received her B.A. from Wesleyan University and her J.D. from CUNY School of Law.

Rachel Salazar earned her JD at Boston College School of Law, where she participated in an immigration clinic, did a summer internship at the Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project in Harlingen Texas, and interned at the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Rachel has practiced immigration law for twelve years since graduating from law school. She worked as an Legal Orientation Program (LOP) provider at Legal Services of New Jersey in Edison from 2006-2010. She has been a staff attorney at the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit from 2010 to the present, working in the detention project under both the LOP and New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP). At Legal Aid, Rachel served her fellow attorneys proudly for many years as an ALAA union delegate. She is also an advocate for immigrants’ rights in her community in Maplewood, New Jersey. Prior to studying at Boston College Law School, Rachel Salazar graduated as a University Scholar from the University of Connecticut’s Honors Program, having majored in Latin American Studies and English, with a Spanish minor. Her travel and research in remote areas of the Dominican Republic during college sparked her interest in immigration law. She’s a member of the Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey bars.

Sarah received her J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she participated in the Immigrant Rights Clinic and was on the editorial board of the Review of Law and Social Change.   While at NYU, Sarah interned at Make the Road New York and The Bronx Defenders (BxD).  She returned to BxD as an immigration attorney in 2009, where she represents noncitizens in removal proceedings, provides counsel to the attorneys and clients of the other practices in order to mitigate immigration consequences of criminal justice and family court involvement, and helped launch the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, the nation’s first public defender program for immigrants facing deportation in NY.  After serving as Managing Attorney of Immigrant Justice Corps, a national immigration fellowship program, Sarah returned to BxD as a supervisor in the immigration practice.  Prior to attending law school, she advocated on behalf of the immigrant members of a large NY labor union.  Sarah holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and is fluent in Spanish.