Veronica Jeffers. Veronica is the Managing Attorney of the Los Angeles field office of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and a member of the adjunct faculty at Southwestern University School of Law. Veronica is a Wellesley College and Harvard Law School graduate. At Harvard, Veronica was a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau. She has been practicing in the field of immigration law for more than 25 years, beginning as an Associate with the law firm of Minsky, McCormick and Hallagan PC in Chicago, IL. She is also a former law clerk to Judge Eden E. Hifo (ret) at the Hawaii state circuit court in Honolulu, HI.
Maria Cobian Alvarado
Maria graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish from the University of San Diego in 2001. Maria was then hired by the Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), where she assisted the Women’s Economic Justice Project and local living wage campaigns involving broad based coalitions including labor, community based organizations, interfaith leaders, and public officials. Maria also volunteered as the campaign manager for the first Latina to be elected to the Port Hueneme City Council. As a result of her volunteer election campaign work, Maria was recruited as the District Office Caseworker for Congresswoman Lois Capps (CA 23rd) where she not only worked to resolve concerns from the district’s constituents but also assisted with some district representative responsibilities. Maria’s caseload involved primarily the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In 2005, Maria joined the Law Offices of Carl Shusterman as a paralegal. She assisted with family and employment based cases, including applications for Naturalization, Naturalization of Members of the Military, Freedom of Information Requests from multiple agencies, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and pro-bono cases. Maria continued her studies at California State University Long Beach and graduated with a Master of Public Administration in Urban Affairs in 2010. In addition, she also obtained a certificate in Employer-Employee Relations and Personnel Management. Maria is a member of several professional affiliations including: The Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, The Phi Alpha Alpha National Honor Society, Future Leaders of America Alumni Association, and the Ventura County Leadership Academy Alumni.
Alexander graduated summa cum laude from Pepperdine University with a B.A. in International Studies and Philosophy. After working as an immigration legal assistant in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada, he returned to Los Angeles where he earned his J.D. from the UCLA School of Law. As a law student, Alexander interned for the Los Angeles Immigration Court and National Immigration Law Center. He also participated in UCLA's Immigrants' Rights Policy Clinic, where he drafted and advocated for policies limiting local involvement in immigration enforcement and served as an editor for the UCLA Law Review and the Dukeminier Awards Journal of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Law. Before joining KIND, Alexander represented unaccompanied minors as a Staff Attorney at Immigrant Defenders Law Center.
Sadie Diaz joined KIND as a Staff Attorney in November 2020. Prior to joining KIND, Sadie spent five years as a Senior Staff Attorney at Sanctuary for Families in New York representing survivors of domestic violence in family law matters. As part of the Courtroom Advocates Project at Sanctuary, Sadie also trained and supervised hundreds of pro bono advocates and law students on assisting petitioners obtain Orders of Protection. Before Sanctuary, Sadie was an associate in the New York office of Latham & Watkins, where she handled litigation and pro bono matters, was the co-head of Latham's asylum project, and served on Latham's pro bono committee. Sadie also previously worked as a fellow at the Center for Reproductive Rights and as a judicial law clerk in the Central District of California. Sadie is a graduate of the University of Southern California and Columbia University School of Law.
Iris, is a member of the State Bar of California and a graduate of University of California, Irvine and Western State College of Law, Fullerton. During law school, Iris had the opportunity to participate in the Western State Immigration Clinic and helped serve socioeconomically underprivileged clients with various applications including U-Visas, DACAs, Adjustment of Status, Affirmative Asylum and a SIJS petition. As part of the Advanced Immigration Clinic, Iris also participated in the Legal Orientation Program (LOP) through Public Counsel and Public Law Center at the James A. Musiak Facility and helped screen detainees for possible immigration relief. At graduation, Iris was also one of two inaugural recipients of the Western State College of Law Immigration Certificate. Iris’ passion for immigration law stems from her family’s immigration history and her understanding on how obtaining legal status can positively change a person’s trajectory in life. In 2014, during her last semester of law school, Iris volunteered at KIND and became passionate about helping unaccompanied minors. After law school, Iris continued to volunteer at KIND while also working at a private immigration law office concentrating on family based immigration matters, U-visas, DACAs, Adjustment of Status petitions, I-601A Waivers and Naturalization. Iris’ dedication to KIND resulted in her becoming part of the KIND Los Angeles team in early 2015. Iris is excited and looks forward to helping contribute to their great work.
Veronica Garcia is a Program Assistant at KIND. Prior to joining KIND, she was a Peace Corps Youth Development volunteer in Costa Rica, where she worked with children in a small indigenous community to increase positive youth development programs. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in 2018 with two degrees-- one in Psychology and one in Criminology, Law and Society. She is also fluent in Spanish.
Alyssa is a Los Angeles native and a 2020 graduate of Loyola Marymount University. She graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science in pursuit of her passion to fight for social justice and human rights. During her time in undergrad, she interned at Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. As an intern she helped serve marginalized communities in Los Angeles. She assisted clients with applications for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), adjustment of status, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), and more. Alyssa is now a Program Assistant at KIND and very excited to be a part of the team. She looks forward to contributing to the KIND mission.
Jossiel Moreira is a cum laude graduate of Chapman University in Orange, CA where he majored in Legal Studies. He received his J.D. (magna cum laude) from Western State College of Law (WSCL) in Fullerton, CA. At WSCL, Jossiel participated in the WSCL Immigration Clinic and Advanced Immigration Clinic, where he developed his passion for helping indigent immigrant clients in need of legal assistance. At the clinic, Jossiel helped clients prepare U-Visas, Asylum applications, and for bond hearings. After graduation, Jossiel volunteered at the Public Law Center, conducting intake interviews with immigrants detained in the Santa Ana City Jail and helping clients with their immigration cases. Jossiel later moved to South Texas to work as a Child Advocate for unaccompanied immigrant children. As a Child Advocate, Jossiel represented the best interests of children with exceptionally vulnerable backgrounds, advocating for them in removal proceedings, preparing applications for legal relief and working with children who had been detained reunite with their families. Jossiel joined KIND in 2015 as one of the first Direct Representation Attorneys with the organization. He now holds the position of Staff Attorney, leading the Los Angeles Justice Fund program at KIND’s Los Angeles office. Jossiel continues to advocate on behalf of immigrant children in need and to mentor volunteer attorneys interested in giving back to those in the community.
Sofi Koivula is a native of Finland, fluent in Swedish, Finnish, English, Spanish and French. She has been committed to working with refugee communities throughout her career. After graduating from the University of Helsinki, Faculty of Law, with a minor in Latin American studies, Sofi completed an international program in Human Rights and International Law in French at the Universite de Louvain la Neuve in Belgium. Sofi is also a founding board member of Vilda Forlag, a Finnish-Swedish publishing network, and a cofounder of Xenos, a volunteer organization that works with welcoming and integrating refugees into Finnish society. In the U.S., Sofi was a member of the Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Service’s steering committee for the Housing and Protection Community of Practice (HaPCoP). After volunteering as an interpreter for KIND, Sofi joined the organization as a Program Assistant. She now holds the position of Senior Paralegal, accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals to appear before the Department of Homeland Securities. Recently, Sofi completed the LAPD Community Police Academy program. This program provides community members with an inside look at the Police department and its operations; the goal of this program is to encourage lasting partnerships between the Department and members of the community, designed to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in surrounding neighborhoods. Sofi completed this program with the Rampart Division, where many KIND clients and their families are located.
Shino Komine holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and is a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles School of Law where she received her J.D. degree in 2001. Originally a litigation attorney, Shino has over 10 years of experience in immigration law. Immediately prior to joining Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), Shino worked at Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) in Los Angeles, California, where she represented unaccompanied minors and other individuals in removal proceedings and in filing of various reliefs and applications including asylum, TPS, DACA, U-Visa, NACARA, family petitions, naturalization, 601A waivers, adjustment of status, and consular processing, among others. Shino also worked as an associate at a private immigration firm for eight years. Prior to dedicating her career to immigration law, Shino worked as a litigation attorney at Arnold & Porter. During her time in private practice, Shino actively engaged in pro bono practice and represented indigent clients in removal proceedings. At KIND, Shino works with pro bono attorneys representing unaccompanied minors from Central America in Asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status matters before the state and immigration courts. Shino speaks Japanese and Spanish and is a mother of two teenage boys.
Chloressa Neblina joined the Legal Services Department at KIND. In 2014, prior to going to law school, she began her work at KIND as a volunteer. She had no experience in the field of immigration, but the work inspired her to pursue law. She gained a passion for immigration, deciding to focus on family-based immigration relief. She was hired at KIND as a program assistant during the 2014 surge of unaccompanied minors and would later continuing working for KIND as a paralegal. Even upon her admission to Loyola Law School, Chloe continued working and volunteering her time at KIND. As a law student, she led the Immigration Law Society as co-president for three consecutive years and was accepted into the Loyola Immigration Law Clinic. During her third year, she continued her work as an advanced clinical student helping immigrants in their legal case. Chloe also took part in a life-changing and eye-opening experience in Dilley, Texas, where she provided women and children with Know Your Rights presentations and one-on-one Credible Fear Interview preparations. Additionally, she helped organize Water Drop hikes with Border Angels, lead panels informing students of the issues affecting and harming the immigrant community, and she volunteered at Casa Libre, a youth shelter for unaccompanied male minors in Los Angeles. Chloe has also worked with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles within its Naturalization Project as a law clerk. Since graduating, she has continued to seek out opportunities to learn more about the practice of immigration law in order to continuously learn how to be an effective advocate.
Christina Ontiveros was born and raised in California. She is the oldest child of two immigrant parents from Michoacán, México. Christina is a 2013 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley with bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and Legal Studies. Following graduation, Christina worked as a legal assistant for the Beles Law Firm in Oakland, California. Working in a high-volume office, Christina was able to immerse herself in immigration law, learning how to prepare applications, conduct client intake interviews, and draft motions. In 2018, Christina graduated from Golden Gate University, School of Law, receiving a J.D. with a specialization in Family Law & Public Interest Law. While in law school, Christina was on the Dean’s List. She was also the Co-Chair of GGU’s La Raza Law Students Association and part of GGU’s Law Review, finishing her 3L year as its Executive Research Editor and publishing Nordstrom v. Ryan: Inmate’s Legal Correspondence Between His or Her Attorney is Still Constitutionally Protected, 48 Golden Gate U. L. Rev. 99 (2018). In addition to her academic accomplishments, Christina interned at The Law Office of Renato F. Manay, where she engaged in asylum work and served as a Spanish translator for in-person asylum interviews.
Amber Spring is an Afro Latinx and California native. Prior to joining Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Amber worked as a Staff Attorney at the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), where she represented individuals, including unaccompanied minors, in detained and non-detained removal proceedings and in other filings and applications for relief. Before joining CARECEN, Amber served as a Staff Attorney at The Immigration Center for Women and Children (ICWC) where she represented unaccompanied minors and other individuals in removal proceedings as well as in their affirmative applications for relief. She received her J.D. degree from Loyola Law School where she received honors in the Immigrant Advocacy Concentration and participated in the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic (LIJC). She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a bachelor’s degree in English and Chicano Studies. Amber enjoys fashion, art, and paddle boarding.
Glenda Garcia joined KIND as a Staff Attorney in March 2021. Prior to joining KIND, she worked for an immigration law firm assisting clients with their family-based petitions and employer sponsored visas. Glenda is a Guatemalan-American from Los Angeles, CA and the daughter of immigrants. Glenda graduated magna cum laude from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, where she received her degree in Women's and Gender Studies. After the completion of two service terms with AmeriCorps VISTA, she was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship in a rural community in Thailand. She worked together with other teachers in making English accessible to all students no matter their language levels or economic disparities. Glenda earned her J.D. from Maurer School of Law at Indiana University, where she focused her studies on Immigration Law and Education Policy. She held internships at Public Counsel in Los Angeles, CA, the National Immigration Law Center in Washington DC, and Indiana Legal Services (ILS). Her work at ILS was a defining experience in her career, because it cemented her passion for working with families seeking asylum and escaping violence in their home countries.
Melissa is a 2013 graduate of Occidental College where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Spanish Studies. Post-graduation she joined the Law Offices of Carl Shusterman as a Legal Assistant and was later promoted to Paralegal. As a Paralegal, her work focused on family-based immigration. Melissa assisted clients with their applications for adjustment of status, consular processing, naturalization, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. She is a California Court Certified Interpreter with the Judicial Council of California. Her affiliation with KIND began as a volunteer interpreter in 2015 while she was enrolled in the Court Interpretation Certification Program at California State University Los Angeles. After becoming a State Certified Interpreter, she continued to volunteer at KIND on a pro-bono basis. In July 2019 Melissa joined the KIND team as a Program Assistant at their Los Angeles office.
Lauren Kiesel supports the Legal Services Department at KIND. Before joining KIND in February 2021, she graduated summa cum laude from Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA with a degree in Spanish, Political Science, and Global Studies and received her Juris Doctorate from UCLA School of Law. During her graduate career at UCLA, Lauren developed a passion for immigration law. At UCLA’s Immigrant Family Legal Clinic, she represented children in Special Immigrant Juvenile Status proceedings and defensive asylum proceedings. Lauren also clerked at Casey Gerry in San Diego where she advanced her litigation, research, and writing skills while working on catastrophic personal injury cases. As a post-graduate, Lauren completed a fellowship with Public Counsel where she supported the Immigrants’ Rights team.
Jaime Alberto Ortiz Zavala
Although Jaime was born and raised in Mexico, he comes from a family of immigrants. Situation that made him start to show interest in Immigration Law. In Guanajuato, Mexico, where he is from, he worked in a law firm that has a collaborative agreement with the Secretary of Immigrants from Guanajuato where he had his first approach with Immigration Law. Then, in 2019, he graduated with honors from the University of Guanajuato thanks to his research named “Normative Irregularities in the Immigration Court Proceedings by the Light of Public International Law.” After he obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Law, he moved to the U. S., and since then, he has worked in two law offices in Los Angeles area as paralegal working with defensive and affirmative asylum, bond and custody, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, and cancellation of removal cases. Finally, genuinely convinced that he wants to support immigrant children’s rights, he joined KIND in March 2021.
Javier García joined the KIND team as a Staff Attorney in March 2021. Javier developed a personal interest in immigration law as the son of Mexican immigrants from Michoacán and Colima. Before joining KIND, Javier worked as a Children’s Program Legal Fellow at Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network in Denver, Colorado, where he represented immigrant children in their applications for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, asylum, U nonimmigrant status, and T nonimmigrant status. He also provided Know-Your-Rights presentations to families and juveniles at the Denver Immigration Court. Javier graduated magna cum laude from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2017, where he served as Editor-in-Chief of New Mexico Law Review and was a teaching fellow in the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project. After graduating from law school, Javier served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Edward L. Chávez and for the Late Honorable Charles W. Daniels of the New Mexico Supreme Court. Before law school, Javier taught ninth grade at Centennial High School in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and at South Valley Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Javier graduated with a B.A. in history from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2012, where he was a Regents’ and Chancellor’s Scholar.
John joined KIND as a Senior Attorney in June 2021. Prior to joining KIND, John served as a Supervising Attorney at Catholic Charities Community Services in New York City. At Catholic Charities, John led the organization’s Community Legal Clinic Project and supervised a team of Immigrant Justice Corps Fellows. Prior to becoming a Supervising Attorney, John was an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow at Catholic Charities, where he spearheaded the organization’s expansion of legal services to New York’s Lower Hudson Valley. As a law student, John volunteered with KIND’s Boston office and interned with Greater Boston Legal Services. Prior to attending law school, John served as a Research Associate at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, where he focused on voting rights issues. John is a graduate of Boston University School of Law and UC Berkeley.
Karina Cazares is a paralegal at KIND since June 2021. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine with two bachelor degrees in History and International Studies in June 2017. Her studies focused on human rights, immigration, and war. She wrote research papers on healthcare inequality in immigration detention centers, the rise of unaccompanied minors in 2014, and human rights violations in Fallujah, Iraq during the Iraq War. Additionally, she interned with the American Red Cross and Human Rights Watch (HRW). Prior to joining KIND, she worked at the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) as a Legal Assistant in the Survivors of Violence Unit. She assisted clients in their U Visa, VAWA, and adjustment of status applications, consular processing applications.