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Immigrant Legal Center
An Affiliate of the Justice
For Our Neighbors Network
4223 Center Street
Omaha, NE 68105


402.898.1349 | info@immigrantlc.org

An Affiliate of the Justice For Our Neighbors Network

Our Team

Immigration law is complex and constantly changing.  The practice of immigration law requires passion and skill. Our Team is selected based upon expertise, cultural competency, and linguistic ability.

Veronica Amaya

Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership Paralegal

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.

Giselle Arellano

Child and Family Paralegal
DOJ-Accredited

As the Child and Family Paralegal, Giselle supports ILC attorneys by meeting with clients to gather information to complete necessary forms, translating documents, and interpreting client interviews with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Giselle earned a Bachelor of Arts in Paralegal Studies and a minor in Business Administration from the College of Saint Mary. She is fluent in Spanish.

Dawn Bashara

Communications and
Development Director

As the Communications and Development Director, Dawn is responsible for raising public awareness of ILC and for developing and managing the fundraising infrastructure of the organization. Dawn also manages ILC’s special events, media relations, brand and publication development, website and social media efforts, grants, and fundraising appeals. Dawn earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from the University of Iowa.

Jim Clements

Executive Coordinator and
General Counsel

As the Executive Coordinator, Jim is responsible for acting as a liaison for the Executive Director and the Board of Directors, managing policies, and assisting in the coordination and facilitation of projects. With previous experience working in nonprofit administration and as a private practice attorney, Jim also serves as General Counsel for ILC. Jim graduated from Creighton University with a degree in Journalism. He then earned his J.D. cum laude from the University of Florida College of Law.

Tessa B. Copeland

Rural Capacity Building Attorney - Lexington

Tessa serves immigrant community members in the Lexington, Nebraska. She graduated from the University of North Texas with a Bachelor’s degree in General Business in 2008. Before attending law school, Tessa worked for several years in animal rescue and medicine in Austin, Texas. In 2017, Tessa graduated from Lewis & Clark Law School, where she was inducted into the Cornelius Honor Society. Tessa has been an active volunteer with the CARA Pro Bono Project, working with asylum-seeking women and children who are detained in the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, and volunteering remotely to track legal violations inside the center. She is licensed in Oregon. 

Roxana Cortés Reyes

Rural Capacity Building Supervising Attorney

Roxana specializes in cases involving immigrant children and their families. She 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 is fluent in Spanish.

Anna D. Deal

Senior Managing Attorney

As the Senior Managing Attorney, Anna provides legal assistance on a variety of immigration issues but specializes in U-Visa/VAWA cases involving domestic abuse and other violent crimes. She also has experience with SIJS, asylum, removal defense, adjustment of status, and consular processing. Anna graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies. She graduated cum laude from Boston College Law School. Anna is licensed to practice law in Nebraska and Washington State. She is proficient in Spanish.

Yessenia Duran

Nebraska Immigration Legal Assistant Hotline Paralegal

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 Edwards

Rural Capacity Building Attorney - Scottsbluff

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.

Charles Shane Ellison

Legal Director

As the Legal Director, Shane oversees the delivery of legal services in Nebraska and western Iowa, and engages in impact litigation on behalf of National JFON. Shane is also a Special Assistant Professor at Creighton University School of Law, where he leads the Immigrant and Refugee Clinic. He is licensed to practice law in New York, Nebraska, the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. He also serves as the Chicago Asylum Office Liaison for the Iowa/Nebraska Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, sits on the AILA National Amicus Committee, and the Board of Directors of the National Board of Immigration Lawyers. He is proficient in Spanish.

Ellen Fitzsimmons

Rural Capacity Building Operations and Evaluation Manager

As the Rural Capacity Building Operations and Evaluation Manager, Ellen connects ILC’s Omaha office and partner organizations in other Nebraska communities.  In addition to overseeing day-to-day office activities, she is committed to building relationships across the state and evaluating the effectiveness of ILC’s legal services, education, and advocacy.  Ellen enjoys facilitating community engagement and development efforts and looks forward to supporting RCB services and programming.  Ellen earned a bachelor’s degree from Creighton University and a master’s degree from the University of Washington.

Chabelly Gurrola

Rural Capacity Building Paralegal - Scottsbluff

As the Rural Capacity Building Paralegal, Chabelly supports the Rural Capacity Building team with the provision of direct legal services to immigrants in the Scottsbluff/Gering area. She 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 her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice at Bellevue University. She is fluent in Spanish.

Isrrael Garcia, Jr.

Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership Legal Service Provider / DOJ-Accredited Representative

As an Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership (IMLP) Legal Service Provider, accredited by the Department of Justice, Isrrael provides legal assistance on the IMLP team with the provision of direct legal services to immigrants and their families who have significant medical needs. He works on cases involving Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status, asylum/refugee matters, U-visas, T-visas, humanitarian visas and family-based options, among others. Isrrael is a student in the Masters of Public Health program at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health. He is fluent in Spanish.

Dearra Godinez

Rural Capacity Building Managing Attorney

As the Rural Capacity Building Managing Attorney, Dearra provides education, advocacy, and legal services to Nebraska’s rural communities. 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 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” for her work in both states. She is proficient in Spanish.

Claudia Islas

Legal Administrative Assistant

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 & is currently working towards her Bachelor at Bellevue University. She is fluent in Spanish.

Jacob Huju

Rural Capacity Building Supervising Attorney

As the Rural Capacity Building Supervising Attorney, Jacob serves the immigrant communities across Eastern Nebraska. 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. He was awarded the Michelle Bennett Client Representation Award for his outstanding service in the law school’s clinic program and the Wunder Nonprofit Excellence Award for his dedication to nonprofit legal service providers. Prior to law school, Jacob worked with immigrants and Cuban refugees in Houston, Texas, and as a long-term, live-in volunteer staff member 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 English and Spanish.

Sanjuanita Jaimes

Senior Operations Manager - DOJ Accredited

As the Senior Operations Manager, “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.

Patricia Lant

Rural Capacity Building Paralegal - Nebraska City and Crete

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.

Emiliano Lerda, J.D., LL.M.

Executive Director

Originally from Argentina, Emiliano Lerda was drawn to America’s Midwest because its agricultural environment reminded him of his native Cordoba province. He joined ILC as Executive Director in 2011. Emiliano graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies at the University of Northern Iowa, becoming the first international student elected student body president. He earned his J.D. from Drake University Law School and certificates in Public Service Law, Food & Agriculture Law, and International Comparative and Human Rights Law. He earned his Master of Laws (LL.M.) from the University Of Arkansas School of Law. He also completed the Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program, in Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management. Emiliano is passionate about building sustainable organizations that make a positive impact in our community. He is fluent in Spanish.

Cristina López

Rural Capacity Building Legal Assistant

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.

Ruth Maldonado

Rural Capacity Building DOJ Accredited Representative - Lexington

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.

Craig McVea

Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership DOJ Accredited Representative

As the Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership (IMLP) Legal Service Provider, Craig supports the IMLP team by assisting with the provision of direct legal services to immigrants and their families who have significant medical needs. Craig earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Nebraska – Omaha and his J.D. from Creighton University School of Law. He also earned his Master of Economics from North Carolina State University where he studied the economic analysis of law.

Andres Ramirez

DOJ Accredited Representative - Southwest Iowa

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.

Jesus Ramirez

Rural Capacity Building Legal Assistant - Lexington

Rural Capacity Building Legal Assistant Jesus Ramirez assists the RCB team with the provision of direct legal services. She is currently studying Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska – Kearney. She’s planning attending law school to become an immigration attorney.

Joseline Reyna

Rural Capacity Building Paralegal - Grand Island

As the Rural Capacity Building Paralegal, Joseline supports the Rural Capacity Building team with the provision of direct legal services to immigrants in the Grand Island area.  Joseline 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 graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with her Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice in 2018. She is fluent in Spanish.

Jenna Ripke

Rural Capacity Building Attorney - Crete

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.

Josh Snowden

Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership Staff Attorney

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.

Alexis Steele

Policy Staff Attorney

As the Policy Staff Attorney, Alexis focuses on the intersection of labor and immigration law, working to craft creative, long-term solutions for her clients. Alexis is licensed to practice in both Nebraska and Iowa.  Alexis earned her Bachelor of Arts in English at Yale University. She then earned her J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law. She is fluent in Spanish.

Charity Thomas

Rural Capacity Building Legal Service Provider -
DOJ Accredited Representative - Grand Island

As the Rural Capacity Building Legal Service Provider in Grand Island, Charity supports the Rural Capacity Building team with the provision of direct legal services to immigrants in the Grand Island area.  Charity 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. Charity earned her Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Science from Bellevue University.

Kylynn Wagner

Operations Assistant

As the Operations Assistant, “Ky” works alongside the Operations Manager to support the day-to-day affairs of the organization and assist in addressing staff operational needs. Ky performs various administrative duties including the support of operations, clerical, accounting, and program responsibilities. Ky earned a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies at University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Gary Walters

Southwest Iowa Managing Attorney

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.