DONATE
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

Legal Receptionist and Client Advocate

Veronica is the first point of contact with new clients and helps with day-to-day operations, including answering phone calls and greeting clients as they come in for appointments and people who walk in, knowing our organization’s mission to help. As the first face and voice of ILC’s Omaha office, Veronica is aware of cultural differences and responds respectfully to people of all cultures, racial, and ethnic backgrounds, religions, and languages. She is fluent in Spanish.

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.

Magdalena Cazarez

Communications and
Development Assistant

As the Communications and Development Assistant, Magdalena is responsible for helping with all communication and media relations efforts. Magdalena graduated from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising and Public Relations. She is fluent in Spanish.

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 works in ILC’s Lexington office. 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

Child and Family Staff 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

Domestic Violence
Managing Attorney

As the Domestic Violence 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.

Charles Shane Ellison

Deputy Executive Director and
Legal Director

As 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 and sits on the Board of Directors of the National Board of Immigration Lawyers. He is proficient in Spanish.

Emily Galas

Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership Legal Assistant

Emily supports the ILC Immigrant Medical Legal Partnership Team. Emily graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and International Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Before joining ILC, she worked in human resources at an insurance company, taught English in Brazil, and worked as a realtor. She is proficient in Spanish.

Isrrael Garcia, Jr.

Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership Paralegal

As the Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership (IMLP) Paralegal, Isrrael supports the IMLP team by assisting 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, and family-based options, among others. Isrrael is currently studying Hospital Administration and Policy, and Political Science at Creighton University. 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.

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.

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.

Ruth Maldonado

Rural Capacity Building Paralegal - 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.

Virginia Maynes

Child and Family Managing Attorney

As the Child and Family Managing Attorney, Virginia specializes in cases involving immigrant children and their families. She is licensed to practice law in Missouri and Nebraska and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Virginia earned dual degrees in Political Science and American Studies from Brigham Young University. She graduated cum laude from Washington University Law School. Virginia previously interned for the U.S. immigration court in Kansas City as well as Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) in Washington, D.C. She is fluent in Spanish.

Maria V. Mendoza

Domestic Violence DOJ-Accredited Representative

As the Domestic Violence DOJ-Accredited Representative, Maria supports the Domestic Violence Managing Attorney and manages cases of her own. She also provides educational presentations to law enforcement agencies on immigration benefits to victims of crime. Maria graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice and a minor in Political Science from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Social Work and Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is fluent in Spanish.

Dorian E. Rojas

Child and Family Staff Attorney

Dorian specializes in cases involving immigrant children and their families. Raised in New York, she has diverse employment experience in both the private and public sector. Dorian is licensed to practice law in New York, Nebraska, and the District of Columbia. Dorian earned dual degrees in Public Policy & Law and Performing Arts from Trinity College. Dorian graduated from St. John’s University School of Law. She is fluent in Spanish.

Mindy Rush Chipman

Senior Managing Attorney

Mindy coordinates ILC’s efforts to promote inclusivity by offering education and advocacy as well as the availability of high-quality immigration legal services focused in Nebraska rural communities. In addition, Mindy also serves as an officer for several different nonprofit organizations that promote advocacy for the underrepresented and community service. Mindy graduated with distinction from Nebraska College of Law. She is licensed to practice law in Nebraska and Colorado. Before joining ILC, Mindy served as an attorney at Legal Aid of Nebraska, where she was instrumental in the launch of the Nebraska Immigration Legal Assistance Hotline (NILAH).

Annette Sneckenberg

Contracted Chief
Financial Officer

As the Contracted Chief Financial Officer, Annette takes a progressive approach to creating a seamless flow across all areas including finance, accounting, IT, and human resources. She works with ILC to develop financial models and strategies that help direct company growth. Annette earned her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an emphasis in Accounting from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Josh Snowden

Immigrant-focused Medical Legal Partnership Staff Attorney

Josh works with the Immigration-focused Medical Legal Partnership team. 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

Immigrant Worker Attorney

As the Immigrant Worker 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.

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

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.