Veronica is a graduate of Wellesley College and Harvard Law School. As a law student, she was a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and interned at Cambridge and Somerville Legal Services, representing low income clients in landlord-tenant, family and immigration matters. Veronica, a former law clerk to Judge Eden E. Hifo (ret), 5th Cir. in Honolulu, Hawaii, has been practicing in the field of Immigration and Nationality Law exclusively since 1989. Now based in Los Angeles, she has worked for law firms in Tokyo, Japan, as well as in Phoenix, Chicago and L.A. She has been a member of the adjunct faculty at Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles since 2001, teaching classes on immigration law; and, is a co-author of “Immigration and Nationality Law: Problems and Strategies”, an immigration law text book used by law schools across the country. Before joining KIND, Veronica was a volunteer attorney for the organization.
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.
Direct Representation Attorney
Erica Ascencio is a member of the State Bar of California and currently serves as a Direct Representation Attorney at Kids in Need of Defense. Prior to joining KIND, Erica was a Staff Attorney in the Children’s Representation Project at Immigrant Defenders Law Center, where she represented in unaccompanied minors. Erica received her J.D. from Loyola Law School with a double concentration in Immigrant Advocacy and Public Interest Law and her B.A. from University of California, Irvine. While in law school, Erica was a Clinical Student in the Loyola Immigrant Justice Clinic, where she represented survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking. She has also interned at Public Counsel in the Homelessness Prevention Project and at National Immigration Law Center (NILC). Erica is excited to provide pro-bono direct representation services to the immigrant community.
Vanessa Contreras is a Program Assistant at the KIND Los Angeles office. Vanessa graduated from California State University Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science: Public Administration. Before working at KIND, Vanessa was an intern at Inland Empire Utilities Agency where she assisted the Water Use Efficiency Rebate Programs in performing inspections, collecting data,and creating early reports.
Direct Representation Attorney
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.
Senior Direct Representation Attorney
Stephanie is the proud daughter of hardworking Mexican immigrants, and a native of Los Angeles. She graduated cum laude from Harvard College with a B.A. in Government, focusing her honor’s thesis on the relationship between the Mexican government and Mexican immigrants in the U.S. While at Harvard, Stephanie was on the board of Harvard College Act on a DREAM, and interned at the National Immigration Law Center. Upon graduation, Stephanie was awarded the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Fellowship to work at an NGO in Mexico City. Stephanie then received her J.D. from Cornell Law School, where she was an Acquisitions Editor for Cornell Law Journal of Law and Public Policy, and participated in the Labor Law and LGBTQ Rights Clinics. While in law school, Stephanie interned for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California Immigrant Rights Project and externed full time for the Honorable Susan Oki Mollway in the District of Hawaii. After graduation, Stephanie clerked for the Honorable Michael Wilner in the Central District of California. Stephanie went on to work at a labor law firm, and at Immigrant Defenders Law Center. Stephanie is now a Direct Representation Attorney at KIND where she represents unaccompanied immigrant children in removal proceedings. When she is not advocating on her clients’ behalf, you can catch her playing soccer in one of several competitive women’s soccer leagues or hanging out with her rescued bull terrier, Chapulín.
Senior Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney
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.
Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney
Michael is a graduate of Williams College and the University of Notre Dame Law School, where he received his J.D. cum laude in 2013. As a law student, Michael first became interested in immigration as a summer research assistant for Notre Dame professor Paolo G. Carozza and the Notre Dame Program on Law and Human Development. The results of his research on law and human migration through the Arizona Borderlands were published by the University of Notre Dame in 2012. He subsequently worked as an extern with the National Immigrant Justice Center, based in Chicago, where he gained valuable experience in refugee law, asylum, U-Visas, and adjustment of status. He worked for two semesters as an intern with the University of Notre Dame Clinical Law Center, where he was a member of the Economic Justice Clinic representing victims of predatory lending, foreclosure, and unfair debt collection in South Bend, Indiana. Michael returned to his native Los Angeles to begin his legal career as a Thomas L. Shaffer Fellow with Public Counsel Law Center. His work as a fellow centered on assisting undocumented children in immigration court and before USCIS. As such, Michael assisted countless young people in applying for immigration relief via DACA and SIJS. Upon completion of his fellowship he remained at Public Counsel as a Staff Attorney until coming to KIND in April 2016. Since becoming a member of the California Bar in December 2013 he has focused his practice on the representation of children in immigration matters. He has extensive experience representing immigrant children in Immigration, Probate, Family, and Juvenile Delinquency Courts all across California. His current practice centers on the representation of Unaccompanied Alien Children.
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 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.
Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney
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.
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.
Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney
Gabriel is a member of the State Bar of California. He received his J.D. from University of California, Irvine School of Law and his Bachelor of Art degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from University of California, Berkeley. As an attorney, Gabriel has experience practicing in the fields of immigration, labor and employment law. Gabriel believes the right to migrate is a fundamental right.
Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney
Christopher Peterson is a Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney, who began his lawyering life as a staff attorney at the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) located in Los Angeles. At CARECEN, he dedicated himself to representing unaccompanied minors in both the affirmative and removal settings, specializing in humanitarian forms of relief. Additionally, as part of CARECEN’s Deportation Defense Unit, he took on adult cases and has volunteered serving migrants in transit at the San Ysidro-Tijuana border. Prior to joining CARECEN, Christopher dedicated his law school career to advocating for the immigrant community. Christopher was an active participant in Loyola’s Immigrant Justice Clinic, and while a student, represented a variety of clients seeking relief that ranged from naturalization to survivor-based visas; traveled to El Paso, Texas to represent migrants in removal proceedings; and engaged in local advocacy efforts with the Urban Peace Institute, where he explored ways to mitigate the immigration consequences caused by the indiscriminate use of gang databases. Christopher’s passion to serve the immigrant community arose from his experience growing up in the diverse community of Los Angeles. In his free time, he enjoys soccer and poetry.
UCI Law Fellow
Andrea immigrated as a child from Caracas, Venezuela and became a first-generation college graduate, earning dual bachelor’s degrees, magna cum laude, in International Affairs and Criminology from Florida State University. In 2016, Andrea was awarded a Dean’s Merit scholarship to attend the University of California, Irvine School of Law. While in law school, Andrea co-chaired the Latinx Law Students Association, mentored first-generation graduate students, and was an editor of the Journal of International, Transnational, and Comparative Law. Andrea was also a clinical student at the UCI Immigrant Rights Clinic and frequently engaged in pro bono opportunities, including DACA-renewal workshops, Naturalization fairs, and projects at the Mississippi Center for Justice and CARA Dilley, Texas Family Detention Center. Andrea added to her advocacy skills by interning at the National Immigration Law Center in Washington, D.C., the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project and at Kids in Need of Defense offices in Los Angeles. Upon earning her J.D., Andrea received the UCI Law Public Interest Fellowship and has continued advancing immigrant rights at KIND as a UCI Fellow.
Social Services Coordinator
A child of immigrants from Michoacán, Mexico, Alejandra has dedicated her career to serving the immigrant community. After graduating from University of California, Berkeley in 2014, Alejandra moved to Mexico City to study at the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM). While an exchange student in Mexico, Alejandra also worked with a non-profit that represented families of disappeared Central American immigrants. Alejandra returned to the U.S. in 2016, settling in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, Alejandra became Head Paralegal at El Rescate before moving to Immigrant Defenders Law Center, where she became their Case Management Coordinator. Alejandra now serves as the Social Services Coordinator for the Los Angeles office of KIND, a position she has held since 2019.
Xavier Rosas was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA to two immigrant parents from Mexico. He graduated from UCLA with a degree in Anthropology and received his J.D. from the University of Illinois College of Law graduating with honors. In over ten years of private practice before joining KIND he represented immigrants from many countries and in Removal Proceedings in several states including California, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Oregon, Illinois and Michigan. Xavier’s practice has included advising on immigration consequences of criminal pleas, post-conviction, asylum, family based immigration, SIJS, DACA, and transgender name changes to State Habeas Corpus petitions for incarcerated women who retaliated against their batterers. He has been published in three different matters at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and Board of Immigration Appeals and has experience in over a dozen District Court filings and close to a hundred Petitions for Review. Xavier also served in an advisory position in drafting several California State laws that protect vulnerable children and help the immigrant community. He is currently admitted in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Central District of California and Eastern District of California. He helps raise awareness for homeless youth in Boyle Heights and collects Skateboards when he is not chasing after his toddler. Xavier’s work focuses on Direct Representation of Unaccompanied Children full-time and Special Projects part-time.
Carlos Suarez Hernandez
Carlos is a DACA recipient dedicated to serving the immigrant community. He graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy. Before joining KIND, Carlos worked at the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) in Los Angeles as an OLAP Accredited Representative. Carlos prepared and filed forms for immigration relief including petitions/applications for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, Asylum, Adjustment of Status, U-Visa, VAWA, DACA, Naturalization, Certificates of Citizenship, Advance Parole, Requests for Fee Waivers, Family Petitions, Provisional Waivers, and Petitions to Remove Conditions on Residency. He also represented clients during their Adjustment of Status interviews and interpreted during Adjustment of Status and Asylum interviews.
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.