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Asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, Crime Victim, and Other Immigration Relief 2019


Speaker(s): Barbara Camacho, Claire R. Thomas, Cristina Romero, Cyrus D. Mehta, David A. Isaacson, Deborah Lee, Heather Axford, Paul O'Dwyer, Rebecca L. Sosa
Recorded on: Feb. 8, 2019
PLI Program #: 251518

Claire R. Thomas  is an attorney, advocate, and adjunct professor. Her interests and expertise include: U.S. immigration law, asylum and refugee law, unaccompanied children, immigrant access to public benefits, 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 NYU’s Center for Global Affairs and a law degree from New York Law School. She was a visiting scholar at The New School's Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility.

Claire directs the Asylum Clinic at New York Law School, in which she teaches law students how to represent immigrants seeking asylum and other humanitarian immigration protections in the United States. As an Adjunct Professor at NYLS, she also teaches the introductory immigration law course. She is also a contract attorney with CUNY Citizenship Now! and assists immigrants applying for naturalization, and is a consultant for The Door, a NYC non-profit, in which she supervises attorneys working with immigrant youth.

Previously, she provided local and national trainings on immigration law to over 5,000 individuals with the Safe Passage Project, and advocated for the rights of African, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern immigrants at African Services Committee, a Harlem-based non-profit assisting persons living with HIV/AIDS.

Claire's television appearances include Voice of America in both English and French. She has been quoted in local and national publications including The New York Times, The Bangkok Post, The New Statesman, The Queens Daily Eagle and Law at the Margins. Her Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor have been published in the Queens Daily Eagle, Women Across Frontiers, and the New York Times. Her academic publications (Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, Drexel Law Review, and New York Law School) focus on unaccompanied children in immigration removal proceedings and immigrant access to public benefits.


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. Mr. Mehta is a member of AILA’s Administrative Litigation Task Force; AILA’s EB-5 Committee; former chair of AILA’s Ethics Committee; special counsel on immigration matters to the Departmental Disciplinary Committee, Appellate Division, First Department, New York; member of the ABA Commission on Immigration; board member of Volunteers for Legal Services and board member of New York Immigration Coalition.  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 two AILA Presidential Commendations in 2010 and 2016.  Mr. Mehta is ranked among the most highly regarded lawyers in North America by Who’s Who Legal – Corporate Immigration Law 2019 and is also ranked in Chambers USA and Chambers Global 2019 in immigration law, among other rankings.


Deborah Lee is a Supervising Attorney within the Immigration Law Unit of the Legal Aid Society, where she represents a wide-range of immigrants before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 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. 


Tina Romero is 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 assisted in the creation of the ICARE coalition to ensure unaccompanied children in New York City obtained representation in immigration court.  She co-teaches an externship at Columbia Law School on Unaccompanied Immigrant Youth.  Tina graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2001.  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.  


David A. Isaacson, a graduate of Princeton University and Yale Law School, is a Partner at Cyrus D. Mehta & Partners PLLC in New York City.  David is a co-chair of the Federal Practice Committee of the New York Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), was formerly co-chair of the AILA New York Chapter Customs and Border Protection Committee, and is a frequent speaker at AILA conferences, including the AILA Annual Conferences of 2012-2015 and 2017-2018.  David’s practice includes a variety of family-based and employment-based applications for both nonimmigrant visas and permanent residence, as well as waivers, naturalization and citizenship matters, asylum cases, other removal proceedings such as those stemming from criminal convictions or denied applications for adjustment of status, and federal litigation.


Heather Axford has been representing asylum applicants at Central American Legal Assistance since 2008 and is currently a senior staff attorney.  She represents primarily Central American trauma survivors in removal proceedings as well as victims of egregious constitutional violations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and indigent immigrants eligible for other humanitarian immigration relief. She practices regularly before the Asylum Office, Immigration Court, Board of Immigration Appeals, and Federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.  She is an Adjunct Professor of Refugee & Asylum Law at New York Law School. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia, School of Law and Vassar College.


Paul O’Dwyer is an established immigration attorney with over twenty years’ experience in all aspects of immigration law, with a strong focus on asylum and removal defense.

Mr. O’Dwyer is a graduate of the National University of Ireland and the Honorable Society of Kings’ Inns, Dublin. He was admitted to practice in New York State in 1990, and since then to numerous Federal Courts of Appeals and District Courts nationwide. Mr. O’Dwyer is a former chair and current member of the National Refugee and Asylum Liaison Committee of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a former member of the New York City Bar Association Committee on Immigration and Nationality Law, and is a regular writer and speaker on panels and seminars on immigration law.


Rebecca L. Sosa, Esq. is an immigration attorney based in New York City.  Rebecca’s firm, Sosa Law, focuses on family-based immigration, humanitarian relief, and removal defense in Spanish and English.  Rebecca received her J.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall), and B.A. with honors in Psychology from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles.  Rebecca’s immigration practice draws upon on her study of and published research on working with children who have experienced trauma.  Rebecca is admitted to the bar in New York and Florida.

Rebecca is an active member of the New York chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  She has previously served as a Co-Chair of the NY AILA Pro Bono Committee, where she coordinated a Children’s Docket to provide pro bono consultations to unrepresented children facing deportation, and organized the New York City Immigrant Advocacy Initiative (NYCIAI) free immigration clinics throughout the city.  Rebecca was also Co-Chair of the NY AILA Ethics / Unlawful Practice of Law Committee, and a member of the Protecting Immigrant New Yorkers Task Force (PINY).  Rebecca is a member of the NYC Bar Association Immigration & Nationality Committee, and has served as the Co-chair of the Asylum and Immigration Courts subcommittee.

Rebecca has a long-standing dedication to pro bono service.  In 2015 The New York Law Journal named Rebecca as a Lawyer Who Leads by Example based on her outstanding record of providing crucial legal services to poor New Yorkers.  Rebecca was also awarded the 2013 Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division Pro Bono Service Award, where she addressed the Florida Supreme Court about her passion for pro bono work.  Rebecca was a Recipient of the Legal Aid Society’s 2010 Pro Bono Publico Award for providing outstanding legal assistance to a major community organization in New York.