Phil Hwang, Esq.
Phil joins CLSEPA after serving as the Director of Policy and Programs at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area. At the Lawyers’ Committee, he oversaw the organization’s programmatic and policy work, supervised a pro bono project serving low-income refugees, and litigated impact cases in the area of immigrant and refugee rights. Phil also clerked for Judge Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and worked as a staff attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid, where he represented low-income clients in the areas of housing, disability, and benefits law. Phil received his undergraduate degree from Stanford University and his law degree from Harvard Law School.
Rebecca received her J.D. at the University of San Francisco School of Law after receiving her B.A. from UC Berkeley. Rebecca was previously a staff attorney in CLSEPA’s anti-predatory lending program, focusing on homeowner counseling and loan modification, before taking up her current role as Development Director.
Pro Bono Director and Supervisor, Small Business Program
*Admitted to practice in New York
Prior to joining CLSEPA, Joyce worked as a corporate attorney at Linklaters LLP in London and was pro bono Project Advisor to the international human rights clinic at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. She also spent time in the Middle East working on women’s rights, and coordinated a consortium of non-profits to present a human rights report to the United Nations. She has also served as Project coordinator with the Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law and as a legal researcher at the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam).
Human Resources Manager
Maricela Castillo joined CLSEPA in 2008 as both the Office Manager and Receptionist. Ms. Castillo has become a triage specialist, using her patience and keen knowledge of legal concepts to guide clients in the right direction. She is passionate about helping people in need and feels privileged to work in an office that is dedicated to helping the community prosper. Ms. Castillo is fluent in Spanish.
Senior Office Manager
Soe grew up in the community of Redwood City and graduated from Woodside High School in 1996. She began her career in office management with Resources for Reading. Soe is proud to be part of a team that offers legal assistance to the local community.
Volunteer Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTA Member
Aileen received her B.A. in Spanish and International Relations with a focus on developing countries from Ohio Wesleyan University in Spring 2015. During her studies, Aileen explored American foreign policy and the lasting effects on Latin America as well as women in foreign policy. She has also focused on the changing role of women in the public sphere in Argentina and Chile. Aileen has worked for Ohio Representative Nicki Antonio, U.S Representative Karen Bass, and several women’s health organizations such as California Family Health Council and Planned Parenthood. She is also proficient in Spanish and has lived in Argentina while working with the homeless in Buenos Aires.
Development Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTA Member
Prior to joining CLSEPA, Kevin worked as an environmental geologist for Langan Engineering in Manhattan, New York. Kevin received a B.S. in Geology from Rutgers University. During his studies, Kevin participated in the Rutgers Civic Engagement and Service Education Partnerships program, through which he provided Geographic Information Systems (GIS) assistance to a local community organization.
Housing and Economic Advancement
Directing Attorney, Housing and Economic Advancement Programs
Jason was previously an attorney at Goldstein, Borgen, Dardarian & Ho, where he represented plaintiffs in class action lawsuits in the areas of employment law and disability rights. Before that, he worked as a fellow at the Impact Fund, where he litigated civil rights class actions. Jason served as a law clerk to Judge Sidney Thomas of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and to Judge Susan Illston of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Jason graduated from Stanford Law School in 2006, where he took part in the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic and represented workers and tenants at the Stanford Community Law Clinic. While in law school, Jason volunteered at CLSEPA and at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. At CLSEPA, Jason directs the Housing and Economic Advancement Programs, managing its impact litigation docket and representing tenants facing eviction or seeking to improve the health and safety of their homes. Jason received his B.A. from Brown University in 2000.
Managing Attorney, Economic Advancement Program
Katrina earned her Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University School of Law where she graduated with a Public Interest Certificate. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in African and African American Studies and English from Stanford University. Before working with CLSEPA, Katrina was a Graduate Fellow at the Northern California Innocence Project and volunteered with the Pro Bono Project of Silicon Valley, representing clients in restraining order and child custody hearings. At CLSEPA, Katrina manages the civil and consumer law practice areas.
Senior Staff Attorney, Housing and Economic Advancement Programs
Housing Staff Attorney
Daniel was awarded a Skadden Fellowship to support his work as a housing attorney at CLSEPA. Prior to joining CLSEPA, he served as a law clerk to Judge Jerome Farris on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Daniel graduated from Harvard Law School in 2012, where worked on a variety of international human rights projects such as advocating for indigenous communities in Chile and investigating prison conditions in Panama. From 2007-2009, Daniel worked for a nonprofit in Santiago, Chile, dedicated to empowering at-risk youth. He received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley in 2007.
Housing Staff Attorney
Margaret earned her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law with a concentration in Social Justice Lawyering. As a law student, Margaret worked with several Bay Area organizations dedicated to promoting housing rights, including the Mental Health Advocacy Project, the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission, and the National Housing Law Project. During law school, Margaret also represented clients in employment matters through the Hastings Civil Justice Clinic and served as an extern to Judge Edward M. Chen of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Prior to joining CLSEPA, Margaret worked as a volunteer housing attorney with Bay Area Legal Aid.
*Admitted to practice in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.
Prior to joining CLSEPA, Salimah served as a fair housing attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland and a consulting attorney for the Fair Housing Justice Center. Salimah has also served as a legislative aide to Massachusetts Senator Wilkerson, pro bono counsel at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and a law clerk at the civil rights firm Stern, Shapiro, Weissberg & Garin, LLP. in Boston. Prior to, and during law school, Salimah served as a community organizer and civil rights coordinator for MAS Boston, Inc. Most recently, Salimah served as a human rights consultant for the US Human Rights Network in which she authored several human rights reports and advised advocates testifying before United Nations treaty bodies in Geneva. Salimah received her undergraduate degree from Northeastern University and her law degree from Suffolk University Law School.
Workers’ Rights Attorney, Skadden Fellow
Scott’s project at CLSEPA is to promote the employment rights of workers in East Palo Alto and Silicon Valley in wage disputes, discrimination complaints, and retaliation issues. Scott has worked with immigrant workers’ movements and organizations in New York City, Boston, and San Francisco, and has pursued immigrants’ rights while working on the US-Mexico border. Before law school, he worked for an advocacy group in Washington, DC, that fights to strengthen and expand Social Security and Medicare. Scott is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Brown University.
Consulting Supervising Attorney
Jeanne Merino has worked as the Consulting Supervising Attorney of CLSEPA’s Housing Program since CLSEPA’s inception in 2002. Prior to working with CLSEPA, Jeanne was a clinical supervisor at the East Palo Alto Community Law Project for nine years. She has taught courses in Community Law Practice, Problem-Solving, Federal Litigation, Legal Research and Writing and Housing at both Stanford University and Stanford Law School. Early in her career, Jeanne clerked for Justice Cruz Reynoso of the California Supreme Court, and worked as a resident advocate for a transitional housing program in East Palo Alto. She is presently the Director of Stanford Law School’s First Year Legal Research and Writing Program. Jeanne received her Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School in 1986. Jeanne is fluent in Spanish.
Intake and Clinic Coordinator
Norma Diego was born and raised in San Jose, California. She earned her Bachelor’s in Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Sacramento State University in May of 2014. Norma has a passion for helping and advocating for folks who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and for folks who have been treated unfairly. Prior to joining CLSEPA, Norma worked as a Residential Counselor where she oversaw a group of foster youth and helped facilitate their daily routines.
Directing Attorney, Immigration Program
Ilyce joined CLSEPA in March of 2012, and since that time has worked greatly to expand the services the immigration program provides to the community. Under her leadership, CLSEPA’s immigration attorneys were some of the first responders to the surge crisis in the immigration courts in 2014. Prior to joining CLSEPA, Ilyce was a partner at Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP, where she worked for over 10 years. Before joining the private sector, Ilyce worked for two years at the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) as a National Association of Public Interest Law Equal Justice Fellow. Ilyce was recently appointed to the State Bar Commission on Immigration and Nationality Law and received the Silicon Valley Business Journal’s Women of Influence award in 2015. She also published articles in various AILA publications, in Immigration Briefings, and has been the update editor of the treatise, Immigration Law and the Family since 2012. Ilyce also serves as the AILA NorCal coordinator for the Volunteer Immigration Program. Ilyce has a JD from DePaul University College of Law and a BA from the University of Wisconsin, Madison
Senior Attorney, Immigration Program
Prior to joining CLSEPA in May 2013, Kaitlin was a deportation defense attorney at Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP, an attorney with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the U.S. Legal Unit, and a contract attorney with the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies and the CSS/Newman Special Master of Appeals. During her time in law school at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, Kaitlin was a law clerk at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, and the Law Office of Robert B. Jobe. Kaitlin was also actively involved with the Hastings-to-Haiti Partnership. Kaitlin received her undergraduate degree from Boston University, and she is proficient in Spanish and French.
Senior Attorney, Immigration Program
Helen’s work focuses on providing legal services to youth facing deportation. Helen is an active participant in coalition efforts to advance the rights of immigrants and youth in San Mateo County. During her time at Harvard Law School, Helen participated in the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic and the Family Law Clinic. She worked on women’s rights issues at the Global Justice Center in New York and the Center for Reproductive Rights in D.C. during her summers. Helen is from Canada and received her B. Arts & Science (Honors) from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She is proficient in Spanish.
Senior Attorney, Supervisor of DACA/DAPA Program
*Admitted to practice in New York and New Jersey
Prior to moving to the Bay Area in 2013, Mariam practiced immigration law both in nonprofit and private settings in New York and New Jersey. She served as the Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) Fellow at the American Friends Service Committee in Newark, New Jersey, where she represented immigrant youth facing removal proceedings. Mariam has given presentations for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and other forms of immigration relief, and has conducted trainings for volunteer attorneys. Mariam graduated from Hofstra University School of Law in New York, where she concentrated in International Law. She is fluent in Spanish.
Immigration Staff Attorney
Prior to joining CLSEPA in April 2015, Cristina spent three years as an Immigration Staff Attorney at Ayuda, serving low-income immigrants in the Washington, DC metro area. Prior to that she worked as a Contract Attorney for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and as a Volunteer Attorney at the Tahirih Justice Center. Cristina holds a law degree from the University of Oxford and a LL.M. from the London School of Economics. Cristina is proficient in Spanish.
Immigration Attorney, Emerson Legal Fellow
Sponsored by the Emerson Collective, Valicia’s work focuses on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and other forms of immigration relief. After receiving her J.D. from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 2012, Valicia worked at the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office. In law school, she participated in the UC Hastings Criminal Practice Clinic, where she worked with the San Mateo County District Attorney’s Office. Valicia received her B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Japanese from Stanford University. She is a native Spanish speaker and remains conversational in Japanese.
Immigration Attorney, Equal Justice Works Fellow
Misha is an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by The Morrison and Foerster Foundation. She joined us in January 2015 to provide legal representation to immigrant youth in East Palo Alto and neighboring communities. After receiving her J.D. from Hastings in 2011, Misha worked as an Attorney Advisor for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review in San Francisco. She also served as a staff attorney and legal fellow at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies.
Immigration Advocate, AmeriCorps VISTA Member
Joanna graduated with a Bachelors of Arts in Politics and Latin American/Latino@ Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz. While completing her undergraduate career, Joanna was a part of various organizations that focused themselves on the theme of social justice and community. As an undergraduate, Joanna co-facilitated a two-unit social justice course and worked collaboratively with other students to design and fully fund a week long summer camp dedicated to empowering young women of color in the fields of technology and social justice.
Esmeralda grew up in San Mateo and received a BA in Social Work and Chicano Latin American Studies from the California State University of Fresno. Esmeralda has worked at Family Supportive Housing and HomeFirst. Esmeralda enjoys making a positive impact and helping others overcome barriers throughout life.
Brenda was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She moved to the Bay Area to attend Stanford, where she earned her B.S. in International Relations with a focus on Latin America and Comparative International Governance. While at Stanford, Brenda worked at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, where she learned about major philanthropic innovations. She also volunteered with St. Francis of Assisi Youth Club in East Palo Alto, where she served as a youth mentor and discovered her desire to work with the East Palo Alto community following graduation. She joined CLSEPA in 2014.
Magali Molina grew up in Redwood City, California. Magali graduated from U.C. Santa Cruz in June 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Legal Studies. Magali has completed summer internships at the International Insititute of the Bay Area (IIBA) and the Ravenswood Family Health Center. At U.C. Santa Cruz she was an Educational Opportunity Programs Ambassador and Co-Lead for the AB540 Student Services Subunit. She is currently an Immigration Advocate with CLSEPA’s immigration program. She provides case management support and engages in community outreach for the DACA/DAPA program.
Marina is a graduate of San Francisco State University where she earned a Bachelors of Arts in Sociology. Prior to working at CLSEPA, Marina completed her internship at the Citizenship and Immigration Program at CET in San Jose, where she gained valuable knowledge on immigration law. Marina is very passionate about helping people and giving back to the community. She hopes to one day become a Immigration Attorney.
Immigration Office Manager/Receptionist
Victoria attended University of California Riverside on a full scholarship, where she graduated with a B.A in Chicano Studies and Public Policy. During her time at UCR, Victoria was an active member of many organizations that promoted higher education in Chicano/Latino youth as well as the betterment of underserved communities. Victoria received the University of California Humanitarian Year Award during her senior year in college. After graduating, Victoria continues to be an active alumna of the Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula.
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