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Representing Children in Immigration Matters 2021: Effective Advocacy and Best Practices

Speaker(s): Christina Iturralde Thomas, Maureen Ketler Schad, Rebecca R. Press, Shouan Z.. Riahi, Victoria Giambra, Wendy Wylegala, Yasmin Yavar
Recorded on: Sep. 23, 2021
PLI Program #: 306109

Christina Iturralde Thomas is the Managing Attorney of the Atlanta Field Office of Kids In Need of Defense (KIND). Christina helped open the office in December 2015 and has grown from a three-member team to a staff of 11 people and growing. KIND’s staff and its pro bono attorney partners at law firms, corporations, and law schools represent unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in their immigration proceedings. KIND’s mission is to ensure that no child stands in court alone.

Prior to joining KIND, Christina worked at the Latin American Association (LAA) as a Staff Attorney representing unaccompanied minors before the Atlanta Immigration Court and the USCIS Atlanta field office.  Before that, she worked at Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project for two years and at LatinoJustice PRLDEF in New York for five years, defending the rights of immigrants through federal impact litigation. 

Christina is a graduate of University of California, Hastings College of Law and has a Master’s in Political Science from the University of Florida.  She is admitted to practice law in Georgia and New York. 

Maureen Ketler Schad is Pro Bono Counsel/Director of Pro Bono at Norton Rose Fulbright, where she litigates and supervises immigration and family law cases and directs the firm’s pro bono program.  For the last 14 years, she has worked with a wide range of legal services organizations and other community partners to ensure access to legal representation and other critical social services for immigrant youth in NYC and across New York State.  She currently serves on the ABA's Commission on Immigration, the New York State Advisory Council on Immigration Issues in Family Court, NYCLA’s Justice Center Advisory Board and the NYC Bar Association's Pro Bono and Legal Services Committee. 

Maureen was previously a Senior Staff Attorney at The Door’s Legal Services Center, where she represented youth for five years in a wide range of immigration and family court proceedings.  She continues this focus in her current role.  She graduated magna cum laude from New York University School of Law, where she worked with NYU’s Immigrant Rights Clinic, Make The Road New York, and The Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Unit. From 2001-2004, Maureen worked at The Legal Aid Society as a public benefits and housing advocate.  Before that, she was a founding program coordinator of Project HEALTH/ Health Leads, creating legal and benefits resource centers for adolescents and families at public hospitals in Boston and New York.  She is a graduate of Harvard College.

Rebecca Press is the Legal Director of UnLocal, a non-profit organization dedicated both to providing zealous representation to immigrant New York and to keeping New York's immigrant communities educated on the many legal issues impacting their lives. Together with UnLocal's legal team, Rebecca represents individuals at imminent risk of deportation, those fleeing persecution, the long-time undocumented, and many others. Led by Rebecca, UnLocal's legal team provides fierce and cutting-edge representation to immigrant New York.

Rebecca joined UnLocal in 2019 with 10 years of experience representing immigrants of all ages in removal proceedings, with a particular focus in Asylum and Protection under the Convention Against Torture. She practices regularly before the Immigration Court, Board of Immigration Appeals, and Federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In addition, Rebecca clerked at the New York Immigration Court through the Attorney General’s Department of Justice Honors Program. She is a 2002 graduate of Oberlin College and a 2009 graduate of the New York University School of Law.

Shouan was born on May 30, 1986 in Danbury, Connecticut. He is the child of refugees from the Islamic Republic of Iran and a first generation American. After graduating from high school, Shouan attended Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts where he studied economics. After college, Shouan attended New York University School of Law ("NYU"), where he focused on issues related to economic justice, civil rights, immigrant's rights, and racial justice. During his time at NYU, Shouan was privileged to work with the Immigrant Rights Clinic, where he represented individuals in removal proceedings before the New York City immigration court.

After law school, Shouan moved to Central America where he spent approximately one year traveling through the Northern Triangle. Immediately thereafter, Shouan began working at Central American Legal Assistance ("CALA") in Brooklyn, NY where he spent the next 5 years representing Central and South American asylum seekers in removal proceedings before the New York City immigration court. In late 2017, Shouan moved on from CALA and began working as the legal director of Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network ("SIREN") in San Jose, California. At SIREN, Shouan spent the next few years creating and developing the organization's removal defense program, which would soon become one of the most active in the San Jose metro area. In 2021, Shouan moved on from SIREN and began working at La Raza Community Resource Center in San Francisco, California. In tandem with that move, Shouan established his own immigration law practice, Yara Legal Services, where he provides low bono immigration legal services to immigrants and refugees before EOIR, the BIA, USCIS, and the various circuit courts of appeal.

Shouan currently lives in the East Bay with his partner and two young children. Shouan speaks English, Spanish, and Farsi fluently and is a member of the New York state bar.

Vickie Giambra is a Senior Staff Attorney with the ABA’s Children’s Immigration Law Academy. She has been practicing immigration law since 2009. Previously in private practice working on a variety of matters, Vickie began her nonprofit immigration law career when she joined Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in January 2017. As a Managing Attorney, she led the General Immigration Program at Catholic Charities, which encompassed family immigration matters and provided a full range of immigration services for refugees and asylees. With a B.A., cum laude, in Latin American Studies from Barnard College, Columbia University, and an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge, Vickie began her career working in HR and recruitment for a large international law firm in New York and London. This sparked an interest in employment and immigration law, which led Vickie to enroll in the University of Houston Law Center, graduating in May 2009. She is a member of the Texas Bar and is also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach.

Yasmin Yavar is a Senior Staff Attorney with the ABA’s Children’s Immigration Law Academy.  She is a 2004 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, where she fell in love with immigration law through Barbara Hines’ immigration clinic and a brief summer internship at ProBAR. She began her legal career as a commercial litigator at the Houston office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. After three years, Yasmin relocated to Harlingen, Texas for a year to work for the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) and learn the ropes of removal defense for detained adults.  She returned to Houston and was the first employee of Kids in Need of Defense’s Houston office, serving as the pro bono coordinator.  Immediately prior to working at CILA, Yasmin worked as a consultant for ProBAR’s Children’s Project.

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.