OUR PEOPLE

Meet our team

We are a diverse team of experts trained to take on the most complex cases and advocate for immigration policy change at the state and national level. 

This means Immigrant Legal Center is the only nonprofit law firm in Nebraska and southwest Iowa that can handle the most complex immigration cases. 

Erik OmarAn attorney with a deep breadth of experience, Erik previously served as a senior manager in Union Pacific’s Real Estate department. A passionate advocate for immigrant communities, Erik recently served as Board Chair of the Refugee Empowerment Center, where he has been an active volunteer since 2013.

 

Through his work, he has built deep relationships with various community partners, understanding the unique and special characteristics of the Omaha landscape, particularly as it relates to the immigrant community. Erik received a J.D. and Bachelor’s of Science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Anna Deal, the Director of Legal Strategy at Immigrant Legal Center, decided to commit her career to helping immigrants and their families stay safe and grow strong when working with immigrant and refugee children during college in Seattle. 

 

After graduating cum laude from Boston College Law School, a two-year appointment through the Attorney General Honors Program brought Anna to Nebraska to begin her legal career as an Attorney Advisor at the Omaha Immigration Court.  When she completed her appointment in 2015, Anna joined ILC.  Since her arrival, Anna has been a zealous advocate for unaccompanied minors, victims of intrafamily violence, and others at risk of family separation and deportation.  In one case, Anna’s advocacy helped preserve access to asylum protections throughout the U.S. Eighth Circuit when the Circuit Court affirmed that an asylum applicant must establish that the government is “unable or unwilling” to protect against a private actor persecutor, as opposed to showing that the government is “completely helpless” to prevent the harm.  This distinction can be critical for asylum claims based on intrafamily violence in countries where laws prohibits domestic abuse, but such laws are not enforced. 

 

Additionally, in partnership with the Women’s Fund of Omaha, Anna helped to craft and secure the passage of LB518 (2020), a bill that brings uniformity to how Nebraska law enforcement agencies adjudicate victims’ requests to certify certain crimes—including domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking—to provide access to victim-based immigration relief.  Anna is proficient in Spanish.

As the Director of Legal Services, Dearra Godinez supervises the Rural Capacity Building and Southwest Iowa teams of attorneys and paralegals who provide high-quality legal services, education, and advocacy in all offices. She also supervises the Nebraska Immigration Legal Assistance Hotline.

 

Dearra graduated summa cum laude from the University of Nebraska at Kearney with a double major in Political Science and International Studies and a minor in Spanish. She also graduated summa cum laude as a Hatton W. Sumners Scholar from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. Dearra is licensed to practice law in Nebraska and Oklahoma and has been recognized by Super Lawyers as a “Rising Star” in 2014 and 2017-2019. 

 

Most recently, Dearra was named the American Immigration Lawyers Association Iowa-Nebraska Chapter’s 2018 Pro Bono Champion and a 2019 Distinguished Alumna by the University of Nebraska at Kearney. 

Cailan FranzAs the Director of Development & Communications, Cailan is responsible for diversifying and growing ILC’s contributed revenue from individuals, foundations, and institutions, as well as building and strengthening the ILC brand.

 

She previously served as the Director of Communications & Marketing at Catholic Charities San Francisco prior to relocating to the Midwest with her family. Cailan received her Master’s of Public Administration from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, and earned her Bachelor’s of Arts with degrees in Journalism/Public Relations and History from Creighton University.

As the Director of Operations & Intakes, “Sanny” manages the day-to-day operations of the office, coordinates administrative support and communications, and provides assistance to our collaborations and agency efforts.

Working with the management team and executive director, Sanny contributes to the development and implementation of organizational policies, practices, strategic goals and objectives of ILC.

She earned a Bachelor of Science in Social Work and Latino/Latin American Studies, a minor in Sociology, and a certificate in Gerontology. She is fluent in Spanish.

As the Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership (IMLP) Paralegal, Veronica supports the IMLP team by assisting with the provision of direct legal services to immigrants and their families who have medical needs.

 

She began at ILC as the Receptionist/Client Advocate in February of 2017. She is also Bilingual in Spanish and English.

BriAnn is the Rural Capacity Building Staff Attorney housed in Crete, Nebraska and serving the Lexington community in Nebraska. She works with local community partners to build capacity for high-quality immigration legal services.

 

BriAnn graduated summa cum laude from Chadron State College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Legal Studies. She received here Juris Doctor from the University of Nebraska College of Law. She is a native of Scottsbluff, Nebraska. social justice and women’s empowerment.

As a Nebraska Immigration Legal Assistance (NILAH) Paralegal, Ana is responsible for handling a high-volume centralized immigration hotline where they process applications from callers applying for non-profit immigration legal assistance from ILC, as well as other collaborating non-profit immigration legal service providers (ILSPs).

 

Ana makes decisions regarding NILAH applicants’ eligibility for services and forms of immigration relief and remains cool and collected, even under pressure. Ana previously worked for One World Community Health Center as a Referral Care Coordinator. She is fluent in Spanish.

Roxana Cortes-Mills is a Managing Attorney with the Immigrant Legal Center. She manages a team of attorneys, DOJ-accredited representatives, and paralegals across ILC’s rural offices statewide.

 

Roxana specializes in cases involving immigrant children and their families. She appears before Nebraska state courts and the Omaha Immigration Court, most notably winning two appeals before the Nebraska Supreme Court.

 

Roxana graduated magna cum laude from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with majors in Psychology, Latino/Latin American Studies, and Spanish. Roxana earned her J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law. She teaches immigration law courses as an adjunct professor at UNO and Metro Community College.  She is fluent in Spanish.

As the Nebraska Immigration Legal Assistance (NILAH) Paralegal, Yessenia is responsible for handling a high-volume centralized immigration hotline where they process applications from callers applying for non-profit immigration legal assistance from ILC, as well as other collaborating non-profit immigration legal service providers (ILSPs). Yessenia makes decisions regarding NILAH applicants’ eligibility for services and forms of immigration relief and remains cool and collected, even under pressure, and is a calming presence to NILAH callers and team members alike.

 

Yessenia previously worked for Legal Aid of Nebraska as a Bilingual Intake Paralegal on the Accessline and Spanish Accessline, as well as an Equal Justice Corps Fellow. Yessenia earned a Bachelor of Arts in Latino/Latin American Studies from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, an Associate of Arts in General Studies from Iowa Western Community College, and is fluent in English and Spanish.

Brian is the Rural Capacity Building Attorney for the Scottsbluff/Gering community in Nebraska. He works with local community partners to build capacity for high-quality immigration legal services.

 

Before attending college, he served a two-year humanitarian mission in Brasilia, Brazil. His experience led him to pursue his Bachelor of Arts in International Relations at Brigham Young University. In 2018, he earned his J.D. from Creighton University School of Law. He is fluent in Portuguese and proficient in Spanish.

As the Columbus Rural Capacity Building Attorney, Anna provides direct legal services to immigrants in Columbus, Nebraska and the surrounding areas. Anna also works in coordination with community partners to promote community education, advocate immigrants’ rights and promote inclusion of immigrant community in rural communities.  

 

Anna earned her Bachelor’s degree at Iowa State University and J.D. with public service certificate and emphasis in juvenile/child advocacy at Drake University Law School.

As the Rural Capacity Building Supervising Attorney, Jacob serves the immigrant communities across Eastern Nebraska and oversees ILC’s Pro Bono Detainee Project.

 

Jacob earned his law degree with distinction from the University of Iowa College of Law. While in law school, he interned for nonprofits focusing on immigrant justice work, represented immigrant clients as part of the Clinical Law Programs, and argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

 

Prior to law school, Jacob worked with immigrants and Cuban refugees in Houston, Texas, and at Annunciation House, a homeless shelter serving the border community of El Paso, Texas and Juarez, Mexico. He graduated from Creighton University summa cum laude with a degree in Spanish and minors in History and Justice & Peace Studies. Jacob is fluent in Spanish. He is licensed to practice in Iowa and Nebraska. 

As the Legal Administrative Assistant, Claudia supports both the operation & legal teams. She is responsible for handling mail, assisting in answering, screening, and forwarding incoming calls. She prepares legal documents & translations for the legal team. Claudia also  communicates and advocates for our clients.

 

Claudia earned an associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies and is currently working towards her Bachelor at Bellevue University. She is fluent in Spanish.

As the Rural Capacity Building Paralegal, Patricia supports the Rural Capacity Building team with the provision of direct legal services to immigrants in Nebraska City and Crete. Patricia also works in coordination with community partners to promote community education, to advocate for immigrants’ rights and to promote inclusion of the immigrant community in rural communities. 

 

She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and an Interdepartmental minor in Spanish Language and Culture at Bowling Green State University.

As the Rural Capacity Building Legal Assistant, Cristina supports the RCB legal team with providing legal assistance in preparing documents, communicating with clients, and helping with translations.

 

Cristina earned an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice and previously worked at Unity in Action, a nonprofit focused on helping the Latino community through civic engagement, education and advocacy. She is fluent in Spanish.

As the Rural Capacity Building Paralegal, Ruth supports the Rural Capacity Building team with the provision of direct legal services to immigrants in Lexington, Grand Island, Crete, and South Sioux City. Ruth also works in coordination with community partners to promote community education, to advocate for immigrants’ rights and to promote inclusion of the immigrant community in rural communities.

 

Ruth earned her degree in Theology at Rio Grande Bible Institute. Ruth received her medical interpreter certification by the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters in 2012. She is fluent in Spanish. 

As the Domestic Violence Attorney, Cristina provides legal assistance on a variety of immigration issues but specialize in U-visa/VAWA cases involving domestic abuse and other violent crimes.

 

Cristina graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies. She graduated from Creighton Law School. She is fluent in Spanish.

As the Child and Family Managing Attorney, Astrid works with staff attorneys and DOJ-accredited representatives to provide direct immigration legal services to vulnerable children and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and other violent crime.

 

A native of Scottsbluff, Astrid earned her bachelor’s of journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and her law degree from Washington University in St. Louis. She is licensed to practice law in Maryland and Nebraska. She is fluent in Spanish.

As a Legal Receptionist, Maritza assists both the Omaha office and the whole ILC team. She answers and transfers incoming phone calls, logs client information , and relies client messages to  attorneys and paralegals.

 

Other than receptionist tasks, Maritza serves as a client advocate by providing resources to clients and referring them to NILAH. She is currently attending Metro Community College and approaching an Associates in Human Services.  She is fluent in Spanish.

As the Coordinator of Development and Communications San Juana is responsible for  creating public relations and marketing materials as well as building and strengthening the ILC brand.

 

She previously worked with the Midlands Latino Community Development Corporation and the University of Nebraska at Omaha School of Public Administration.

 

San Juana graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Media Communications with a concentration in Public Relations and Advertising. She is fluent in Spanish.

 

As the DOJ Accredited Representative for Southwest Iowa, Andres is responsible for assisting with the provision of direct legal services to immigrant clients in Nebraska and Southwest Iowa.

 

He earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice with minors in Political Science and Spanish from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

As the Rural Capacity Building Paralegal, Jesus supports the Rural Capacity Building team with the provision of direct legal services to immigrants in the Lexington area. Jesus also works in coordination with community partners to promote community education, to advocate for immigrants’ rights, and to promote inclusion of the immigrant community in rural communities.

 

In 2020, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of Nebraska-Kearney with a major in Political Science and a minor in Criminal Justice and was recognized as an “Outstanding Senior” by the Department of Political Science. She is fluent in Spanish.

As the Rural Capacity Building Program Assistant, Monica is responsible for providing administrative and operations support for all ILC offices.

 

She maintains efficient, high-quality legal office operations and assists with the integration of Rural and Omaha office activities. She is fluent in Spanish.

As the Rural Capacity Building Attorney, Jenna provides direct immigration legal services to immigrants in Crete, Nebraska and the surrounding area. She also works with community partners to advance community education on immigration issues, advocate for immigrant rights, and promote inclusion of the immigrant community.

 

She graduated summa cum laude from Northwestern College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Spanish and received her Juris Doctor with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law.

 

During law school she held several internships with immigration legal service providers, and before joining ILC she worked at a business immigration law firm representing corporate clients and their foreign-born employees in their immigration matters. Jenna is licensed to practice law in the state of Nebraska. She is proficient in Spanish.

Vemexi specializes in cases involving immigrant children and their families. She graduated cum laude with her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She then earned her J.D. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

 

Vemexi is licensed to practice law in Missouri and is fluent in Spanish.

As the Rural Capacity Building Paralegal, Karina supports the RCB team with the provision of direct legal services to immigrants in South Sioux City and Columbus. Karina works in coordination with community partners to promote community education, to advocate for immigrants’ rights and to promote inclusion of the immigrant community in rural communities.

 

She earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, Conflict and Foreign Policy, and a certificate in Human Rights at the University of Iowa. She is fluent in Spanish.

As a Rural Capacity Building Supervising Attorney, Sarah provides direct representation in a variety of immigration matters to clients throughout rural Nebraska.

 

She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Notre Dame with majors in Romance Languages and Literatures and Peace Studies and earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School. She is licensed to practice in Illinois and Michigan. She is proficient in Spanish.

Josh is on the Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership team as an IMLP Staff Attorney. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Kansas and recently graduated from the University of Nebraska College of Law in May 2017.

 

While in law school, Josh worked in immigration law in a variety of capacities, including being a student attorney at the College of Law Immigration Clinic. He is proficient in Spanish.  

As the Grand Island Rural Capacity Building Attorney, Justin provides direct legal services to immigrants in Grand Island, Nebraska and the surrounding areas. Justin also works in collaboration with community partners to promote the legal and social interests of immigrants. 

 

Justin earned his Bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University and his JD/MPA at West Virginia University where he worked in the WVU Immigration Law Clinic as a Clinical Law Student. Justin is fluent in Spanish. 

Jaime Vargas is paralegal for ILC’s Grand Island office. Jaime supports the Rural Capacity Building Team by providing direct legal services to immigrants in the community, as well as interpretation and translation to facilitate communication between English-speaking attorneys and representatives and their Spanish-speaking clients. 

Jaime graduated with honors in May of 2019 from the University of Nebraska at Kearney where she earned her degree in Spanish Interpreting and Translating. She has gained fluency in Spanish as a second language through her education, immersion in a study abroad program in Costa Rica, and through her previous work at CHI Health St. Francis where she was a full-time interpreter for Spanish-speaking patients in all areas of the hospital. Her background in immigration comes from her personal experience petitioning for her Colombian husband.

Kylynn WagnerAs the Development Coordinator, “Ky” provides critical administrative support and participating in fundraising activities including donor relations, grants, marketing and communications, direct mail appeals, and special events. 

Ky earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies at University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Jamel is on the Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership team as an IMLP Staff Attorney. 

 

She graduated summa cum laude wither bachelor’s degree in International Business from Johnson and Wales University-Denver. Jamel earned her law degree from Creighton University with a focus in litigation.

Before joining ILC in 2013, Gary worked with the ILC-Iowa site for five years. Gary is experienced in many aspects of immigration law and works primarily with detained immigrants and clients in Pottawattamie County and southwest Iowa.

 

His office is located at Centro Latino in Council Bluffs. He is licensed to practice law in Iowa. Gary graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Arts in Classical Archeology. He graduated from Creighton University of Law. He is fluent in Spanish and proficient in French.

Anne is the Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership Staff Attorney, providing direct legal services on a variety of issues to immigrants and their families who have significant medical needs. Anne graduated from the University of Nebraska with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and English and received her Juris Doctor from the University of Nebraska College of Law.

 

While in law school, Anne clerked with the non-profit law firm Nebraska Appleseed and worked as a student attorney in the Children’s Justice Clinic, working on a variety of issues of law primarily affecting immigrants and children within the Nebraska community.

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