Paula Fitzgerald, Esq. is the executive director of Ayuda. She previously served as managing attorney at Ayuda’s Virginia office, and as an immigration staff attorney. Prior to joining Ayuda in 2008, Paula served as an immigration staff attorney at Hogar Hispano of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, and as an associate at Hunton & Williams LLP.
Paula’s immigration legal work focuses on humanitarian relief for individuals, children, and families, including VAWA self-petitions, U visas, T visas, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions. She also has extensive experience in family-based immigration matters, consular processing, waivers and NACARA cases. Paula credits her parents with instilling the values that led her to her work. Her mother, a Colombian immigrant, was a social worker at a school with a large Latino immigrant population. Her father worked as a psychologist for the mentally ill at Saint Elizabeths Hospital.
Paula currently serves on the Fairfax County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council. In 2017, Washingtonian magazine included Paula in its 40 Under 40 list of leaders in the Washington, D.C. region. Paula has also been recognized by the Alexandria Domestic Violence Program for her work with domestic violence victims. Paula earned her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. She graduated cum laude with a B.A. in psychology from James Madison University. Paula and her family have lived in northern Virginia for more than 35 years.
Arleen Ramirez Borysiewicz has close to 30 years of experience in fundraising, strategic communications, community relations, board development, branding and marketing. Prior to Ayuda, she worked for 26 years with a DC-based national higher education nonprofit, leading programs for diverse college students, corporate and foundation fundraising, alumni affairs, external relations, board recruitment and management. Arleen received her MPA degree from The George Washington University, and B.A. in broadcast communications from the University of the Philippines.
Rossana Molina has been with Ayuda in the operations and administration department for over 5 years, functioning as our staff accountant and human resource analyst. Before joining Ayuda, Rossana worked for a CPA firm preparing corporate and individual tax returns and providing bookkeeping services for various clients including non-profit organizations. Prior to that she worked for an Immigration Law firm as a Full Charge Accountant. An active community member, Rossana volunteers with the immigrant population in Northern Virginia by helping parents and families thrive in new environments. Rossana graduated summa cum laude with her Bachelors degree in Accounting from Strayer University.
Erin brings a breadth of domestic violence policy and direct services experience to Ayuda. Recently, Erin served as a policy attorney at the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, where she lead advocacy efforts for funding for domestic violence programs and services, educated policy makers on the impact of legislation on survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and provided technical assistance and training on topics such as confidentiality, domestic violence laws, and legal protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence. Prior to her work at the Coalition, Erin helped create the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, which provides legal representation to domestic violence survivors in civil protection order and family law cases, and served as the organization’s first Executive Director and Managing Attorney of its Domestic Violence Program. Erin currently serves as the co-chair of the District’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board and has volunteered with the DC Bar’s Advice and Referral Clinic. Before moving to the District, Erin served as an assistant district attorney in Massachusetts, where she prosecuted over 500 domestic violence cases, and clerked at the Connecticut Supreme Court. Prior to law school, Erin worked in the U.S. House of Representatives. Erin received a J.D. with high honors from the University of Connecticut School of Law and a B.A. in International Relations and French from the University of Virginia.
Megan H. Mack joined Ayuda in 2017 as the associate director of the Virginia legal program. Ayuda has assisted more than 100,000 clients the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region since 1973, with a staff that includes bilingual attorneys, social workers, and case managers who provide legal, social, and language access services.
Until 2017, Megan led the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a position she was appointed to by President Barack Obama in 2013. As Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, Megan served as the principal adviser to DHS Secretary Jeh C. Johnson on civil rights issues and oversaw DHS compliance with the Constitution and laws that protect individual rights and liberties. Megan directed a 100-person office that investigated complaints regarding DHS activities and developed policies and training in the areas of immigration, border security, passenger screening, vetting, information sharing, intelligence oversight, and cyber security. She worked with diverse community leaders and stakeholders across the United States to ensure that concerns were heard and addressed in DHS policy development and operations. She also represented DHS for international human rights treaty reporting before U.N. treaty bodies and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Prior to her appointment at DHS, Megan was director of the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Immigration. She directed the ABA’s efforts to ensure fair and unbiased treatment and full due process rights for immigrants and refugees, and oversaw three pro bono program offices providing legal representation to men, women, and children in removal proceedings. Before that, Megan supervised the legal services program at Hogar Hispano in Falls Church, Virginia, where she provided direct legal services to immigrants and asylum seekers. Megan clerked for Judge Fred I. Parker on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Burlington, Vermont from 1999 to 2000.
Megan received an A.B. magna cum laude from Brown University; an M.A. from the University of Chicago; and a J.D. cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, where she received the National Association of Women Lawyers Award for academic and community achievement.
Carolina is the social services director at Ayuda where she oversees multiple programs for survivors of trauma. Carolina has over 12 years of experience working with at-risk youth, survivors of trauma, and immigrant communities in the Washington metropolitan area. Additionally, Carolina has been actively involved in the anti-trafficking field in the region, participating and leading coalitions and victim services task forces, and providing training and consultation to law enforcement agencies and social services providers nationwide. Prior to joining Ayuda, Carolina served for eight years as director of client services at Polaris and most recently at Mary’s Center as social services director. Carolina holds a MA Degree in Counseling Psychology and a PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Maryland. In addition, she holds a certification in Professional Counseling Studies from the University of Baltimore.
Rose is the Director of Operations at Ayuda, where she oversees internal operations. Her work at Ayuda includes human resources, administration, and oversight over all internal systems and processes. Rose holds a Master of Research degree from the University of Glasgow, and a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication from Whitworth University.
Prior to coming to Ayuda, Rose managed operations at Polaris, a non-profit that combats human trafficking in the US and operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline. Earlier in her career she served as the communications director of Rise, a political advocacy campaign for sexual assault survivors.
David Steib is the language access director at Ayuda. The Language Access Program trains interpreters, educates service providers, advocates for enforcement and amendment of local and federal language access laws, and arranges interpretation and translation for dozens of nonprofits throughout the DC metropolitan area.
Prior to Ayuda, David was the assistant director of the Office of Public Interest at American University Washington College of Law. He serves on the boards of the DC Language Access Coalition and the Washington Council of Lawyers. David received a JD from Georgetown University Law Center. He earned his BA in Spanish and Theater Studies from Yale University.
Susannah the managing immigration attorney of the DC office. She is a native New Yorker and a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. After law school she worked for Catholic Charities of Central Texas, where she handled family based immigration matters, humanitarian visa applications, and deportation defense, focusing on remedies for juveniles. She moved to Walker Gates Vela, a small immigration law firm, to expand her removal defense practice. In this role, she handled criminal immigration matters and continued to assist clients pursuing humanitarian relief before the Immigration Courts, as well as representing clients in family based immigration cases, naturalization, DACA, and other visa applications. She has presented numerous CLEs on topics ranging from immigration law for criminal defenders to special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS) procedures and is a volunteer mentor to attorneys handling SIJS cases in Texas family and immigration courts.
Christina Wilkes is a partner at Grossman Law, LLC, an immigration law firm in Bethesda, Maryland, which she joined in 2012. Christina’s practice focuses on family and humanitarian based immigration matters, with a particular emphasis on unaccompanied immigrant children. Prior to joining Grossman Law, she spent seven years at Ayuda (2005-2012), where she wore many hats. She founded and directed the Children’s Project from 2005-2008, served as interim executive director from late 2008-2009, and legal director from 2008-2012. She was inducted to Ayuda’s Hall of Fame in 2014 in recognition of her critical impact on Ayuda.
Diego Marquez joined General Electric Company as sanction attorney in spring 2015. Prior to this, he was with Alston & Bird LLP for seven years as a senior associate in the International Trade & Regulatory Group in the Washington, DC, office. He advised clients on a wide range of legislative, public policy and regulatory matters, specializing on issues pertaining to international trade, federal elections and government ethics. He also managed the pro bono practice at Alston & Bird, focusing primarily on asylum work and other immigration law matters.
Diego received his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2007, where he was a line editor for the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal. He graduated from Davidson College in 2003 with a B.A. in political science and a minor in mathematics.
Kate Ambler is an associate research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. Her work currently focuses on the evaluation of anti-poverty programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on smallholder agriculture, gender, and household decision-making. She also has a research interest in migration issues, covering information asymmetries in remittance transactions from the United States to Central America and seasonal migration in Malawi and Senegal.
Kate is originally from El Paso, Texas and previously lived in Lima, Peru where she was a Project Coordinator for Innovations for Poverty Action. She holds a BA from Williams College and a PhD in Economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Guillermo Birmingham is currently the Vice President for Management & Administration at Global Communities. He assumes executive oversight of IT, Human Resources, Administration, and Finance. Birmingham previously served at Global Communities as Deputy CFO from 2008 to 2010. Since then he has served as Director of Administration at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Prior to his service at PAHO and Global Communities, Guillermo served for more than 26 years in the United States Air Force, where he held a series of positions that included service at field installations in financial management, operations, and as a three-time squadron commander to include a three-year stint at Andrews Air Force Base from 2003 to 2005.
He also served in the Pentagon as Chief of Accounting Policy and as CFO of the USAF Directorate of Services, a $2 billion worldwide military hospitality and recreation operation. Before retiring as a Colonel in 2008, Guillermo spent two years as the Secretary General of the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA), promoting cooperation and information exchange among the 18 member countries’ air forces. Originally from Panama, Guillermo is fluent in English and Spanish.
Tara Eliza Castillo is a partner in Alston & Bird’s Finance Group and co-leader of the Auto Finance Team. She represents clients in warehouse financings, structured finance, securitizations, and other asset-backed transactions. Tara has experience representing issuers, underwriters, sellers, servicers, trustees, rating agencies, and other transaction parties across a wide variety of asset classes, including auto loans, consumer loans, credit card receivables, equipment, insurance premium finance loans, leases, merchant advance loans, residential mortgages, and trade receivables. She has also represented financial institutions and nonbank finance companies serving as lessors and lessees in equipment lease transactions.
Lori Faeth was deputy assistant secretary for policy and international affairs at the U.S. Department of Interior during the Obama Administration from 2011 to 2017, where she managed five independent offices – International Affairs, Policy, Environmental Policy and Compliance, Restoration and Damage Assessments, and Native Hawaiian Relations. Prior to this, she was senior policy advisor for Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona.
Liz Hein joined HP, Inc. in 2015 as privacy and global trade counsel before moving on to become its senior compliance counsel in November 2016. Previously, she worked with major law firms in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area including Alston & Bird (2005-2014) and Stewart and Steward (2003-2005). In 2003, Liz earned both her J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law, and a MA is international relations from Syracuse University – Maxwell School. She speaks Russian.
David Ramos is the assistant vice president and regional multicultural markets officer for BB&T in the Greater Washington area. He has held this position for close to three years now, but has been with the company for eight years. A George Mason University alumnus and a recent graduate of Wake Forest University, David has extensive experience in financial management. As well as working as the site manager for BB&T, David is also active in the community and works towards addressing social issues in the Latino community in the DC area. He is bilingual with language fluency in English and Spanish.
Jayesh Rathod is the founding director of the law school’s Immigrant Justice Clinic. His areas of expertise and scholarly interests include immigration law, labor and employment law, occupational safety and health, and clinical legal education. Prior to joining the faculty, he was a staff attorney at CASA of Maryland, representing low-wage immigrant workers on employment law and immigration matters, and participating in worker education, organizing, and advocacy efforts. He also practiced in the litigation section at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering LLP, and was law clerk to the Honorable Louis F. Oberdorfer, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He is a graduate of Columbia Law School and Harvard College.
Michael Sklaire focuses his practice on government investigations, business crimes, and financial litigation and regulation. He has wide-ranging experience as a trial lawyer, including more than 11 years with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). He handles jury trials, non-jury trials, class action litigation and arbitrations, both domestic and international. In addition to Ayuda, he serves on the Board of Director of the Federal Bars Association Criminal Law Section. Michael received his J.D. from the American University Washington College of Law.
Cora D. Tekach is the founding attorney of Tekach Law Firm, PLLC. She has over 20 years’ experience in immigration law and is a published author. She has provided her expertise and skills to dynamic law firms such as Greenberg Traurig and Maggio & Kattar and has also spent some time working as a lecturer for Catholic University of America – Columbus School of Law. Cora received her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Rutgers University and her JD from American University – Washington College of Law. A Pennsylvania native, she currently resides in the DC area. She is fluent in Spanish.
Michael Woods is a Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Verizon, where he handles national security, public safety, and cybersecurity policy. Prior to joining Verizon, he served in the Justice Department (National Security Division), the FBI’s Office of General Counsel, the National Counterintelligence Executive, and as a federal prosecutor. He began handling U Visa cases with Ayuda in 2011 through Verizon’s in-house pro bono program. He is a graduate of the Harvard Law School (1992) and Oxford University (1987).
Stacy Brustin and her students represent low-income clients in family law, employment, and public benefits matters. Stacy also engages in court-reform efforts, policy development, and scholarship focused on family law and access to justice. Her involvement with Ayuda dates back to 1989 when she began as a staff attorney in the family law unit. She also brought her experiences and inspiration from her time in Mexico and started the Hermanas Unidas support group for survivors of domestic violence, which continues today. She served on the Board of Directors from 2011-2017. Most recently, Stacy introduced Ayuda to the DC Social Justice Fund, a donor-advisement philanthropy group.
Paul Caron has served as chief of staff of U.S. government affairs at Microsoft for seven years. Previously, he worked for six years as an attorney for Microsoft Corporation at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. From 1999 to 2004, he served as an attorney for Software AG in Reston, Virginia.
With a career dedicated to litigating for civil rights and advancing progressive legislation, Patty First is one of the foremost policy advocates on immigration, women’s rights, civil rights, and technology policy in the nation. She has been a valuable member of The Raben Group since it was founded in 2001. Patty serves as a principal and lead of various client teams across the progressive sector. Prior to joining the Raben team, Patty was on the front lines of the struggle for humane immigration policy and civil rights. She worked for three years on the Senate Judiciary Committee as counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy where she helped craft landmark immigration legislation.
Gaela Gehring Flores concentrates her practice on international arbitration and litigation matters. She represents both multinational corporations and sovereign states in international commercial and investment arbitrations before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration, the International Centre for Dispute Resolution (ICDR/AAA), and in litigation and appellate proceedings before US federal courts. She advises clients in a broad range of disputes, including energy, natural resources, construction, hospitality, transportation, sovereign debt instruments, government contracts, and intellectual property.
Nelson Garcia has more than 20 years of experience in congressional affairs, international relations, and federal, state, and local advocacy on behalf of various trade associations and social organizations. He founded the Washington Intergovernmental Professional Group in 2009 to promote embassy exchange programs, professional networking opportunities, and to engage in bi-partisan policy discussions around international trade. Previously, Nelson worked for the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, Intelligent Transportation Society of America, and the Alliance of American Insurers. Early in his career, he was a congressional staff for Rep. Ken Calvert of California.
Tajh Goswami specializes in assessing and enhancing AmeriHealth’s provider practices’ readiness for moving from fee-for-service to value-based payments. He brings his experience in value-based contract implementation to help providers shift into a population health management mindset and, eventually, practice environment. Before joining Amerihealth, Tajh worked at Optum/United HealthCare where he managed a team of sixteen professionals who engaged providers in incentive programs and shared risk agreements to improve the health plan’s STARs rating.
Tajh has a master’s degree in health policy and management from Boston University and has also earned certification in LEAN process improvement techniques. He believes that once you can accurately define and measure a problem, then you can most certainly fix it! Tajh lives in Washington, D.C., where you’ll find him exploring museums, practicing yoga or having brunch with friends.
Sandra Grossman is the founder and managing partner of Grossman Law, LLC, an immigration law firm operating in Bethesda, Maryland. She is an experienced immigration litigator, having successfully represented individuals in many aspects of immigration law before the immigration courts, Board of Immigration Appeals, and the Federal District Courts. Sandra represents clients in the area of deportation defense, detention and bond issues, the immigration consequences of criminal convictions, consular processing, requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), waivers of inadmissibility, asylum, adjustment of status and naturalization applications, extraordinary ability and artist’s visas, among many other matters.
Peter Kovar was elected councilmember for the City of Takoma Park, Maryland in 2016. After serving in political positions in the federal government for over 30 years, Peter left government service in 2013. His employment included working for U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) for 25 years, with 18 years as chief of staff. He also worked in the Obama Administration at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental relations.
Mauro Alberto Morales is currently the staff director at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Mauro previously served the Obama Administration as an assistant director in the Office of Public Engagement at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), a position he held since 2014. From 2009 to 2014, he served as attorney advisor in the Office of the General Counsel at OPM. Before joining the Obama Administration, Mauro Morales founded The Morales Law Group in 2006, where he served as managing partner until 2009.
Other previous roles included serving as general counsel for private businesses, working as an attorney with law firms, and working for congressional members from California. Mauro received a B.S. from Georgetown University and a J.D. from the University of Southern California.
Judge Schmidt was appointed as a federal immigration judge in 2003. Prior to his appointment as an immigration judge, he served as a board member for the Board of Immigration Appeals, Executive Office for Immigration Review, and served as its chair from 1995 to 2001. He stepped down as chairman to adjudicate cases full-time. Prior positions include the following: deputy general counsel of Immigration and Naturalization Service; managing partner at Fragomen, Del Rey & Bernsen; and as business immigration law attorney with Jones, Day, Reavis and Pogue. Judge Schmidt also served as an adjunct professor of law at George Mason University School of Law in 1989. He has authored numerous articles on immigration law, and has written extensively for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Judge Schmidt is a member of the American Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, and the Wisconsin and District of Columbia Bars.
Andrew Selee succeeded co-founder Demetrios G. Papademetriou and Michael Fix as president of the Migration Policy Institute in July 2017. He came to MPI from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he served as executive vice president for three years. The founding director of the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, Andrew is a respected scholar and analyst of Mexico and U.S.-Mexico relations. A frequent commentator in the media, he has also written and edited a number of books and policy reports on U.S.-Mexico relations, Mexican and Latin American politics, and Latino immigrant civic engagement in the United States, and is a regular columnist with the Mexican newspaper El Universal.
The Honorable J. Walter Tejada served on Virginia’s Arlington County Board from 2003 to 2015. He was first elected to the Board in a special election on March 11, 2003. Reelected in 2007 and 2011, he served as Chairman of the Board in 2008 and 2013 and Vice-Chairman in 2007, 2012 and 2015.
A community advocate, Walter has distinguished himself as a leader committed to enhancing the diversity of Arlington and the region’s community voice. During his tenure on the Board, he reached out to local communities and encouraged residents to be active participants throughout the County and the Washington Metropolitan region. He has been instrumental in convening community stakeholders to address a wide range of issues such as affordable housing, civic engagement and volunteerism, community and economic development, education and employment, parks and recreation, tenant outreach and empowerment efforts, youth development programming, health and fitness, and nonprofit assistance.
Walter currently serves on the Board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, appointed by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in 2016.
Victoria Ortega represents clients in a variety of complex civil cases before federal and state courts. Her practice, which covers all phases of litigation from inception through appeal, spans a wide array of subject areas, including commercial litigation matters, government contracts, government investigations, and white-collar defense. Victoria conducted and won a trial on behalf of a large corporation in Maryland State court. She also represents corporations and financial institutions, in connection with corporate governance and compliance matters. Prior to joining Blank Rome, Victoria served as a congressional legal intern for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and as a judicial intern for the Honorable Marvin J. Garbis, U.S. District Court, Baltimore, MD.