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Working with Immigrants: The Intersection of Basic Immigration, Housing, and Domestic Violence Issues in California

Speaker(s): Brenda Star Adams, Catherine M. Bishop, Cindy C. Liou, Hongvilay Thongsamouth, Karlo Ng, Khanh T. Nguyen, Linda Tam, Lindsay Sweetnam, Lisa Frydman, Nancy K.D. Lemon, Omar P. Calimbas, Patricia Salazar, Sharon Djemal, Susan Bowyer, Tirien Steinbach
Recorded on: May. 14, 2013
PLI Program #: 43331

Patricia Salazar joined Centro Legal's staff in 2008. A daughter of Mexican immigrants, Patricia has worked extensively with underrepresented communities throughout her academic and professional careers. As a law student from 2003 to 2005, she was a volunteer for Centro Legal's Workers' Rights Clinic. Patricia previously worked at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., DLA Piper US LLP, and the Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County. Patricia oversees Centro Legal's housing and employment practices. She earned her JD from UC Berkeley School of Law and her Masters degree in Public Policy from UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy.

Tirien Steinbach
East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC)
Executive Director



J.D., Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California at Berkeley (1999)
B.A., Art History, University of California at Santa Cruz (1994)


Steinbach is the executive director of the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC), the community-based clinic for Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall).  She is a lecturer-in-residence and teaches a companion course on applied legal ethics and community lawyering.  Steinbach joined EBCLC in 2001, where she incubated the Clean Slate Clinic, a community reentry program.

Steinbach graduated from Boalt Hall in 1999, where she was co-president of the Berkeley Law Foundation and Vice President for Law Students of African Descent.  Upon graduation, Steinbach received several recognitions, including Equal Justice Works and Berkeley Law Foundation fellowships and the inaugural Thelton Henderson Social Justice Prize, the BJALP Adhama Award, the 2010 Sisters of Fire Award, the 2011 LSAD Alumna of the Year Award, and the 2015 Berkeley Law Young Alumna Award. She served on the board of Berkeley Law’s Initiative on Mindfulness and the Law from 2010-14.

Catherine Bishop has been a member of the NHLP staff for over 32 years, and is a recognized expert in the field of federal housing law. She has built long-standing relationships with housing, legal and policy advocates nationwide. Her work has been instrumental in increasing housing authorities' responsiveness and effective service to special needs populations including people with disabilities, the re-entry population, and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

Catherine led NHLP's 2009-2010 Resident Engagement Initiative, which culminated in landmark face-to-face policy dialogues between HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and a pool of 100 residents from HUD's major housing programs to discuss plans for the preservation and improvement of public housing, which became the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. She also lead an offshoot of that successful effort under NHLP's Resident Training Academy; a national webinar training school intended to empower federally assisted residents to assume leadership roles and to participate in local and federal policy opportunities.  Catherine also leads NHLP's work in advancing HUD's Section 3 jobs training program and Public Housing and Vouchers Initiatives.

Lindsay Sweetnam, MFTI - Community Programs Director, La Casa de las Madres

The mission of La Casa de las Madres is to respond to calls for help from domestic violence victims, of all ages, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  We give survivors the tools to transform their lives.  We seek to prevent future violence by educating the community and by redefining public perceptions about domestic violence.

Lindsay joined La Casa in early 2010 as an advocate in both the Teen Program and Drop In Center before transitioning into the role of Case Manager at the Verona Hotel Supportive Housing Program.  Lindsay now coordinates and supervises La Casa’s shelter program and non-residential community service programs, which include the Drop In Center, Teen Program, Safe Housing Project, Ending Abuse in Later Life Project, Domestic Violence Response Team, and Outreach and Volunteer Program.  During her time at La Casa she has played an active role in implementing innovative and collaborative service delivery with the Office of the San Francisco District Attorney, the Treasurer’s Bank on San Francisco program, and Kaiser Permanente's Educational Theatre Programs.

Lindsay received a BA in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Oregon and an MA in Counseling Psychology from the University of San Francisco.  Other work and volunteer experience include work with homeless shelter and supportive housing residents, adults with severe and persistent mental illness in semi-independent living settings, adolescents in an inpatient psychiatric setting, and elementary youth in a school setting.  She is currently a Marriage and Family Therapist Intern working towards licensure.

Susan Bowyer is the Deputy Director of the Immigration Center for Women and Children.  Susan is the author of a number of publications on immigration remedies for survivors of domestic violence, including those published by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice, and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC).  She is a frequent trainer on immigration through the VAWA and U Visa and has presented at the American Immigration Lawyers Association National Conference, California and Central Florida Chapters, the Alameda County Law Enforcement Chiefs’ Annual Conference, on regional and national webinars, and before the California State Senate and Assembly Human Service Committees.  Susan is a 1992 graduate of Stanford Law School, where she was a Public Service Law Fellow.

Ms. Nguyen is a Senior Staff Attorney at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach (APILO), a community-based legal services organization that aims to provide holistic and comprehensive legal services to low-income and underrepresented communities.

Ms. Nguyen has over six years of experience representing immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.  Her practice involves addressing the multiple and often intersecting legal needs of her clients in the areas of family law, immigration (VAWA, U-Visa, T-Visa, etc.), civil litigation, and victim rights advocacy in criminal proceedings. 

Ms. Nguyen is a state certified Mediator and Domestic Violence Counselor.  She is an alumnus of Temple University Beasley School of Law and the University of California at Irvine, and is bilingual in Vietnamese.

Ms. Thongsamouth is a partner at the Law Offices of Murphy, Vu, Thongsamouth & Chatterjee, LLP, a law firm providing comprehensives legal services in the areas of family law, immigration, estate planning and probate.

Ms. Thongsamouth represents clients in all aspects of the divorce process, including but not limited to, child custody, child and spousal support, division of assets and debts, prenuptial agreements, marital settlement agreements, and domestic violence restraining orders.  In addition, she also provides a comprehensive range of immigration services from affirmative applications before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to defense in deportation/removal proceedings before the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR).  Ms. Thongsamouth has successfully represented clients in family based green card petitions, citizenship and naturalization, deportation/removal proceedings, waivers, asylum, and Violence Against Women Act applications. 

As a former refugee herself, Ms. Thongsamouth believes her role is to not only help clients navigate the difficult and complex legal system, but to also educate clients about the system itself and their rights within that system.  It is this belief that shapes and influences her practice, both in the family law and immigration context.

Prior to joining the firm, Ms. Thongsamouth was an Equal Justice Fellow at the Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, a nonprofit legal organization providing services to low income and marginalized Asian Pacific Islander communities in the areas of domestic violence, family law, immigration, elder abuse and human trafficking.

Ms. Thongsamouth received her Juris Doctorate from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, and her Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, San Diego.  She is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is fluent in Lao and Thai.

Karlo Ng is the Supervising Attorney at the National Housing Law Project (NHLP) where she focuses on housing issues impacting survivors of domestic and sexual violence and trafficking; fair housing and civil rights, with a focus on the special needs and housing issues of immigrants and people with limited English proficiency. Before joining NHLP, Karlo was an attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C.  Karlo received her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law.

Brenda Star Adams has been litigating cases on behalf of low income clients for over ten years. She began her career representing low income tenants in unlawful detainer jury trials with the Eviction Defense Center in Alameda County. After four years, she began representing survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in family law and immigration cases with Bay Area Legal Aid. She is currently the Family Law Coordinator of the Domestic Violence Unit in Alameda County where she supervises the direct legal services provided to survivors of domestic violence and coordinates regional advocacy efforts.  The unit's work involves contested custody matters, restraining orders, paternity, legal separation, and dissolution cases, as well as U-Visas and VAWA petitions. Ms. Adams' specializes in complex and lengthy trials and enjoys training other legal professionals on trial practice. Ms. Adams is a native of San Francisco and when she is not working she enjoys hiking, gardening, and spending time with her parents, husband, and daughter.

Linda Tam is a Clinical Instructor affiliated with Berkeley Law School and the Director of the Immigration Clinic at the East Bay Community Law Center, a non-profit in Berkeley, California with the dual mission of providing legal services to the low-income community and training the next generation of lawyers.  The Immigration Clinic provides free immigration services to low-income immigrants, many of whom are HIV-positive or families of children with chronic health problems.  She represents and counsels clients on a wide variety of immigration issues: political asylum, U visas, deportation defense, DACA, VAWA, NACARA, SIJS, naturalization, immigration effects of criminal convictions, and benefits eligibility, including on behalf of detained clients.  She is a contributor on immigration law to “AIDS and the Law,” the leading treatise on HIV legal issues.  She has spoken at regional and national conferences, and was awarded the 2009 Legal Services Award by the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club.  Ms. Tam is a graduate of Berkeley Law School (Boalt Hall).

Lisa Frydman is an associate director at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS), where her work focuses on the Center’s impact litigation, national policy advocacy, and technical assistance programs.  CGRS works to protect the human rights of refugee women, children, and sexual minorities, advocating for individual grants of asylum, while advancing the development of refugee law and policy in the U.S.  Prior to joining CGRS, Ms. Frydman was a staff attorney at Legal Services for Children and an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC), where she represented immigrant children.  Ms. Frydman is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley (Boalt Hall) School of Law.

Sharon Djemal is the Director of the Consumer Justice Practice where she oversees attorneys and law students as the Clinic defends, enforces, and advances the rights of low-income consumers. Through this work she engages in a full range of litigation, policy advocacy, and community education. Sharon has been an attorney at EBCLC since the year 2000. From 2000 to 2014, Sharon was a supervising attorney in the Housing Practice, where she represented tenants in housing litigation, including unlawful detainers, affirmative lawsuits, and administrative proceedings. Prior to her work at EBCLC, Sharon was a Soros Fellow at the Urban Justice Center’s Homelessness Outreach and Prevention Project, where she represented public housing tenants being evicted from their homes based on criminal allegations.

Cindy C. Liou, Esq. is the State Policy Director at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), a national non-profit working to provide legal counsel to unaccompanied refugee and immigrant children in the United States. Prior to this role, she served as the Deputy Director of Legal Services at KIND. Previously, she was the Director of the Human Trafficking Project at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, where she also co-counseled several civil litigation cases on behalf of human trafficking survivors, and represented survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and elder abuse. She continues to provide consulting and training on topics ranging from human trafficking, domestic violence lethality, to best practices on how to collaborate in cross-disciplinary teams to support survivors of violence. She is formerly the Co-Chair of the Policy Committee of the Freedom Network to Empower Trafficked and Enslaved Persons (USA), a network of over 40 individual and member agencies representing trafficking survivors, and the winner of their 2018 Paul and Sheila Wellstone Award. She is also the recipient of the 2013 San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking Modern Day Abolitionist Award for Policy and Advocacy. Cindy is the co-author of several articles, and has contributed to the manuals of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center's second edition of Representing Survivors of Human Trafficking, first edition of T Visas: A Critical Immigration Option for Survivors of Human Trafficking, and the fifth edition of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and Other Immigration Options for Children & Youth. She previously handled a variety of pro bono cases at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC, ranging from asylum to police misconduct cases. Cindy is a graduate from Stanford Law School and the University of Washington.

For the past 10 years, Omar Calimbas has provided direct legal services for communities marginalized by race and culture.  Currently, as a Senior Staff Attorney with the Asian Law Caucus (the nation's oldest legal and civil rights organization representing low income Asian Pacific Islander communities), Omar represents working class households, immigrants, seniors, limited English proficient residents and other tenants at risk of wrongful eviction and other wrongful landlord conduct in trial court and administrative proceedings.  Before joining ALC, he worked with legal services providers in a number of jurisdictions, including Alaska, where he represented many American Indians and Alaska Natives, and Saipan, of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, where his clients were primarily Pacific Islanders and guest workers from China and the Philippines.

Nancy K.D. Lemon has been a leading authority on domestic violence law for over three decades. A practicing attorney, she has also provided expert testimony in many types of cases. She has worked to craft many pieces of California legislation affecting survivors of domestic violence and their children. Since 1988, Professor Lemon has taught Domestic Violence Law and the Domestic Violence Practicum at UC Berkeley’s School of Law. She authored the first textbook on Domestic Violence Law in 1996, now in its 5th edition. In 2012, she co-founded the Family Violence Appellate Project, where she is the Legal Director.