Senior Vice President, Legal Programs
Maria M. Odom is the Senior Vice President, Legal Programs at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), where she leads a team of immigration legal experts advancing the representation of unaccompanied children in removal proceedings. In this role, Ms. Odom oversees the management of KIND’s 10 field offices, leading the development and implementation of legal services programming nationwide, including pro bono representation of over 5,000 unaccompanied migrant children per year as well as the provision of innovative legal trainings and technical assistance in immigration law and policy. Her department also delivers comprehensive social services programs to address the special needs of unaccompanied children. In the near past, Odom served as the DHS Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman in the administration of President Barack Obama. In that role, she worked with community leaders and immigration professionals across the country to improve the quality of citizenship and immigration services delivered to the public. As Ombudsman, she reported to and testified before the U.S. Congress regarding systemic issues in our country’s immigration system. Odom is a nationally recognized legal and policy expert with a wide range of immigration experience in the private, government, and charitable sectors. She previously led the country’s largest network of charitable legal immigration programs as Executive Director of the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC). For a decade, she practiced immigration law in the southeast, leading a successful private practice in the areas of deportation defense, humanitarian protections, as well as business and family-based immigration. Early in her career, Odom served at the U.S. Department of Justice as Assistant District Counsel for the legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service and as a judicial law clerk at the Executive Office for Immigration Review. At DHS, Odom led the department’s human trafficking prevention, training, and public education efforts as Chair of the DHS Blue Campaign. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Freedom Network, which works in coalition with service providers and survivor leaders to advance a rights-based approach to address human trafficking in the United States. Odom is a graduate of The Florida State University College of Criminology and the Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law. She currently lives in New York City.
Vice President, Legal Programs
Laurie Carafone is the Vice President, Legal Programs at KIND, where she oversees legal services programming across KIND’s offices nationwide. Laurie has over a decade of experience working with refugee and immigrant children and families, and has led teams in the delivery of legal services within KIND since 2011. Prior to joining KIND, Laurie represented clients at Community Legal Services and Counseling Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts and was an associate at a boutique litigation law firm. Laurie has received recognition for her work in human rights law including the Women of Justice award by the Women’s Bar Association; selection as a Rising Star in the Non-Profit sector and a Top Women Attorney Rising Star by Boston Magazine; and appointment as a Boston Bar Association Public Interest Leadership Fellow. Laurie earned her law degree cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, where she was chosen as a Ford Outstanding Woman Law Scholar and a Bergstrom Child Welfare Fellow, and received the Book Award in Public International Law. She earned her B.A. in literature cum laude from Dartmouth College where she was named a Rufus Choate Scholar and a Dartmouth Partners in Community Service Fellow. Laurie holds a Masters in Theological Studies degree from Harvard Divinity School, and authored a paper on the role of faith-based organizations in meeting the needs of women and girl migrants and refugees in the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework, published by the Center for Migration Studies in 2018.
Senior Director, Legal Training & Technical Assistance
Juliann (Juli) oversees the Houston, Los Angeles and Seattle offices of KIND, and works to develop and implement universally applicable, yet practical, procedures and policies for a national legal services program representing unaccompanied immigrant children. Prior to joining KIND, she was the Director of Volunteer Advocates for Immigrant Justice (VAIJ). Started in 2003, VAIJ provided pro bono representation to detained immigrants, adults and unaccompanied children, in removal proceedings in the Seattle area. As the Director of VAIJ, Juli launched the program, developed trainings and mentored pro bono attorneys who had volunteered to provide pro bono representation to immigrants before US immigration authorities. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona and Northwestern School of Law of Lewis & Clark College.
Senior Director, Social Services
Wendy Miron, Senior Director for Social Services, leads an exemplary national team in the design and implementation of Trauma-Informed frameworks that advance best practices to working with unaccompanied minors who are receiving legal representation. Committed to bearing witness to the resilience and cultural wealth of communities, Wendy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over fifteen years of clinical and management experience in the non-profit sector working with immigrant youth and families in organizations across New York City including Sanctuary for Families, Union Settlement, Mental Health Providers of Western Queens and as a consultant at Safe Passage. Prior to joining KIND, Wendy served as Program Director for the Parenting and Child Development Program at LSA Family Health Service in East Harlem, NY. She has been an active member of local and national coalitions that promote child wellbeing and equity in immigrant communities, including work with the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and Vital Villages’ Networks of Opportunities (NOW) as well being part of the Anchoring Achievement in Mexican Communities. Wendy has presented at various symposiums and conferences throughout the years on best practices in working with migrant families, and therapeutic interventions for children impacted by trauma. Wendy was born and raised in Guatemala and migrated to South Florida at the age of ten. She holds a master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University, an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Religious Studies from Florida International University, and a graduate program in Parent Infant Mental Health and Trauma from Adelphi University.
Senior Director, Pro Bono Partnerships
Nirupa Narayan oversees KIND’s national pro bono partnerships with law firms, corporations, law schools, and bar associations. Prior to joining KIND, Ms. Narayan served as Pro Bono Legal Advisor at Justice Without Borders where she partnered with law students and pro bono attorneys to provide access to justice to abused and exploited migrant workers in Singapore. She also worked as head of the press office at the U.S. Embassy in Singapore. Previously, Ms. Narayan managed the pro bono and immigration programs at the Tahirih Justice Center. Before her work at Tahirih, Ms. Narayan represented immigrant survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking at Boat People SOS and individuals living with HIV at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. Ms. Narayan holds an LL.M. from American University, Washington College of Law, a J.D. from New York Law School, and a B.A. from Michigan State University.
Director, Legal Training
Rebekah Fletcher is Director, Legal Training at KIND, helping to develop training programs and provide legal technical assistance to field office staff and pro bono attorneys. Rebekah has practiced in the area of children’s immigration law for over 11 years. From 2008-2015 she was an attorney with KIND’s Seattle office and its predecessor, Volunteer Advocates for Immigrant Justice, helping to build its legal services program for detained unaccompanied children in Washington State. She subsequently joined the U. of Washington School of Law’s Children and Youth Advocacy Clinic, where she taught immigration law course content and oversaw student representation of child clients in state courts and immigration proceedings. In 2016 Rebekah was a consultant to UNHCR, assisting with its monitoring effort of the Office of Refugee Resettlement’s national program for the custody of unaccompanied children. She returned to KIND’s Seattle office in 2018 as Supervising Attorney for Detained Programs before becoming Deputy Director. Rebekah is a 2007 graduate of the City U. of New York School of Law.
Senior Director, Planning and Performance
Marisa Howe has worked in immigration law since 2003. She began her legal career as an associate at Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo, PC, developing a wide-ranging business immigration law practice for over nine years. While at Mintz Levin, she also maintained a robust pro bono practice, including a year-long fellowship with Boston-based PAIR (Political Asylum and Immigration Representation) Project as well as serving on the firm’s pro bono committee and providing asylum case administration and mentorship at the firm for many years. Marisa has also previously served as a Board Member of the PAIR Project. In 2011, Marisa was the recipient of Richard Mintz Pro Bono Award, and in 2012, the PAIR Project honored her with the Pro Bono Mentor of the Year award. From 2012 to 2015, Marisa served as a manager of international services for the global law firm, Ropes & Gray LLP. Marisa is a graduate of NYU School of Law and Dartmouth College.
Director, Legal Strategy
Wendy Wylegala is the Director, Legal Strategy at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). She designs legal training programs, writes practice guidance, and provides case-specific technical assistance to a legal staff of over 130 in KIND’s ten field offices. Wendy joined KIND in November 2008 as a pro bono coordinator, working in the Newark, NJ and New York, NY field offices. In that capacity, she trained and mentored pro bono attorneys, and conducted intake interviews and know-your-rights programs for detained and released unaccompanied children. Later she served as supervising attorney in the New York field office for four years until assuming her current role in January 2016. Before joining KIND, Wendy worked at a private law firm for eight years, and represented special immigrant juvenile clients on a pro bono basis. Before attending law school, she was an Ombudsman at New York City’s Office of the Public Advocate. She is admitted to practice in New York, and received her law degree from New York University School of Law, and her B.A. from Barnard College. She is a member of the New York City Chapter of AILA, and of the Immigration and Nationality Committee of the New York City Bar Association.
Director, Legal Training & Technical Assistance
Prior to joining KIND in September 2016 as a Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney, Andrea spent six years as a Litigation and Trial Associate at Latham & Watkins, LLP where she maintained an active pro bono immigration practice representing detained and non-detained clients in affirmative applications and petitions, removal proceedings, and appeals before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Immigration Courts, and the Board of Immigration Appeals. While at Latham, Andrea served as Pro Bono Liaison to the Tahirih Justice Center where she was a full-time volunteer Immigration and Public Policy Attorney from 2009-2010. Andrea received her J.D., summa cum laude from American University’s Washington College of Law and her master’s degree in International Policy from the School of International Service in 2009. In law school, Andrea worked as a Research Associate for the Public International Law and Policy Group and interned with Women for Women International. Prior to law school, Andrea worked at the District of Columbia’s Office of Administrative Hearings. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from Duke University.
Regional Director, Social Services, East
Jasiel is KIND’s Regional Director, Social Services (East). She brings to this position over 13 years of experience working with and on behalf of vulnerable immigrant communities. Jasiel believes that the immigrant experience brings with it a certain degree of traumatization, especially for children, and she has worked arduously to bridge the service and support gap for this population. Jasiel has extensive experience developing and managing local to regional community-based programs for low-income and immigrant families. Most recently, Jasiel speared-headed KIND’s Boston Field office programming on socioemotional support, building capacity and designing strategies for KIND’s pro bono partners and staff to more effectively serve deeply traumatized, vulnerable Central American unaccompanied minors facing removal proceedings. Jasiel’s counseling experience focuses on immigrant and refugee complex trauma, families with adolescents, and at-risk youth. Her clinical interests include immigrant/refugee trauma, immigrant integration, and the intersectionality of immigrant mental health, faith, and resilience. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Middlebury College, and a master’s in clinical counseling as well as a graduate certificate in Principles of Trauma-Informed Care from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary.
Regional Director, Legal Services, West
Carrey Wong is KIND's Regional Director, Legal Services, West. Prior to joining KIND in September 2016, she was the Assistant Director of Client Services at the New York Asian Women’s Center (NYAWC) where she oversaw NYAWC’s legal department, anti-human trafficking program, sexual violence program, as well as the agency’s work in outreach, workforce development and language access. Carrey also worked as NYAWC’s Legal Services Manager, primarily focused on providing immigration legal representation and legal referrals for the Center’s clients. After law school, Carrey was a Staff Attorney at Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County (NLSLA) for seven years. She started her work there in family law and immigration law, representing low income clients who were mostly monolingual domestic violence survivors. She was also selected as co-chair of the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Domestic Violence Task Force, a collaboration of legal, political, social services, law enforcement, and shelter organizations. While Carrey was with NLSLA, she also worked at their courthouse Self-Help Legal Access Center in Pasadena, and created the first Mandarin divorce workshop series. Carrey’s legal professional experience began with clerkships at the Asian Law Caucus, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Los Angeles Superior Court for Judge Teresa Sanchez-Gordon. She received her J.D. from UC Hastings in 2005, graduating in the top third of her class with a concentration in civil litigation and a Public Interest Law Certificate from the Public Interest Clearinghouse. She is admitted to practice law in New Jersey, California and New York. Carrey is fluent is Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese.
Regional Director, Legal Services, East
Priya Konings is child welfare attorney who has been working with child protection issues through her legal career. Prior to joining KIND she provided direct representation to abused and neglected children in the Maryland and D.C. foster care systems at the Law Offices of Darlene A. Wakefield, P.A. She also completed internships and has volunteered at organizations such Women Empowered Against Violence, UNHCR, and the Baltimore City Teen Court Program. Ms. Konings has argued before the Maryland Court of Special Appeals numerous times, has written for a variety of legal publications in the area of child welfare law, and received the Bar Association for Montgomery County, Maryland President’s Citation for Outstanding Pro Bono Service in 2012. She graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law in 2006, where she was a Rose Zetzer Women, Leadership, and Equality Program Fellow and recipient of several public interest grants. Ms. Konings currently resides in Takoma Park with her husband and two cats.
Senior Counsel, Legal Strategy
Mary Giovagnoli works on a range of KIND program priorities, sharing her deep expertise in asylum and refugee law and migration policy. Mary is the immediate prior Executive Director of Refugee Council USA and previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Immigration Policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in the Obama Administration. She also spent six years at the American Immigration Council, where she led the Immigration Policy Center (IPC). Prior to IPC, Mary served as Senior Director of Policy for the National Immigration Forum and practiced law as an attorney with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, serving first as a trial attorney and associate general counsel with the INS, and, following the creation of DHS, as an associate chief counsel for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Mary has done impactful legislative work and was awarded a Congressional Fellowship from USCIS to serve in Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s office, where she worked on comprehensive immigration reform and refugee issues. Mary attended Drake University, graduating summa cum laude with a major in speech communication. She received a master’s degree in rhetoric and completed additional graduate coursework in rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin. She then received a J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School.
National Senior Attorney
Carly Sessions is a graduate of The George Washington University Law School, where she was a Student Attorney at the GW Immigration Clinic and an Executive Board Member of the GW Immigration Law Association. Prior to joining KIND, she was a solo practitioner who’s practice focused on asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases. Prior to attending law school she obtained a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University, and worked as a high school teacher. Her experience working with undocumented high school students inspired her to pursue a career that would afford immigrant children greater opportunities, hope for the future, and the ability to work to reach their dreams. She is a life-long student of Portuguese and Spanish, and she is barred in Maryland.
National Senior Attorney
Bio coming soon.
Senior Social Services Coordinator, National
At the age of 9 years old, Melissa, along with her mother and younger brother, relocated to the United States from their native country, Colombia. Although young, Melissa recognized how much easier and useful it would have been for her, and her family, to transition into the US if the appropriate resources and services had been available. Fueled by this experience, Melissa has been actively involved in numerous projects serving vulnerable populations. At The College of New Jersey, she taught English to undocumented immigrants and provided them with tools and resources on how to improve their life style, and volunteered with a group of autistic adults and at a state prison. Immediately after graduation, Melissa became a corps member for Teach for America and taught Spanish for 2 years in Detroit, Michigan. This impactful experience, undoubtedly, confirmed her passion and commitment towards empowering marginalized populations. After Teach for America, Melissa received her master’s degree in social work from Washington University in St. Louis. Melissa could not be more thrilled to be working with KIND as a social service coordinator, and is looking forward to helping her team grow in order to provide clients with opportunities, and long-lasting positive changes.
Senior Social Services Coordinator, California
America Hernandez is an immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico who has spent the majority of her life in the Central Valley of California. She is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. As an undocumented student with limited opportunities, she worked hard to pursue her dreams of going to college. She graduated early from high school at the age of 16 and attended Fresno State from 2000 to 2003. She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Chicano and Latin American Studies and has a Minor in English and another in Spanish. America has always been passionate about immigrant rights and social justice issues that affect minorities. She actively worked on the A.B. 540 campaign in 2001 in California that allowed for undocumented students to be able to pay in-state tuition in California, and has also been a public advocate for the Dream Act since 2004. America frequently shares her story with the media, and also with locally and nationally elected officials such as Nancy Pelosi and Kamala Harris in hopes of elevating support for the Dream Act and general Immigration Reform. She has also been presented with certificates of recognition by the offices of Council Members Esmeralda Soria and Oliver Baines, Congressman Jim Costa, California Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula and Senator Kamala Harris for her work in the community and her advocacy around DACA and Dreamer issues. Presently, America works with Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) as a Social Services Coordinator to ensure that unaccompanied immigrant children in the Central Valley are able to access essential services and resources, and advocating for them when needed. America is also a giving member of the Central Valley Latino Giving Circle Network, which is a philanthropist group that invests in Latino-led organizations that serve the Central Valley. She has also collaborated with other Dreamer Leaders of the Central Valley on creating opportunities for undocumented youth to be involved in the civic process, despite not being able to vote, by helping to educate and empower eligible voters.
Social Services Supervisor
Lizbeth is a licensed professional counselor in New Jersey with a Masters in Marriage and Family therapy. With almost 10 years in the social service field, Lizbeth has always worked with youth and their families by other providing case management services to help underserved families in crisis as well as managing and providing trauma-informed therapeutic services to youth in residential facilities. Lizbeth was born in Peru but raised most of her life in New Jersey. Lizbeth understands there are many challenges that migrant families may face when entering a new country such as not knowing the language, and not knowing where to look for services, and the adjustment to a new culture. Lizbeth is eager to assist KIND families in finding resources in their community to obtain the necessary and appropriate services they may need.
Luis Enrique Jacquez
Social Service Coordinator
Bio coming soon.
Bio coming soon!
Alejandro Vazquez Rojas
Alejandro Vazquez Rojas is the Program Officer for Legal Programs at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), where he provides holistic, administrative, financial, and executive support to the Senior Vice President for Legal Programs. He joined KIND in the spring of 2020 as a senior paralegal for KIND’s Newark office, where he supported multiple attorneys and prepared individual client matters. In this role, he improved and created new systems, developed mentoring materials, led special projects, and coordinated tasks across departments. Prior to joining KIND, Alejandro served as the immigration supervisor and Department of Justice (DOJ) accredited representative for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in New Jersey. During his time at the IRC, Alejandro provided representation to refugees and other immigrants in their applications for a wide range of immigration benefits. Alejandro has also interned and volunteered at various organizations such as Make the Road New Jersey, Amnesty International, and NJ 20th Legislative District. Alejandro holds a B.A in Political Science from Kean University. He is a human rights activist and an advocate for refugees, LGBTQ+ rights, immigration reform, and social justice. Alejandro’s work has always being guided by his core principles of hope, justice and freedom for all peoples.
Temporary Program Coordinator
Bio coming soon.