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.
*Admitted to practice in New York
Prior to joining CLSEPA, Joyce worked as a US corporate associate 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 worked in the field of women’s rights in the Middle East, supporting a consortium of local non-profits to prepare 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), focusing on women’s rights advocacy.
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.
Prior to joining CLSEPA, Michelle served as an AmeriCorps member at the International Rescue Committee in San Jose. She worked closely with recently arrived refugees and victims of human trafficking in the area of economic empowerment as well as serving as the volunteer and donation coordinator. During her studies, she interned at the Center for Employment Opportunities in New York where she gained experience working with formerly incarcerated clients. Michelle received her B.A. in Political Science and Peace & Justice Studies from Wellesley College.
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 May 2015. During her studies, Aileen explored American foreign policy and the lasting effects on Latin America as well as women in foreign policy. Aileen has worked for Ohio Representative Nicki Antonio, U.S. Representative Karen Bass, and several women’s health organizations. She is also proficient in Spanish and has lived in Argentina while working with the poverty organizations in Buenos Aires. At CLSEPA, Aileen is focused on managing and recruiting volunteers for our program areas as well as our pro bono clinics.
Development Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTA Member
Zoe received her B.A. in History and Spanish from Coe College in May of 2015. Since graduating Zoe has worked at El Centro, Inc in Kansas City, KS through AmeriCorps, serving the Hispanic community by organizing DACA and Citizenship clinics in the area and coordinating informational sessions. She is fluent in Spanish and has lived in Costa Rica through a study abroad program through her college, using her practicum to teach social studies in a rural secondary school.
Housing and Economic Advancement
Directing Attorney, Housing Program
Jason joined CLSEPA in April 2013 after working 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 Program, supervising housing and workers’ rights attorneys, managing its impact litigation docket, and representing tenants facing eviction or seeking to improve the health and safety of their homes. From 2000 to 2003, Jason worked as a policy analyst and executive assistant at Demos in New York City. Jason received his B.A. from Brown University in 2000.
Directing 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 Attorney, Housing and Economic Advancement Programs
Senior Staff Attorney, Housing Program
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.
Senior Attorney, Housing Program
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.
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.
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.
Legal Fellow, Economic Advancement Program
Masa recently graduated from the UC Berkeley School of Law, where he also attended college. Masa also holds a Master’s degree from the University of Cambridge. During law school Masa worked for the East Bay Community Law Center’s Clean Slate clinic, and spent his two summers at county and federal public defender offices.
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
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, Immigration Program, 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.
Senior Attorney, Immigration Program
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 fluent in Spanish.
Senior Attorney, Immigration Program
Misha joined CLSEPA in January 2015 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by The Morrison and Foerster Foundation. Her project focused on providing legal representation to immigrant youth in East Palo Alto and neighboring communities. Prior to joining CLSEPA, Misha served as a Staff Attorney and Legal Fellow at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies. She also worked as an Attorney Advisor for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review in San Francisco for two years. Misha received her J.D. from UC Hastings College of the Law and an MSc in Human Rights from the London School of Economics. She is fluent in Spanish.
Immigration Staff Attorney
Prior to joining CLSEPA in March of 2016, Tess worked as an associate attorney at the firm of Robert D. Ahlgren & Associates in Chicago, Illinois. There, she chaired the Immigration Committee of the Chicago Bar Association. Her work at CLSEPA focuses on removal defense of detained respondents before the Executive Office of Immigration Review Immigration Court. She has worked with attorneys around the country and on the ground supporting detainees in the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. In 2009, she worked with L.I.F.E. Argentina in Buenos Aires providing education and nutrition for low-income children. Tess holds a law degree from the Loyola University Chicago School of Law and an undergraduate degree from the University of Iowa, where she studied Spanish and International Business. Tess speaks Spanish and is licensed to practice law in Illinois.
Senior Immigrants’ Rights Attorney
Araceli joined CLSEPA in March 2017 to engage in advocacy and impact litigation to benefit immigrant communities on the Peninsula. Prior to joining CLSEPA, Araceli worked for the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights; ACLU National, as a member of the Women’s Rights Project and then the Immigrants’ Rights Project; and Legal Aid at Work (formerly, the Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center), in the National Origin, Immigration, and Language Rights Program. Araceli also served as a law clerk to U.S. District Court Judge David Briones. Araceli received her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley’s Law School (Boalt Hall) and earned her undergraduate degree from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University. Araceli has taught Spanish for Lawyers as a lecturer at Berkeley Law, and is the 2010 recipient of the Hon. Thelton E. Henderson Social Justice Prize, which is awarded by Berkeley Law. Before law school, Araceli taught bilingual kindergarten through Teach for America in Oakland, California, and is herself a Mexican immigrant. She sits on the Executive Board of the American Constitution Society’s Bay Area Lawyers Chapter and is President of the East Bay La Raza Lawyers Association.
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.
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.
Victoria attended the 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’s work has been heavily surrounded around creating awareness and resources for those that may lack social capital. During her senior year in college, Victoria received the University of California Humanitarian of the Year Award. Victoria hopes to lift as she rises as she aspires to become an immigration attorney.
Supportive Services Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTA Member
Katrina earned her Bachelor’s of Social Work and B.A. in Spanish at Dordt College in Sioux Center, IA. While finishing her studies, Katrina worked with children, adults with disabilities, and immigrant and refugee populations. She has acted as interpreter for various service groups, and gained fluency in Spanish through studying abroad in Spain and working at children’s homes in Ensenada and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. At CLSEPA, Katrina is focusing on extending the reach of the social work program, and increasing our clients’ access to services.
Humanitarian Access Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTA Member
Vanessa was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV and attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR where she received her B.A. in International Affairs. She gained her Spanish proficiency through years of schooling and through studying abroad in Ecuador. During her time in Ecuador she volunteered at an orphanage with children who were either abandoned by their parents or whose families did not have the financial means to care for them. She will be facilitating the organization of the Intake and Asylum clinics in order to expand the reach of CLSEPA.
To schedule an appointment, please call our office at (650) 326-6440.
To volunteer, please send an email to [email protected].