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Defending Immigration Removal Proceedings 2019

Speaker(s): Barbara Camacho, Cheryl David, Cristina Romero, Cyrus D. Mehta, Deborah Lee, Desireé C. Hernández, Dree Collopy, Elizabeta Markuci, Ellen Pachnanda, Lori Adams, Wendy Wylegala
Recorded on: Jul. 25, 2019
PLI Program #: 251792

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. 

Desireé C. Hernández Sánchez is the Interim Executive Director of Safe Passage Project, a nonprofit providing free legal representation to unaccompanied minors in removal proceedings in New York. She is an adjunct professor at New York Law School, where she teaches the Immigration Law and Litigation Clinic. Prior to joining Safe Passage Project, Ms. Hernández Sánchez represented individuals in affirmative applications before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and immigrants with complex litigation in removal proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review Immigration Courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. Ms. Hernández Sánchez graduated from New York Law School. She has a B.A. in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Puerto Rico. She is admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey. Ms. Hernández Sánchez is fluent in Spanish.

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. 

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. 

Dree K. Collopy is a partner of Benach Collopy LLP in Washington, DC. A recognized asylum expert, Dree serves as chair of the American Immigration Lawyers Association's Asylum and Refugee Committee and is the author of AILA's Asylum Primer the “go to” manual for U.S. asylum law, policy, and practice (new edition available at She serves on working groups developing nation-wide policy advocacy and litigation strategies on behalf of refugees and asylum-seekers, has been active in the fight to end family detention, mentors pro bono attorneys, and frequently lectures and publishes on cutting-edge asylum and other immigration issues. Dree has been recognized for her contributions to the field of immigration law and for her work in advancing and defending the cause of refugees, receiving the AILA President’s Commendation Award in both 2013 and 2016 and the Joseph Minsky Award in 2014. She earned her J.D. and Certificate in Law and Public Policy from The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law and her B.A. from Grinnell College.

Elizabeta (Liz) Markuci is the former director of the VOLS Immigration Project in New York City.  Liz started with VOLS in 2009 as a part time legal consultant on immigration matters.  In 2011 she launched VOLS Immigration Project then under the name “The Dream Not Deferred Project.”  This vanguard program was designed to bring legal services directly to schools in underserved communities and support immigrant high-school students on the path to college and employment.  Since its creation, the VOLS Immigration Project has continued to grow, adding more members to the VOLS team and expanding partnerships across New York.  Under Liz’s leadership, 800 clients have received free, high quality, ethical legal counsel and representation.

Liz is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, and received her Juris Doctor from the City University of New York School of Law.  Liz currently serves on the Pro Bono and Legal Services Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City Of New York’s (ABCNY) Pro Bono Committee, is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Public Interest Pro Bono Association (PIPBA). Previously, Liz served as a member of ABCNY’s Committee on Professional Ethics and Co-Chair of the New York Chapter of AILA’s Pro Bono Committee, training and mentoring pro bono representing unaccompanied minors facing removal proceedings in immigration court through the Juvenile Docket. During her three-year tenure, the AILA New York Chapter was awarded the New York State Conference of Bar Leaders 2011 Bar Leaders Innovation Award. In 2014, Liz was a recipient of the City Bar Association's Legal Services Award for her leadership of the VOLS Immigration Project.  Over the past decade, Liz recruited, trained and mentored thousands of volunteer attorneys to represent immigrants through various pro bono initiatives throughout New York City.

Ellen is a seasoned attorney with over 16 years of experience focusing on criminal defense and immigration law. Ellen joined the Brooklyn Defender Services’ immigration practice in 2016, where she represents detained non-citizens facing deportation through the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP).  In this role, Ellen routinely leads in-house trainings on everything from criminal procedure to trial skills, as well as post-conviction relief and evidentiary matters.   Outside of Brooklyn Defender Services, Ellen regularly consults with new removal defense attorneys across New York State, including providing multiple day trainings in Buffalo, New York and New York City.  Additionally, she has appeared in panel discussions at the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association (NLADA) conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania as well as the National Immigrant Intergration Conference  (NIIC) in Washington, D.C.

Ellen is passionate about advocating for the rights of those most in need and has dedicated her entire legal career to doing so. After receiving her B.A. from Cornell University (A.B., College of Arts & Sciences, 2000), she realized her desire to pursue law and attended State University of New York at Buffalo Law School (J.D., 2003). During law school, she served as the lead law clerk for the United States Attorney for the Western District of New York.  She remained in her hometown of Buffalo, as an associate with the Criminal Defense firm of Harrington & Mahoney, practicing primarily in Federal Court.  At Harrington & Mahoney, her interest in the intersection of criminal defense and immigration rights began when she advised clients of immigration consequences of criminal convictions.

Prior to her role at Brooklyn Defender Services, Ellen served as associate counsel in the criminal division at the Legal Aid Society of Westchester County for 9 years, handling felony criminal matters.   While at Legal Aid, Ellen established and ran their Padilla practice—developing the protocol for advisals, initiating training internally and in Westchester County, arguing before Judges in Westchester and working closely with clients.

Lori Adams is the Director of the Immigration Intervention Project at Sanctuary for Families.  She represents asylum seekers before the immigration courts and in the asylum offices, leads the organizations advocacy efforts on behalf of immigrant survivors of gender-based harm, mentors pro bono counsel, and oversees a team of immigration attorneys and advocates who assist foreign-born survivors of gender violence. The team and the pro bono counsel she supports provide the full spectrum of immigration applications and defenses for which clients and their families are eligible, including asylum applications, U-Visas, T-Visas, humanitarian waiver applications, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitions, applications for Special Immigration Juvenile Status, DACA, cancellation of removal, and naturalization.

Before joining Sanctuary for Families, she was the Managing Attorney in Refugee Representation at Human Rights First, where she oversaw the pro bono legal representation of indigent asylum seekers. In that capacity, she provided support to volunteer lawyers from law firms in New York and New Jersey who represent asylum seekers at all levels of the system. She also provided information and legal services to asylum seekers in immigration detention, and helped to coordinate their legal representation.  Human Rights First opened an office in Houston, Texas in the spring of 2014 and she oversaw the pro bono legal representation of indigent asylum seekers in that area too. 

Ms. Adams is a member of Study Group on Immigrant Representation, launched by Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which aims to increase high-quality pro bono representation of asylum seekers and otherwise address the unmet legal needs of the immigrant poor. She is also a member of the Working Group on Immigrant Representation, led by Judge Michael A. Chagares of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which has similar aims in New Jersey.  Ms. Adams is a frequent speaker on immigration-related topics and a co-author of a report on the negative impact of the one-year filing deadline in asylum cases.  

Before joining Human Rights First, Ms. Adams was the attorney advisor in the New York Immigration Court, where she drafted decisions for twenty-eight immigration judges and supervised the work of the court’s law clerks and interns. She also worked for the American Civil Liberties Union and for the Honorable Deborah A. Batts in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Ms. Adams has a philosophy degree from the University of Oregon and a law degree from New York Law School. She is on the Advisory Council of the Immigration Law Section of the Federal Bar Association, is a member of the I-ARC (Immigrant Active Response Collaborative) steering committee, a member of the Asylum Working Group, and member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.  She is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey.

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.  

Wendy Wylegala is Director for Legal Strategy at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a national non-profit organization that provides free legal services to unaccompanied immigrant children facing removal proceedings.  She prepares practice guidance, provides case-specific technical assistance to a legal staff of over 200 in KIND’s ten field offices, and supports KIND’s litigation program.  Wendy joined KIND in November 2008, working in the Newark, NJ and New York, NY field offices where she trained and mentored pro bono attorneys, and conducted intake interviews and know-your-rights programs for detained and released unaccompanied children.  From 2011 to 2016 she served as supervising attorney in the New York field office.  Before joining KIND, Wendy worked at a private law firm for eight years, and represented special immigrant juvenile clients on a pro bono basis.  Before attending law school, she was an Ombudsman at New York City’s Office of the Public Advocate.  She is admitted to practice in New York, and received her law degree from New York University School of Law, and her B.A. from Barnard College.  She is a member of the New York City Chapter of AILA, and serves as Secretary of the Immigration and Nationality Law Committee of the New York City Bar Association.