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Defending Immigration Removal Proceedings 2021


Speaker(s): Andres Ortiz, Barbara Camacho, Cheryl David, Cristina Romero, Cyrus D. Mehta, Deborah Lee, Elizabeth Gibson, Karen T. Grisez, Parisa Karaahmet, Ronald P. Mondello, Salma F. Hasan, Victoria Neilson, Wendy Wylegala
Recorded on: Jul. 22, 2021
PLI Program #: 306097

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. 


Andres Ortiz is a graduate of Loyola Law School. He was named a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers 2017-2021 and was Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy’s pro bono attorney of the year for 2016.  Andres handles cases in immigration court, the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), superior and appellate courts of California, the U.S. District Court for the Central and Southern Districts of California, District Court of Arizona, District Court of Nevada, and the Second, Ninth, and Tenth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.  Andres' federal litigation experience consists of federal criminal defense, post-conviction, and prolonged detainee litigation.  Andres also handles state post-conviction cases in numerous California counties.


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. 


Elizabeth Gibson is a senior staff attorney at the nonprofit New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG). She represents asylum seekers, survivors of domestic violence, immigrant families, children, and others in immigration court. She also sits on the New York City Bar Association’s Immigration & Nationality Law Committee and Rule of Law Task Force as well as the International Migrants Bill of Rights Initiative Advisory Board. 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.  Elizabeth also worked as a newspaper reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Agence France-Presse, and The Miami Herald, 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.


Karen T. Grisez is the Public Service Counsel in the Washington, D.C. office of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP. She manages the office’s pro bono program and provides both supervision and direct representation to pro bono clients in immigration cases, as well as in traditional civil poverty law areas. She has extensive litigation experience in federal courts, before the BIA and in Immigration Courts around the country. Ms. Grisez is a frequent speaker and trainer on legal topics relating primarily to asylum, other forms of immigration relief, immigration court reform, detention, ethics, and representation of victims of torture and trauma. She has testified twice before Congress and once before the US Commission on Civil Rights as the ABA’s representative on immigration-related topics. Ms. Grisez is a member of the ABA, the former Chair and current member of its Commission on Immigration, previously served on the Working Group on Unaccompanied Minor Immigrants, and is a member of the Advisory Board of the ABA's Immigration Justice Project in San Diego. She also previously served on the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. Ms. Grisez is also a member of AILA and serves on its national Pro Bono Committee, and the DC Chapter’s Pro Bono Committee. She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations, and practices in other courts in the District of Columbia and Maryland. She speaks Spanish and French.


Parisa is a Partner at Fragomen’s New York office, where she leads a team that focuses on individual and complex immigration matters and manages corporate accounts. Parisa also is a member of the firm’s Global Executive Committee.

On the corporate compliance advisory group side, Parisa represents a variety of large, mid-size and smaller companies in their immigration matters, including those in the financial services, medical, pharmaceutical, academic, retail and technology sectors.

Prior to joining Fragomen, Parisa served as an Assistant District Counsel and Acting Deputy District Counsel for the Immigration & Naturalization Service, New York District.

Parisa has provided immigration advice and guidance on a pro bono basis to a number of organizations and individuals, including Human Rights First and DACA recipients, among others.

Parisa also speaks at international and national conferences on a variety of immigration topics, including those sponsored by the American Bar Association (ABA), Practising Law Institute (PLI), American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), IIUSA (Invest in the USA) and EB5 Investors Magazine.

Parisa speaks English, Farsi, and French.


Ronald P. Mondello is a solo practitioner with offices in Fair Lawn, N.J. Since 1993, Mr. Mondello has engaged in the practice of what the legal scholars refer to as “crimmigration”, the intersection of crimes and immigration. He advises criminal defense attorneys on how to avoid deportation for their foreign national clients with “safe haven” pleas. He has extensive experience filing post-conviction relief petitions based on constitutional infirmities. He is especially known for his seminar specifically designed to educate Criminal Judges and Prosecutors involved with foreign nationals and to educate criminal defense attorneys on how to avoid Ineffective Assistance Claims when representing foreign nationals.

He received his Bachelor’s degree from William Paterson College in 1983, his Master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1988 and his Juris Doctor from Loyola University in 1992.

Mr. Mondello has a diverse background. He was also a computer consultant. He was previously employed as a Year 2000 consultant with a New York bank where he designed plans to enable the bank’s financial trading systems to obtain Year 2000 compliance certification from the banking regulators.

In addition, while working for AT&T, he was employed as a project manager supervising over thirty computer programmers and data base analysts. He has functioned as a business analyst in developing cost/benefit feasibility studies for various information technology platforms.

He was an adjunct professor at Bergen Community College and Passaic Community College. He has taught business organizations, immigration and criminal law at the Academy for Legal Assistant Training.

Mr. Mondello was a law clerk to the United States Attorney’s office in Philadelphia, a law clerk to Judge Marguerite T. Simon and a law clerk to the Passaic County Prosecutor. Mr. Mondello is a member of the Bergen, Passaic and Morris County Bar Associations, New Jersey Bar Association, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the New Jersey Institute of Local Government Attorneys and the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

Mr. Mondello has held several public positions including Borough Council President, Borough Councilman, County Committee Member, Board of Adjustment Chairman, Planning Board Member and New Jersey Massage, Bodywork and Somatic Therapy Examining Committee Member and District Fee Arbitration Board.

Mr. Mondello is the Board Attorney for the Hoboken Medical Cannabis Review Board, Special Legal Counsel for the Borough of Fair Lawn. He is the Zoning Board Attorney for Wanaque and Rochelle Park.

Mr. Mondello resides in Kinnelon, New Jersey with  his wife, two children, mother-in-law and his dachshund Sparky.


Salma Hasan is a Supervising Attorney at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) in Houston, Texas. She oversees the Released Program, which provides direct and pro bono representation in removal proceedings for unaccompanied children. Prior to working at KIND, Salma worked as a Yale Leonard and Irene Merker Rosenberg Public Interest Fellow at Tahirih Justice Center, representing women and children, fleeing extreme forms of violence, in their immigration cases. She received her Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Houston Law Center, where she also worked in the Immigration and Civil Practice Clinics as a student attorney. As a law student, she also worked at Lone Star legal Aid and Montgomery County Women’s Center, assisting survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. Salma graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Rhetoric & Writing and Government. She is licensed to practice law in Texas.


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.


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.