Managing Director, Newark
Jacqueline Stabnow is the Managing Director, Newark at Kids for the Newark office of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) where she oversees and supports the program and works with various stakeholders in New Jersey. Jacqueline joined KIND in 2023. Since 2014, she has worked exclusively in the field of legal representation for immigrant youth. Prior to working at KIND, Jacqueline was a Supervising Attorney at Safe Passage Project where she led of team of staff attorneys and mentored pro bono attorneys as they represented youth in removal proceedings. She also worked at Catholic Charities Community Services in New York City where she supervised the office’s division of the Immigrant Children Advocates’ Relief Effort (I-CARE) program and worked with a coalition of community partners. Jacqueline began her legal career as a staff attorney for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark where she represented a variety of adult and juvenile immigrant clients and provided informational presentations to the caretakers of unaccompanied minors through the Legal Orientation Program for Custodians (LOPC) program. During law school, Jacqueline interned at a variety of immigration organizations such as the Bronx Defenders and LatinoJustice PRLDEF. She received her J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law where she was a Charles H. Revson Law Student Public Interest Fellow. She has a B.A. in Hispanic Studies from the College of William and Mary. Jacqueline is fluent in Spanish and barred to practice law in New Jersey and New York.
Gilda began her legal career as an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow with KIND in 2015, representing unaccompanied minor children before the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the United States Citizenship and Immigration service. She is thrilled and honored to continue KIND’s work to make sure children have legal representation in immigration proceedings as a Staff Attorney in the Newark office. Prior to her work with KIND, Gilda participated in the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law’s Immigration Justice Clinic, where she advocated for her client in his removal proceedings before the Immigration Court. Gilda also interned at the Sanctuary for Families’ Immigration Intervention Project and the New York Immigration Court during law school. Gilda received her J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in June 2015 and her B.A. in psychology from Rutgers University in May 2012. She is licensed to practice law in the states of New Jersey and New York and is fluent in Spanish.
Kimberly Krone is an immigration attorney who has been working with children and youth throughout her legal career. Prior to joining KIND, she was the Supervising Attorney for a joint project of the Child Advocacy and Immigrant Justice Clinics at Rutgers Law School, providing immigration representation to children and youth involved in the New Jersey foster care system. There, she also mentored Pro Bono Attorneys representing children and youth in their immigration matters. She also served as Executive Director for First Friends of New Jersey and New York, which serves detained immigrants through volunteer visitation, resettlement assistance, and advocacy. Kimberly began her legal career at the American Friends Service Committee's Immigrant Rights Program in Newark, New Jersey as a KIND Fellow and then as the Youth Justice Attorney. She has interned and volunteered at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and the Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center. Kimberly has written a variety of articles in local and national outlets and presented on human rights and immigration topics. Kimberly graduated from Seton Hall University School of Law, where she was the Center for Social Justice Scholar in the International Human Rights/Rule of Law initiative and worked as a research assistant, intern, and student attorney. Kimberly is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and New York and is fluent in Spanish.
Samantha is a Senior Attorney in KIND’s Newark Office. She began her legal career at KIND as an Equal Justice Works Fellow, with a project focused on increasing receptivity to Special Immigrant Juvenile Status in New Jersey. Before returning to KIND, Samantha was a Staff Attorney in the Immigrant Rights Clinic at Rutgers Law School in Newark, where she represented children, families, and Rutgers students in immigration cases, organized legal clinics for the local immigrant community, and led the Immigrant Rights Clinic’s response to immigration policies implemented after the November 2016 election. At Rutgers, Samantha also represented low-income immigrants detained at Essex County Correctional Facility as a part of New Jersey's Detention and Deportation Defense Initiative. Samantha is a board member of the Refugee Reunification Project, an organization that provides financial assistance to help refugee families reunite safely in the United States. Samantha received her J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law and her B.A., in International Relations and Hispanic Studies from the College of William and Mary. She is fluent in Spanish.
Alexander Mena is a staff attorney in KIND’s Newark office. He joined KIND in February of 2024. Prior to joining KIND, Alexander worked as a litigation associate and staff attorney with an emphasis on litigating immigration, family, civil, and municipal court matters. During his time as a staff attorney with New Jersey’s Detention and Deportation Defense Initiative (DDDI), Alexander successfully represented detained immigrants in in bond proceedings, master calendar hearings, and individual hearings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Alexander is an advocate committed to serving the most vulnerable populations in New Jersey and has dedicated his career to advance social justice. Alexander is a graduate of Syracuse University College of Law, and he is admitted to practice law in New Jersey. He is fluent in Spanish.
Alma A. Godinez is a Staff Attorney at KIND’s Newark Office. She joined KIND in March 2023. Prior to joining KIND, she worked as an Associate Attorney at Einhorn, Barbarito, Frost, & Botwinick, PC. Upon graduating from Rutgers Law School, Alma clerked for the Honorable Yolanda Adrianzen, J.S.C. in the Family Part of the Superior Court of New Jersey, Passaic Vicinage. While attending law school, Alma served as a Program Coordinator for a joint project of the Child Advocacy and Immigrant Justice Clinics at Rutgers Law School, providing immigration representation to children and youth involved in the New Jersey foster care system. She also served as the inaugural fellow for the law school’s Center for Immigration Law, Policy, and Justice, where she co-authored a symposium essay titled, “Sanctuary States,” published in the Southwestern Law Review. During her final summer in law school, Alma worked as a summer associate at a firm where she focused on civil rights ligation and commercial law. Prior to attending law school, Alma worked as a paralegal in a boutique immigration law firm. Alma is admitted to practice law in New Jersey and is fluent in Spanish.
Interim Staff Attorney
Belzie Barillas is an Interim Staff Attorney in KIND’s Newark Office. She joined KIND in August 2023. Prior to joining KIND, Belzie was a law clerk at Soto Law PLLC, where she worked on a variety of immigration matters, including Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, Asylum, Temporary Protected Status, U-Visas, and family petitions. During law school she interned at the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Community Resource Center in New York. Belzie holds a J.D. from Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University, where she participated in the Deportation Defense Clinic and the Immigration Law and Border Enforcement Study Abroad Program. Prior to law school, Belzie volunteered with the Safe Passage Project. She is licensed to practice law in New York.
Cindy Guaman is a Staff Attorney in KIND’s Newark Office. She joined the Newark team in 2022, having previously interned with KIND during law school. Prior to joining KIND, Cindy worked as a Staff Attorney at American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Newark, New Jersey, where she represented unaccompanied minors in their immigration and family court proceedings for the purposes of obtaining Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Prior to joining AFSC, Cindy was an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Make the Road New Jersey in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where she represented immigrant children with criminal histories. Cindy received her J.D. from Rutgers Law School – Newark in May 2021, where she obtained an Immigration Law Certificate, was an Immigrant Rights Fellow, and represented an individual before the Board of Immigration Appeals. Cindy is licensed to practice law in New Jersey and is fluent in Spanish.
Daniela Pena is a Staff Attorney at KIND’s Newark field office. Before joining KIND, Daniela was an Attorney with New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services in Brooklyn, where she represented the Commissioner of ACS in child protective proceedings in the Brooklyn Family Court. Daniela also served as a Staff Attorney at The Door, where she worked with Detained Immigrant Youth in ORR custody. Throughout her legal career, Daniela has predominantly worked with unaccompanied minors seeking refuge in the United States via Asylum or Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Daniela received her J.D. from New England Law, Boston and her BA from CUNY Queens College. Daniela is licensed to practice law in both New York and New Jersey and is fluent in Spanish.
Denise is a graduate of Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where she received a dual degree in English and Government/Law. She received her J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law, in Newark, New Jersey, graduating cum laude in 2001. After graduating from law school, Denise was a litigation associate at one of New Jersey's oldest and largest law firms. She gained extensive experience in both civil and criminal law and was selected as a Super Lawyer's Rising Star in 2006. Denise also served as a volunteer attorney in Morris County, New Jersey, representing victims of domestic violence for purposes of obtaining restraining orders against their abusers. Denise is admitted to practice law in New Jersey.
Isabel Sierra Velazquez
Isabel Sierra Velazquez is a Staff Attorney at KIND’s Newark office. She joined the Newark team in November 2021. Prior to joining KIND, Isabel worked as a criminal defense attorney at The Legal Aid Society in New York City, where she represented clients in parole revocation proceedings at Rikers Island Judicial Center. In that role, Isabel cross-examined witnesses at preliminary and final hearings, filed writs of habeas corpus to obtain clients’ release due to violations of their constitutional rights, and worked with social workers to prepare discharge plans with housing alternatives, substance use outpatient programming, and mental health treatment for her clients’ successful re-entry into community. Isabel graduated magna cum laude from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law. After graduating from Law school, Isabel worked as a full-time judicial intern to the late Hon. Juan L. Torruella of the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and later obtained an LL.M. degree from Harvard Law School. While attending the LL.M. program, she was an extern in the Capital Habeas Unit of Philadelphia’s Federal Community Defender Office and represented death row inmates in federal habeas corpus proceedings. She is a native from San Juan, Puerto Rico and is fluent in Spanish. Isabel is admitted to practice law in Puerto Rico and New York.
Equal Justice Works Fellow
Erin Sweeney is a 2022 Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Microsoft Corporation and Sidley Austin LLP in KIND’s Newark office. Before joining KIND, Erin held multiple nonprofit leadership roles in Newark, including seven years as the Executive Director of education nonprofit Schools That Can Newark. She was previously a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, where she served as a consular officer in Lagos, Nigeria, a political and human rights officer in La Paz, Bolivia, a passport adjudication supervisor in New York City, and held short term assignments in Washington, DC, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Berlin Germany. Erin graduated summa cum laude from Rutgers Law School with an Immigration Certificate in May 2022. She was an intern at KIND’s Newark office in Summer 2021. Erin has a Masters in American Studies from Rutgers University-Newark, a Masters in Public Policy/Urban Planning from Harvard Kennedy School, and a Bachelors in Public Policy with Honors from the University of Chicago. Erin is licensed to practice law in New Jersey.
Andrea M. Valle-Diaz has been a paralegal at KIND’s Newark office since February 2023. Andrea is a certified paralegal with a background in immigration law with over 12 years of experience. Prior to joining KIND, Andrea worked as a paralegal and senior bilingual paralegal in the private sector in New Jersey. During this time, she conducted legal research, drafted motions, and supported affirmative and defensive applications, including asylum, adjustment of status, family petitions, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, provisional waivers, U Visas, and VAWAs. Further, Andrea managed employee training for all new recruits and was responsible for implementing best practices. Andrea holds an Associate in Applied Science for Paralegal Studies and is completing a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainability Management. Andrea intends to pursue a Juris Doctorate in the future so that she can better serve her community.
Dennisse P. Ledesma Pumarol
Dennisse P. Ledesma Pumarol supports the Legal Services Department at KIND as a Paralegal. With more than 6 years of professional experience in the Immigration field, she joined the KIND team on December 2021. Her expertise includes family based processes, different types of relief from removal proceedings, processes of humanitarian nature, among others. Her knowledge also extends to translating and interpreting from English into Spanish and Spanish into English. She has served as interpreter in affirmative asylum interviews, both for adults as well as for unaccompanied minors, and expertly translates all types of documents relevant to immigration cases. Prior to joining KIND, she worked as an Immigration Paralegal for the Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs (MCOHA), after moving from the private sector where she started as a Paralegal supporting a wide variety of cases. During her time at MCOHA, she further developed her interest in serving and helping her community, and creating the change they need to succeed and thrive. She also interned for the Legal Aid Society’s Legal Translation Department, which helped solidify her skills in translation and interpretation. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology, one in Spanish, and a Certification in Bilingual Translation [ENG<->ESP] from Rutgers University. In the future, Dennisse hopes to earn a Jurisprudence Doctorate to help her in her journey to help create social change and achieve social justice.
Morella Higuera joined KIND as a Paralegal in June 2022. Before KIND, Morella worked for almost five years as a senior paralegal at a law firm specializing in immigration law in Elizabeth, NJ, where she worked on defensive and affirmative asylum cases, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status cases, and with clients seeking Cancellation of Removal in immigration court. Morella received a law degree, magna cum laude, from Jose Antonio Paez University in Venezuela in 2011. In 2016, she received a Specialist in Conflict Resolution: Negotiation and Mediation degree from the Castilla de la Mancha University in Toledo, Spain.
Nancy J. Hernandez is a paralegal in KIND’s Newark office. Nancy has more than twenty years of experience in the immigration field. She joined the Newark team in February 2023. Prior to joining KIND, she worked as a senior Paralegal at a Law Firm in New Jersey, where she handled family-based cases and all types of relief in Removal Proceedings. She has served as interpreter in affirmative asylum interviews. Nancy has a bachelor’s in economics and received her Master of Science in Jurisprudence from Seton Hall School of Law. She is fluent in Spanish.
Prior to working at KIND, Ricardo worked as a Migration Counselor for the Unaccompanied Minors Program at Catholic Charities in New York, providing Know Your Rights presentations, conducting legal intakes, and providing legal support for kids in ORR custody. During this period, he mainly focused on minors placed in Staff Secure settings and those about to age out of the system. Ricardo’s experience includes work as a Bilingual Youth Counselor for kids at Griffin Home, a Residential Therapeutic Center at Friends of Youth in Seattle, WA. Ricardo started his work with immigrant children in Texas, in 2015, as a Legal Caseworker for the Cabrini Center of Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
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.
Social Services Program Manager, NJ
Adriana joined KIND team as a Social Service Program Manager. I am a Licensed Social Worker and received my master’s in social work from Montclair State University with a concentration in children, youth, and families. I have almost 7 years of experience in the social service field with a background working with youth in school settings as well as in-home settings as an ABA therapist as well as a Care Manager. I also have a background in case management and advocacy in both the non-profit and government sectors and have a passion for helping others access the resources available to them. My previous position was with the Clifton Health and Human Services Department as a Social Worker. In this position I had the opportunity to develop and implement programs for community members as well as bring more awareness to the needs of the community such as mental health, housing instability, and access to basic needs. I am excited to use the tools that I have learned throughout my years to help in any way that I can as a part of the KIND team.
Senior Social Services Coordinator
Fiorella Avalos is a Senior Social Services Coordinator at KIND. She joined the KIND team in November 2021. Prior to joining KIND, Fiorella was a Bilingual Care Manager at FACT for 3.5 years where she provided support to youth with behavioral and emotional challenges, developmental disabilities and more. There she worked with youth, and their family, utilizing a strength-based team approach to ensure their needs were addressed and met. Fiorella worked closely with youth to help identify and link them to sustainable resources in their communities. Fiorella’s experience includes working in a specialized school setting as a teacher’s assistant, public school setting as a substitute teacher and in-home setting as an ABA therapist. Fiorella graduated from Rutgers University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Spanish. She is excited to continue supporting families in need and joining the KIND team.
Senior Social Services Coordinator
Helen Diaz is a Senior Social Services Coordinator at KIND. Helen has her Bachelor's degree from Montclair State University in Political Science with minors in Latin American and Latino Studies and Public Administration. She worked as a paralegal for 3 years before deciding to enter the social work field. Helen earned her Master’s in Social Work from Rutgers University with a concentration in Management and Policy in 2016 is now a licensed social worker. Helen moved to the social work field because of her passion for helping people especially the Latino community. Prior to joining KIND, Helen worked at a Care Management Organization for over 4 years providing care management services to children and adolescents. Helen is the daughter of immigrants and is proud to serve immigrants youths.
Social Services Coordinator
Tamara Kissoon is a Social Services Coordinator (Released) for Legal Programs at Kids in Need of Defense’s Newark office. She joined the team in the summer of 2023 and is excited to start her role in supporting clients access social services across New Jersey. Upon completion of her B.S in Social Policy and International Studies at Northwestern University, she moved to London to pursue an Msc in Human Rights at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her recent dissertation explored the sociospatial nature of migration at the US Souther Border, which she argues necessitates a relational approach to understanding migration and its subsequent challenges. Alongside her academic career, Tamara has worked with numerous nonprofit organizations both domestically and internationally such as Ascend Justice in Chicago, IL and Tukuy Pacha in Cochabamba, Bolivia, engaging primarily in asset-based community development, project coordination, and legal assistance. Tamara is guided by her core values of truth, humility, and justice. She is forward thinking and passionate about challenging dominant notions of human rights and immigration justice by centering lived experiences and spreading awareness of root causes. In her free time, Tamara is an avid traveller and language learner. She hopes to master all of the romance languages!