Vice President, Policy and Advocacy
Jennifer Podkul is an international human rights lawyer and expert on child migration in the United States. She has authored articles, handbooks and reports and presents regularly as an expert at various conferences, briefings, and professional trainings. Jennifer provides technical assistance and education to policy makers and testifies before Congress on issues related to migrant children. She co-authored “Forced From Home: The Lost Boys and Girls from Central America” and was a contributing author to “Childhood, Migration, and Human Rights in Central and North America: Causes, Policies, Practices, and Challenges.” Jennifer has taught child migration at Georgetown Law Center’s Human Rights Institute. Jennifer began her legal career as an attorney at Ayuda in Washington, D.C. first as an Equal Justice Works Fellow and later as a KIND Fellow. Prior to joining KIND, Jennifer Podkul was a senior program officer at the Women’s Refugee Commission where she researched issues facing vulnerable migrants seeking protection in the United States and advocated for improved treatment. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras, holds a B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College and a J.D. with honors from the Washington College of Law, American University, where she was a Public Interest/Public Service Scholar.
Senior Director, State and Local Policy
Cindy Liou first joined KIND in 2016 as the Deputy Director of Legal Services. Prior to KIND, she was the Director of the Human Trafficking Project at Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, where she also co-counseled several civil litigation cases on behalf of human trafficking survivors, and provided direct legal representation for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, child abuse and exploitation, and hate crimes. She has also provided consulting and training on topics ranging from domestic violence lethality, strategies on addressing and messaging anti-violence issues with immigrant communities, language access, to the collaboration of legal services, social services, and law enforcement in cross-disciplinary teams. Cindy is also the author of several articles and manuals, and has provided extensive updates to the Human Trafficking Task Force e-Guide developed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). She is the recipient of the 2013 San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking Modern Day Abolitionist Award for Policy and Advocacy and the 2018 Paul and Sheila Wellstone Award from the Freedom Network to Empower Trafficked and Enslaved Persons (USA). She also handled a variety of pro bono cases as an associate at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC. Cindy is a graduate from Stanford Law School and the University of Washington.
Senior Director, Policy
As KIND’s Senior Director, Policy, Jason Boyd oversees policy initiatives to advance the rights of unaccompanied children in the U.S. immigration system. Throughout his career, he has worked to strengthen protections for vulnerable immigrant populations. Before joining KIND, Jason was Policy Counsel for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, where he advocated for a more humane legal immigration process and fairer treatment of asylum seekers. He previously served as an Immigration Law Analyst at the CIS Ombudsman’s Office, helping develop recommendations to enhance the reach and efficiency of the Central American Minors Refugee/Parole program. He also worked as an Asylum Officer at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, adjudicating the asylum applications of numerous unaccompanied children who had fled persecution in Central America. In 2017, Jason detailed as Minority Counsel to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. He earned his B.A. from the University of North Carolina and his J.D. with honors from the George Washington University Law School.
Director, Advocacy Campaign
Ashley Helsing is the Advocacy Campaign Director at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), where she implements the strategic vision of a new advocacy campaign to reimagine the framework surrounding children's immigration issues. She joined KIND in August 2022. Prior to her role at KIND, Ashley served as the Director of Government Relations for the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS). In this capacity, she collaborated with Members of Congress, their staff, federal agencies, state and local leaders, as well as grassroots advocates to successfully advocate for legislation benefiting the Down syndrome community. Ashley has built her career by leveraging the power of advocacy to drive change within our systems and society. She has worked closely with citizens and senior Members of Congress, contributing to the design and execution of strategic development strategies in pursuit of a more equitable world. Ashley holds a bachelor's degree in international politics from New York University.
Deputy Director, Policy
At KIND, Cory engages in outreach and advocacy to support the fair and appropriate treatment of unaccompanied children in the U.S. immigration system. Prior to coming to KIND, Cory worked as a researcher for a labor arbitrator. She has worked previously as the Manager of Federal Policy for the U.S. Green Building Council, and has interned and held positions at several nonprofit organizations. Cory has a B.A. in Journalism, Spanish, and International Studies from Penn State University, and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School, where she was an Edward V. Sparer Public Interest Fellow. After law school, Cory served as a law clerk to a federal magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York.
Senior Counsel, Policy & Advocacy
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.
Senior Policy Advisor
Jennifer Hojaiban joined KIND as a Senior Policy Advisor in October 2021. In her role, she advocates on behalf of KIND in support of the fair and appropriate treatment of unaccompanied children in the immigration system. Prior to joining KIND, she led policy research for a public health campaign to promote safe voting during the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier, Jennifer worked as a Policy Advisor with the Corporation for National and Community Service, where she advanced policies and partnerships to increase service opportunities through AmeriCorps. In this role, she helped expand and implement programs designed to support refugee and immigrant communities, including unaccompanied children. Jennifer received her J.D. with honors from Georgetown Law where she worked on research projects related to immigrants and refugees and worked on immigration appeals to the BIA and Ninth Circuit. Before attending law school, Jennifer engaged in legislative advocacy to promote immigrant rights and issues of concern to low income communities.
Emma Israel supports the Policy and Advocacy Team at KIND. She holds a bachelor's degree from Bates College where she studied Politics and Spanish. After graduation, she served as an AmeriCorps member at Project Citizenship, a Boston-based organization providing free citizenship services to immigrants. She then joined KIND's Boston office in 2016 where she worked as a Program Assistant and later as a Paralegal. She left KIND in 2019 to attend the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas Austin, where she focused on migration, in particular researching the Migrant Protection Protocols. She earned her Master's of Public Affairs in May 2021. Emma interned and worked with the Migration Policy Institute before returning to KIND in October 2021 as a Policy Analyst.
Senior Policy Associate
Cristiana Little joined the Policy & Advocacy team in April 2021. After interning at Centro de Investigación y Prevención de la Criminalidad Económica (CIPCE) in Argentina, advocating for increased protections for human trafficking victims, Cristiana developed a strong interest in human migration – both voluntary and involuntary. Upon returning to the United States, she continued her work on this topic through various internships and research positions at CASA de Maryland, La Clinica del Pueblo, and American University. In 2019, she graduated from American University with a master’s degree in international development and a concentration in Migration. During her graduate studies she received grants for research projects centered on immigrant’s access to healthcare and insurance, assessing levels of fear of deportation in the LGBTQ immigrant community, and identifying the push/pull factors of migration in the Northern Triangle region. Prior to joining KIND, she worked as a research consultant for American University’s Center for Latin American & Latino studies preparing country condition reports and expert testimony to support asylum seekers in the United States.
Advocacy Campaign Coordinator
Meron Derseh is the Advocacy Campaign Coordinator at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) where she supports a new campaign designed to re-imagine the framework for children’s immigration issues. She joined KIND in June 2023. Prior to joining KIND, Meron was a graduate student at the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University where she received a Master of Science (MS) in Conflict Analysis and Resolution with a concentration in Inclusive Conflict Engagement. Meron also worked with several campus organizations to create a more engaging community at George Mason University. She was an office assistant with the Mason Square Campus of George Mason University in Arlington, VA, a Peer Advisor with the Department of Education, and a staff member at the MasonLife program, a four-year post-secondary comprehensive transition program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.