Leadership

Cathryn Miller-Wilson
Cathryn Miller-Wilson
Executive Director
Cathryn Miller-Wilson

Cathryn Miller-Wilson
Executive Director

Cathryn Miller-Wilson has been Executive Director of HIAS Pennsylvania since November, 2016. Prior to joining HIAS Pennsylvania as Deputy Director in June, 2014, she was a Visiting Assistant Professor at Villanova University School of Law where she co-taught the Civil Justice Clinic. She also taught Legal Writing. From September, 2008 through June, 2011 she was both the Deputy Managing Attorney at the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and an adjunct professor at Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law where she taught a Field Clinic. She has been a Custody and Support Master in Philadelphia’s Family Court, coordinator of the Delivery of Legal Services Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association, Director of the Parents with HIV/AIDS Project at the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and a staff attorney at Community Legal Services, Inc. where she represented parents accused of abuse and neglect. She co-founded, while in law school, the Custody and Support Assistance Clinic (CASAC) and today sits on the board of that organization. She is the primary author of Pennsylvania’s Standby Guardianship Act which became law in December, 1998. With support from the Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law, she created a medical/legal partnership between the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and the Jonathan Lax Treatment Center at Philadelphia FIGHT in 2007. She has made numerous presentations on family law, the unique issues in families affected by HIV/AIDS, standby guardianship, confidentiality and consumer rights issues. She has several law journal publications regarding legal ethics, disability law and policy and legal education. She graduated from Tufts University in 1989 and from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1993 and currently sits on the law school’s Board of Managers. In 2004 she was awarded the Penn Law Alumni Society’s Young Alumni Award for Professional Achievement.  

 

Lori Alexander
Lori Alexander
Director of Citizenship and Family Unification Program
Lori Alexander

Lori Alexander
Director of Citizenship and Family Unification Program

Lori Alexander has been employed at HIAS Pennsylvania since 1978. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Master of Social Work degree from Temple University. She has been accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals since November 1979 to represent clients before both the USCIS and EOIR. Over the years, she has successfully represented thousands of clients at interviews for naturalization, adjustment of status and other matters. Lori speaks four foreign languages: Russian, French, Spanish and Italian.

Rona Buchalter
Rona Buchalter
Director of Refugee Programming and Planning
Rona Buchalter

Rona Buchalter
Director of Refugee Programming and Planning

Rona Buchalter has developed and led several education-related programs in Philadelphia over the past 20 years. Most recently, she led the team founding Independence Charter School West in Southwest Philadelphia, a public K-8 school focused on global citizenship and language acquisition. Previously, she was the Founding Director of the Fellowships Office at Drexel University, where she created a program that worked with students to access, understand, and apply for nationally-competitive programs like Fulbright, Truman, Goldwater, and NSF grants, and received the President’s Award in recognition of the impact of the program on the university. She has been a board member at Independence Charter School, Project Flow (a collaboration between the city’s public and private schools, funded by EE Ford), and is currently a founding board member at the JMB Award, a small award for Philadelphia high school “girls with grit.”  Earlier in her career, she taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Swarthmore College and, even earlier, worked in various media production roles.

Rona received her Master’s and PhD from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, with a focus on urban studies, and a Bachelor’s in Communication Studies and Political Science from Northwestern University in Chicago.

She recently learned that her great-grandfather was resettled in the US from Odessa with the help of HIAS, giving extra resonance to her work with us.

Shaloo Jose
Shaloo Jose
Director of Asylee Outreach Program
Shaloo Jose

Shaloo Jose
Director of Asylee Outreach Program

Shaloo Jose is the Director of the Asylee Outreach Program at HIAS Pennsylvania. She works with asylees to obtain necessary documentation, benefits, employment services, and other critical resources on the path to self-sufficiency. She also represents asylees in adjustment of status applications, family unification petitions, and other post-asylum grant matters. Shaloo graduated as an attorney from India and practiced Trademarks and Copyrights law. Shaloo is accredited by the Department of Justice since 2008 to represent clients before USCIS for immigration matters. She joined HIAS Pennsylvania in 2007.

Jennifer M. Joseph
Jennifer M. Joseph
Director of Operations
Jennifer M. Joseph

Jennifer M. Joseph
Director of Operations

Jennifer Joseph joined HIAS Pennsylvania as the Director of Operations in 2019. She is a first generation Haitian-American who has a number of years of experience as an HR professional and has served as an Interim Director for a health care medical staffing organization. In addition to her extensive HR experience, she has experience writing grants, managing compliance issues, putting events together and monitoring compliance issues. Jennifer is also an accomplished speaker and a leader within the Haitian business and religious community. She has created leadership conferences for women of color and is the founder of a young adults mentorship program. Jennifer obtained a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Rosemont College, and she has a certification in Human Resources Management from Villanova University.

Daniella Nahmias Scruggs
Daniella Nahmias Scruggs
Director of Development
Daniella Nahmias Scruggs

Daniella Nahmias Scruggs
Director of Development

As Director of Development, Daniella Nahmias Scruggs connects donors, volunteers, and other supporters with the ways they can make the biggest impact on refugees’ and immigrants’ lives. She manages events, annual appeals, major giving, and communications while helping to oversee HIAS Pennsylvania’s volunteer and education programs.

Daniella is the daughter of Swedish mother and a Jewish Egyptian father. She graduated from Boston University summa cum laude with a BA with Distinction in Anthropology and History, and went on to get her MA in Anthropology from Princeton University. She has been working with refugee organizations since 2009, in Atlanta, GA, Stockholm, Sweden and Charlotte, NC, where she served on the Board of Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency.

Philippe Weisz
Philippe Weisz
Managing Attorney
Philippe Weisz

Philippe Weisz
Managing Attorney

Philippe Weisz has been an advocate for immigrant rights for over 20 years. He started his career as a staff attorney with the American Friends Service Committee’s Immigrant Rights Program in Newark, N.J.  There, he represented detained asylum seekers and immigrants from Central America. In 2000, he was named the program’s managing attorney. In 2006, he joined HIAS Pennsylvania as their managing attorney.

In addition to supervising its staff of attorneys and paralegals and handling his own caseload, Philippe oversees the agency’s educational activities. He has presented at professional conferences, trained pro-bono lawyers and provided training to staff at numerous social- and legal- services agencies. He also has been interviewed by English- and Spanish-language media on immigration matters.

Philippe has taught immigration law and supervised law school clinic students. He served as a visiting professor at the Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Social Justice International and Human Rights Clinic in 2004. In the 2008- 2009 school year, he was an adjunct professor in the Transnational Legal Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Philippe earned a B.A. in International Relations at Dickinson College in 1992. and a J.D. from the Washington College of Law at American University, where he also received an M.A. in International Relations.

Administration

Jennifer M. Joseph
Jennifer M. Joseph
Director of Operations
Jennifer M. Joseph

Jennifer M. Joseph
Director of Operations

Jennifer Joseph joined HIAS Pennsylvania as the Director of Operations in 2019. She is a first generation Haitian-American who has a number of years of experience as an HR professional and has served as an Interim Director for a health care medical staffing organization. In addition to her extensive HR experience, she has experience writing grants, managing compliance issues, putting events together and monitoring compliance issues. Jennifer is also an accomplished speaker and a leader within the Haitian business and religious community. She has created leadership conferences for women of color and is the founder of a young adults mentorship program. Jennifer obtained a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Rosemont College, and she has a certification in Human Resources Management from Villanova University.

Daniella Nahmias Scruggs
Daniella Nahmias Scruggs
Director of Development
Daniella Nahmias Scruggs

Daniella Nahmias Scruggs
Director of Development

As Director of Development, Daniella Nahmias Scruggs connects donors, volunteers, and other supporters with the ways they can make the biggest impact on refugees’ and immigrants’ lives. She manages events, annual appeals, major giving, and communications while helping to oversee HIAS Pennsylvania’s volunteer and education programs.

Daniella is the daughter of Swedish mother and a Jewish Egyptian father. She graduated from Boston University summa cum laude with a BA with Distinction in Anthropology and History, and went on to get her MA in Anthropology from Princeton University. She has been working with refugee organizations since 2009, in Atlanta, GA, Stockholm, Sweden and Charlotte, NC, where she served on the Board of Carolina Refugee Resettlement Agency.

Kerry Coughlin
Kerry Coughlin
Community Engagement Specialist
Kerry Coughlin

Kerry Coughlin
Community Engagement Specialist

Kerry Coughlin is the Community Engagement Specialist at HIAS Pennsylvania. She received her Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania and her B.A. in Comparative Literature from Hamilton College.  Kerry was introduced to HIAS Pennsylvania while working as an MSW intern with their citizenship team. Prior to pursuing her MSW, she was a manager at a software company in Conshohocken, PA. Kerry served for two years with the Peace Corps, performing youth development and English education work in the country of Moldova.  She volunteers with the Philadelphia-based non-profit Back on My Feet and was the Vice President of the Philadelphia chapter for Returned Peace Corps volunteers for four years. Kerry has volunteered with immigrants and refugees in a variety of roles and settings not only in Philadelphia but also in Utica, NY; Tucson, AZ; and Prague, Czech Republic.

Yvonne Leung
Yvonne Leung
Executive Assistant
Yvonne Leung

Yvonne Leung
Executive Assistant

Yvonne Leung joined HIAS Pennsylvania in August 2018.  She immigrated from Hong Kong and speaks Cantonese. She received her BA in Psychology from UC San Diego. Prior to working at HIAS Pennsylvania she was an AARS drug & alcohol counseling, LCFS foster care social worker, and CalSAC conference coordinator.

Latda "Loy" Omphommasack
Latda “Loy” Omphommasack
Office Assistant
Latda "Loy" Omphommasack

Latda “Loy” Omphommasack
Office Assistant

Latda “Loy” Omphommasack, HIAS Pennsylvania’s Office Assistant, started with the organization in 1987 as a secretary after graduating from Olney High School. She came to the United States as a refugee in 1980 with her aunt’s family. She speaks Thai, Lao and Cambodian.

Gabriela Rodriquez De Jesus
Gabriela Rodriquez De Jesus
Receptionist
Gabriela Rodriquez De Jesus

Gabriela Rodriquez De Jesus
Receptionist

Gabriela joined HIAS in June 2019. She was born in Puerto Rico and is of half Ecuadorian descent. She majored in International Development with a Latin American focus. Gabriela speaks English, Spanish & is currently learning Russian. She is committed to giving back and advocating for her community. After Hurricane Maria Gabriela co-founded a grassroots movement in Oregon, and was able to send over 1,000 lbs of aid to Puerto Rico. In her free time she volunteers at a South Philly ESL class and is always looking for new ways to raise awareness about current political and social affairs in Latin America & the Caribbean.

Asylee Outreach Project

Shaloo Jose
Shaloo Jose
Director of Asylee Outreach Program
Shaloo Jose

Shaloo Jose
Director of Asylee Outreach Program

Shaloo Jose is the Director of the Asylee Outreach Program at HIAS Pennsylvania. She works with asylees to obtain necessary documentation, benefits, employment services, and other critical resources on the path to self-sufficiency. She also represents asylees in adjustment of status applications, family unification petitions, and other post-asylum grant matters. Shaloo graduated as an attorney from India and practiced Trademarks and Copyrights law. Shaloo is accredited by the Department of Justice since 2008 to represent clients before USCIS for immigration matters. She joined HIAS Pennsylvania in 2007.

Enock Sanon
Enock Sanon
Asylee Outreach Case Manager
Enock Sanon

Enock Sanon
Asylee Outreach Case Manager

Enock Sanon is the Asylee Outreach Case Manager. Enock obtained his undergraduate degrees at Geneva College in Western PA. There, he received a B.A. in Sociology and B.S. in Political Science. He then earned a Master’s degree in International Development at Eastern University in Wayne, PA.

Enock is from the county of Haiti and has always been passionate about helping those marginalized in society. Prior to working at HIAS Pennsylvania, Enock interned with AJAPO, a refugee resettlement agency in Pittsburgh PA. He also interned with WORC (Women’s Opportunities Resource Center) here in Philadelphia which assists women, refugees, and other low-income individuals in obtaining many types of services including small business loans. Enock has also worked full time as a Truancy Case Manager with SEAMAAC, another Philadelphia non-profit that works with low-income individuals.

With a long track record of helping others in difficult situations, Enock is glad to be part of the HIAS Pennsylvania team where he can use his energy and talents to connect incoming refugee families with safe and secure housing as well as other vital resources needed when coming to a new country. With his personal and professional experience, Enock looks forward to helping families adjust to life in the US.

Legal Services Program

Philippe Weisz
Philippe Weisz
Managing Attorney
Philippe Weisz

Philippe Weisz
Managing Attorney

Philippe Weisz has been an advocate for immigrant rights for over 20 years. He started his career as a staff attorney with the American Friends Service Committee’s Immigrant Rights Program in Newark, N.J.  There, he represented detained asylum seekers and immigrants from Central America. In 2000, he was named the program’s managing attorney. In 2006, he joined HIAS Pennsylvania as their managing attorney.

In addition to supervising its staff of attorneys and paralegals and handling his own caseload, Philippe oversees the agency’s educational activities. He has presented at professional conferences, trained pro-bono lawyers and provided training to staff at numerous social- and legal- services agencies. He also has been interviewed by English- and Spanish-language media on immigration matters.

Philippe has taught immigration law and supervised law school clinic students. He served as a visiting professor at the Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Social Justice International and Human Rights Clinic in 2004. In the 2008- 2009 school year, he was an adjunct professor in the Transnational Legal Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Philippe earned a B.A. in International Relations at Dickinson College in 1992. and a J.D. from the Washington College of Law at American University, where he also received an M.A. in International Relations.

Damaris Aguilar
Damaris Aguilar
Paralegal
Damaris Aguilar

Damaris Aguilar
Paralegal

Damaris Aguilar joined HIAS Pennsylvania in 2018 as the receptionist before being promoted to paralegal. She graduated from the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Macros in Lima, Peru with a bachelor’s degree in Tourism Management; she then obtained a master’s degree in Hospitality Administration (2014) from the University of Kentucky. Aguilar also possesses certificates in medical interpretation (English-Spanish, Spanish-English), legal interpretation (English-Spanish, Spanish-English), and English as a Foreign Language, or “EFL” (also known as ESL and ELL). She both volunteered as an EFL teacher and studied EFL methodology. In addition to Spanish, she holds a basic level of French. Aguilar’s long-term professional interests include community development, agrotourism, and sustainability.

Tatiana Albarracin
Tatiana Albarracin
Immigrant Youth Advocacy Initiative Paralegal
Tatiana Albarracin

Tatiana Albarracin
Immigrant Youth Advocacy Initiative Paralegal

Tatiana Albarracin is the Immigrant Youth Advocacy Initiative Paralegal. She conducts Know Your Rights presentations and legal screenings to unaccompanied children in custody, maintains detailed tracking of each child and refers cases of released youth to legal services providers.

Tatiana was born and educated in La Paz, Bolivia, where she attended law school. She graduated from Bolivian Catholic University with honors in 2006, and was granted a research scholarship by the Latin American Department of Social Science (FLACSO). Before joining HIAS Pennsylvania in 2018, she spent 9 years working in Bolivian governmental organizations as an attorney.

Paige Cohen
Paige Cohen
Immigrant Victims of Crime Initiative Paralegal
Paige Cohen

Paige Cohen
Immigrant Victims of Crime Initiative Paralegal

Paige Cohen serves as Paralegal to the Immigrant Victims of Crime Initiative. Prior to joining HIAS Pennsylvania, Paige was Operations Assistant with Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, where she provided support to a bilingual, transnational migrant rights’ organization. She has long been a volunteer in Spanish-speaking communities, working as an ESL tutor at various Maryland public schools.

Paige graduated summa cum laude from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she studied Political Science with a regional specialization in Latin America.

Eliav Ehrenkrantz
Eliav Ehrenkrantz
Know Your Rights Specialist
Eliav Ehrenkrantz

Eliav Ehrenkrantz
Know Your Rights Specialist

Eliav Ehrenkrantz is a Know Your Rights Specialist at HIAS Pennsylvania. He graduated from The University of Massachusetts with a B.A. in Comparative Literature. After graduating he spent a year teaching English at Gorno-Altaisk State University in Gorno-Altaisk, Russia through The Fulbright Program. He previously worked as a Spanish interpreter in high school classrooms. He speaks Spanish and Russian.

Ayodele Gansallo
Ayodele Gansallo
Senior Staff Attorney
Ayodele Gansallo

Ayodele Gansallo
Senior Staff Attorney

Having initially qualified as a Solicitor in England and Wales, Ayodele Gansallo is also admitted as an attorney with the New York Bar. She has been working on Immigration and Nationality issues exclusively with non-profit organizations both here and in the U.K. for over twenty years. She is currently the senior attorney with HIAS Pennsylvania. Ayodele joined the organization in 1998, following completion of her LLM at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and now focuses her practice on complex litigation before the U.S. Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, Federal District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. In addition, she provides mentorship and training on immigration issues to pro bono attorneys and community groups.

Ayodele has been teaching at the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Transnational Legal Clinic since the 2010 academic year where she is an Adjunct Professor, She is the co-author of the publication, Understanding Immigration Law and Practice, a textbook and practice guide for paralegal and law students, and newer practitioners on the complexities of immigration law. She is a frequent presenter at CLE courses held by the Pennsylvania Bar Institute and the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association, or AILA.

Ayodele is Secretary of the Philadelphia Chapter of AILA. She is also a member of the Mayor’s Commission on African and Caribbean Immigrant Affairs. Ayodele is a recipient of the AILA Philadelphia Chapter Matthew Baxter Mentorship Award, co-recipient of the AILA Philadelphia Chapter 2017 Pro Bono Champion Award, a recipient of SEAMAAC’s Unsung Heroine Award for 2017, the Philadelphia Bar Foundation Award for 2017 and 1st Place recipient of the Global Women P.E.A.C.E. Foundation 2018 Legal Award.

Rona Gershon
Rona Gershon
Intake Supervising Attorney
Rona Gershon

Rona Gershon
Intake Supervising Attorney

Rona Gershon is the Intake Supervising Attorney with HIAS Pennsylvania. She originally joined the Legal Department in November 2014 as a Cardozo Law Institute for Human Rights Fellow, and primarily focused on representing victims of domestic violence and children. Rona obtained her J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in 2014. During law school, Rona was a legal intern at Her Justice, The Legal Aid Society, and Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation.  Rona also worked as a Clinical Student Intern at the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic and Cardozo’s Divorce Mediation Clinic. Rona is admitted to practice law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey (2014).

Juliet Happy
Juliet Happy
Paralegal
Juliet Happy

Juliet Happy
Paralegal

Juliet Happy serves as a paralegal supporting senior staff attorney Ayodele Gansallo. Prior to joining HIAS Pennsylvania, Juliet worked as a Refugee Resettlement Case Manager at the Nationalities Service Center and volunteered in a vocational English class at the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.

Juliet graduated with an MA in Modern Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the University of Michigan in 2015.
Zaid Hatoum
Zaid Hatoum
Removal Defense Attorney
Zaid Hatoum

Zaid Hatoum
Removal Defense Attorney

Zaid Hatoum obtained his LL.B. (Bachelor of Law) from Damascus University in Syria and then temporarily worked as an attorney in Dubai. He returned to Damascus University as a postgraduate student and did advanced studies for two years in International Law. In 2009, he started working at International Organization for Migration (U.N. Migration Agency) in Damascus and was dispatched to Jordan, Cairo and the border between Egypt and Libya. While at the U.N, Zaid worked in various capacities including working with refugees under the U.S. Refugee Admission Program, international workers with the Emergency Team and internally displaced individuals under the Humanitarian Relief Program.

Zaid left Syria in August 2013 and attended law school at Temple University Beasley School of Law where he earned his Master of Laws degree.

Upon graduating from law school, Zaid completed a summer legal internship at HIAS Pennsylvania and then joined the refugee resettlement team until 2018. He transitioned to the legal team where he represented survivors of torture for asylum, adjustment of status, citizenship and other immigration benefits. In June 2019, Zaid became the Removal Defense Staff Attorney and he currently represents clients in different types of relief from deportation before the Immigration Court.

Zaid is the 2013 recipient of Philadelphia Bar Association’s International Law Committee Award for Outstanding Achievement in International Law/Human Rights. He is passionate about defending human rights for marginalized people and hopes to continue working with vulnerable populations in his legal career.

Gerardo Castillo Jimenez
Gerardo Castillo Jimenez
Latino Outreach and Immigration Services Coordinator
Gerardo Castillo Jimenez

Gerardo Castillo Jimenez
Latino Outreach and Immigration Services Coordinator

Gerardo Castillo Jimenz was born and raised in Puebla, Mexico. He and his family moved to the United States in 2002, when he was 13 years old. In 2012, he became eligible to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Gerardo received his Associates Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Lehigh Carbon Community College in 2013, and his Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Kutztown University in 2015. He worked at KidsPeace with unaccompanied minors as a Youth Care Worker and Case Manager for two years. Gerardo joined HIAS Pennsylvania as a Know Your Rights Specialist in late 2015 and now coordinates the Latino Outreach and Immigration Services Initiative.

Noelle Lemon
Noelle Lemon
Equal Justice Works Trafficking Victim Fellow
Noelle Lemon

Noelle Lemon
Equal Justice Works Trafficking Victim Fellow

Noelle Lemon is an Equal Justice Works Crime Victims Justice Corps Fellow and is part of the Immigrant Youth Advocacy Project (IYAP) team at HIAS Pennsylvania. Noelle is one of forty-five Equal Justice Works fellows across the country specifically dedicated to serving human trafficking survivors through the Crime Victims Justice Corps program. She works with the IYAP team to provide immigration legal services to low-income children in Pennsylvania with a focus on trafficking survivors. Noelle graduated from Drexel’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law in May 2018.

Stephanie Lubert
Stephanie Lubert
Immigrant Youth Initiative Staff Attorney
Stephanie Lubert

Stephanie Lubert
Immigrant Youth Initiative Staff Attorney

Stephanie Lubert joined HIAS Pennsylvania in 2015 as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellow. In her current position, Stephanie provides direct representation to unaccompanied minors in removal proceedings, pro se assistance, and community outreach.  She previously held a staff attorney position at the Crime Victims Law Project where she represented survivors of sexual assault in family law and immigration matters.  Prior to law school, Stephanie worked for two years as a case manager at Catholic Charities’ St. Frances Cabrini Center for Immigration Legal Assistance in Houston, TX.  Stephanie hails from the great state of Tennessee.  She obtained her law degree from Villanova University and her undergraduate degree from Fordham University.

Mary McCabe
Mary McCabe
Know Your Rights Coordinator
Mary McCabe

Mary McCabe
Know Your Rights Coordinator

Mary McCabe is a Know Your Rights Coordinator at HIAS Pennsylvania.  She provides Know Your Rights presentations, legal screenings and referrals for unaccompanied Central American children and teenagers in custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.  Before joining HIAS Pennsylvania as an attorney, spent many years as a volunteer. After graduating from Harvard Law School, Mary was a staff attorney at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN), where she worked with Salvadoran asylum seekers.  She also worked as a staff attorney at the detention project of Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC). At CLINIC, she represented detained asylum seekers and coordinated informational presentations and screening interviews for detainees.

Michelle Nava
Michelle Nava
Immigrant Victims of Crime Initiative Case Manager
Michelle Nava

Michelle Nava
Immigrant Victims of Crime Initiative Case Manager

Michelle Nava is the Case Manager for the Immigrant Victims of Crime Initiative at HIAS Pennsylvania. With a strong passion to serve and advocate for those in need, Michelle looks forward to providing support, self-sufficiency, and direct social services to immigrant survivors of violence and serious crimes.

Prior to joining HIAS Pennsylvania she worked right out of college as a Family Advocate for families enrolled in Early Head Start and Head Start programs in the South Philadelphia community with Montgomery Early Learning Center and Maternity Care Coalition, respectively. Working with low-income families struggling with language barriers, accessibility to basic needs and general social services has cemented Michelle’s dedication in social work and advocacy. She received her B.A. in Spanish/Social Work from Immaculata University in 2016.

Lauren Nicosia
Lauren Nicosia
Immigrant Victims of Crime Initiative Compliance Officer
Lauren Nicosia

Lauren Nicosia
Immigrant Victims of Crime Initiative Compliance Officer

Lauren Nicosia is a passionate social worker who has has worked alongside at-risk adolescents in Camden, New Jersey to then managing a community outreach office in South Philadelphia.  She has her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as, dual Bachelor degrees in Social Work and History from Rutgers University. When she isn’t glued to a computer screen, she spends her time spending quality time with her family and friends, going to the movies, and visiting local museums.

Marissa Piña Rodriguez
Marissa Piña Rodriguez
Know Your Rights Coordinator
Marissa Piña Rodriguez

Marissa Piña Rodriguez
Know Your Rights Coordinator

Marissa Piña Rodríguez is a Know Your Rights Coordinator at HIAS Pennsylvania. She provides Know Your Rights presentations, legal screenings and referrals for unaccompanied Central American children and teenagers in custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Before joining HIAS Pennsylvania, Marissa was a community organizer at the South Philly Latinx and immigrant rights organization, Juntos, where she helped lead the #EndPARS campaign which successfully forced the city of Philadelphia to no longer renew its arrest database sharing contract with ICE, thereby expanding our current Sanctuary City policy and providing crucial protections to non-citizens. She has also worked as a paralegal at an immigration law office and as an English and Writing instructor for K-12 students.  

Marissa was born in Jalisco, Mexico and migrated with her family to the US in the early 1990s, settling in California. Growing up both in a border state and in a mixed status family, Marissa became an immigrant rights activist and abolitionist. The first in her family to graduate from college where she earned her B.A. in Philosophy, English, and Latin American Studies, Marissa plans on pursuing law school in the near future.

Rachel Rutter
Rachel Rutter
Immigrant Youth Initiative Staff Attorney
Rachel Rutter

Rachel Rutter
Immigrant Youth Initiative Staff Attorney

Rachel Rutter is an Immigrant Youth Staff Attorney at HIAS Pennsylvania. Rachel represents unaccompanied minors in removal proceedings. Rachel graduated summa cum laude from Gettysburg College in 2011. In 2016, Rachel graduated from the Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law. Prior to law school, Rachel served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Costa Rica, where she taught English as a foreign language and worked on youth development projects. Since college, Rachel has created and implemented supportive programs for at-risk youth in the US and abroad. She currently runs a small non-profit, Project Libertad, dedicated to providing support to at-risk migrant students in Chester County. Rachel has lived and worked in Costa Rica, Spain, and Puerto Rico.

Jonah Santiago Pagán
Jonah Santiago Pagán
Immigrant Youth Initiative Staff Attorney
Jonah Santiago Pagán

Jonah Santiago Pagán
Immigrant Youth Initiative Staff Attorney

Jonah Santiago Pagán is an Immigrant Youth Staff Attorney at HIAS Pennsylvania. Jonah represents detained unaccompanied minors in family reunification and removal proceedings. Jonah graduated from New College of Florida in 2014, where he concentrated on the study of Constitutional Rights Comprehension through Language Barriers. In 2018, Jonah graduated from Drexel’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law, where he served as the Vice President of Finance of the Student Bar Association and President of the Latin American Law Students Association. Jonah completed his co-op at the House Committee on Oversight and Reform under the leadership of Representative Elijah E. Cummings and participated in Drexel’s Community Lawyering Clinic. Prior to law school, Jonah worked as an investigator at the Office of the Public Defender in Sarasota, Florida, where he functioned as a liaison between detained clients and their attorneys. Jonah was born and raised in Puerto Rico and appreciates the privilege of connecting with clients and their families in Spanish.

Vleidmy R. Velarde
Vleidmy R. Velarde
Immigrant Victims of Crime Initiative Supervisor
Vleidmy R. Velarde

Vleidmy R. Velarde
Immigrant Victims of Crime Initiative Supervisor

Vleidmy R. Velarde joined HIAS Pennsylvania in August of 2008 to help provide legal services to the Latino immigrant community in Philadelphia. Born in Venezuela, she came to the United States in 2001 as a student and earned her Master’s in International Legal Studies and American Law from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law in 2007. Prior to joining HIAS Pennsylvania, she worked as a legal interpreter and a legal assistant at a boutique immigration law firm.

Ms. Velarde graduated as an attorney from the Law School of Universidad Catolica de Tachira, Venezuela, in 2000. She practiced business, corporate, employment and family law prior to taking a position as the Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel for a private Hospital in Venezuela.

Since joining the legal services department at HIAS Pennsylvania, she has become an Accredited Representative and supervises the Immigrant Victim of Crime Initiative. In May 2011, she co-authored, with Judith Bernstein-Baker, an article about a case that was published in the Philadelphia Bar Association Foundation newsletter, titled “A New Citizen Becomes a Proud Marine.”

Chloe Walton
Chloe Walton
PPR Legal Coordinator
Chloe Walton

Chloe Walton
PPR Legal Coordinator

Liz Yaeger
Liz Yaeger
Immigrant Youth Advocacy Initiative Supervising Attorney
Liz Yaeger

Liz Yaeger
Immigrant Youth Advocacy Initiative Supervising Attorney

Liz Yaeger is the Supervising Attorney of HIAS Pennsylvania’s Immigrant Youth Advocacy Project (IYAP), the only program of its kind dedicated to providing immigration legal services to low-income children in Pennsylvania. In this capacity, Liz oversees the IYAP’s Know Your Rights and direct representation projects, and represents children before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service and in immigration court. Liz has trained attorneys, educators, and other child-serving professionals on immigration issues impacting youth. Before joining HIAS Pennsylvania, Liz clerked for the New Jersey Judiciary and was a staff attorney with the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center (PIRC), where she provided Know Your Rights trainings to detained non-citizens and represented vulnerable individuals in immigration court. Liz is a 2009 graduate of the Temple University Beasley School of Law, where she served as a note/comment editor on the Temple Political and Civil Rights Law Review.

Citizenship and Family Unification Program

Lori Alexander
Lori Alexander
Director of Citizenship and Family Unification Program
Lori Alexander

Lori Alexander
Director of Citizenship and Family Unification Program

Lori Alexander has been employed at HIAS Pennsylvania since 1978. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Master of Social Work degree from Temple University. She has been accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals since November 1979 to represent clients before both the USCIS and EOIR. Over the years, she has successfully represented thousands of clients at interviews for naturalization, adjustment of status and other matters. Lori speaks four foreign languages: Russian, French, Spanish and Italian.

Mary Clark
Mary Clark
P-CAN Coordinator
Mary Clark

Mary Clark
P-CAN Coordinator

Mary Clark serves as the Philadelphia Citizenship Action Network (P-CAN) Coordinator at HIAS Pennsylvania. The P-CAN partnership works to increase naturalization rates in low-income and underserved immigrant communities throughout the city and surrounding counties.

Mary joined HIAS Pennsylvania in 2017. She was previously the Executive Director of Esperanza Immigration Legal Services (EILS), an organization that provides direct legal serves, education, and advocacy to primarily Latino immigrants and their families in the Philadelphia area. A graduate of Brown University and Temple University Beasley School of Law, Mary has worked in the field of immigration law since 2009. Prior to law school, she served in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.

Raisa Davidovich
Raisa Davidovich
Legal Specialist
Raisa Davidovich

Raisa Davidovich
Legal Specialist

Raisa Davidovich has been employed by HIAS Pennsylvania since 1997. Born and raised in Moldova, Raisa graduated from the University of Foreign Languages in Pyatigorsk, Russia, with a degree in teaching. Later, she earned a degree in patent searching. With the help of HIAS Pennsylvania, she came to the United States as a refugee. In her current position, she represents clients at naturalization and adjustment-of-status interviews before USCIS, and she teaches ESL and citizenship- preparation classes for different ethnic groups. She was accredited by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals in May 2000 and she is fluent in Russian.

Marina Merlin
Marina Merlin
Legal Specialist
Marina Merlin

Marina Merlin
Legal Specialist

Marina Merlin, born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, arrived in the United State as a refugee and joined the HIAS Pennsylvania staff soon after arrival, first as a volunteer with the advisory committee, then as a staff member. During her years at HIAS Pennsylvania, she has assisted hundreds of immigrants and refugees through the immigration process and resettlement.

Marina graduated with a civil engineering degree from St. Petersburg’s School of Engineering and Science. She has partial accreditation from the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) to represent immigrants before USCIS.

Nighat Noel
Nighat Noel
Citizenship Assistant
Nighat Noel

Nighat Noel
Citizenship Assistant

Nighat Noel is a Citizenship Assistant at HIAS Pennsylvania. She assists the clients with their citizenship applications. She has an Associate degree in Paralegal Studies from the Community College of Philadelphia. She is part of the Honor Society, Phi Theta Kappa, and has an interest in the Fine Arts. Noel is also fluent in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and English, which she utilizes in her work as an interpreter.

Refugee And Immigrant Social Services

Rona Buchalter
Rona Buchalter
Director of Refugee Programming and Planning
Rona Buchalter

Rona Buchalter
Director of Refugee Programming and Planning

Rona Buchalter has developed and led several education-related programs in Philadelphia over the past 20 years. Most recently, she led the team founding Independence Charter School West in Southwest Philadelphia, a public K-8 school focused on global citizenship and language acquisition. Previously, she was the Founding Director of the Fellowships Office at Drexel University, where she created a program that worked with students to access, understand, and apply for nationally-competitive programs like Fulbright, Truman, Goldwater, and NSF grants, and received the President’s Award in recognition of the impact of the program on the university. She has been a board member at Independence Charter School, Project Flow (a collaboration between the city’s public and private schools, funded by EE Ford), and is currently a founding board member at the JMB Award, a small award for Philadelphia high school “girls with grit.”  Earlier in her career, she taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Swarthmore College and, even earlier, worked in various media production roles.

Rona received her Master’s and PhD from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, with a focus on urban studies, and a Bachelor’s in Communication Studies and Political Science from Northwestern University in Chicago.

She recently learned that her great-grandfather was resettled in the US from Odessa with the help of HIAS, giving extra resonance to her work with us.

Caroline Anapol
Caroline Anapol
Resettlement Case Manager
Caroline Anapol

Caroline Anapol
Resettlement Case Manager

Caroline Anapol serves as the Resettlement Case Manager. She welcomes newly arrived refugees and supports them through their first few months in the US as they work towards self-sufficiency. At HIAS Pennsylvania, she has previously served in various capacities on the Refugee Resettlement team, including on the Education team, as Health Coordinator, and on the Preferred Communities program, providing intensive case management and extended cultural orientation to clients with extra vulnerabilities.

Caroline attended George Washington University, where she studied International Development and Conflict Resolution. She first began to work with immigrant and refugee populations as a volunteer ESL teacher. She has continued to teach English to these populations and to other communities in cities and countries around the world. Most recently, she taught English to children, teens, and adults in Mohammedia, Morocco. Caroline loves working with such an interesting and diverse group of staff, volunteers, and clients at HIAS Pennsylvania.  

Amy Eckendorf
Amy Eckendorf
Immigrant Wellness Program Manager
Amy Eckendorf

Amy Eckendorf
Immigrant Wellness Program Manager

Amy Eckendorf currently works as HIAS Pennsylvania’s Immigrant Wellness Program Manager.  A graduate of a liberal arts college in Western New York, Amy studied Intercultural Studies and Sociology. After completing her education, she served a term with AmeriCorps in Buffalo, NY as a case manager at a post- refugee resettlement agency. She relocated to Philadelphia to work at a homeless shelter for youth. She initially got connect to HIAS Pennsylvania with the intention of volunteering with the Resettlement Team. Instead, she ended up finding a more permanent place. In her current role, Amy welcomes and supports newly arrived refugees during their first few months in the United States. She also provides longer term intensive case management to individuals who have particularly challenging physical, mental health or social barriers to achieving self sufficiency.

Michelle Ferguson
Michelle Ferguson
Education Specialist
Michelle Ferguson

Michelle Ferguson
Education Specialist

Michelle Ferguson serves as an Immigrant Education Specialist on the Resettlement Team. She conducts professional development trainings on best practices for working with refugee students, assists and supports family and individual educational needs, and teaches in the Adult ESL program.

Michelle is a recent graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor’s of Arts in Linguistics with a certificate in American Sign Language. Michelle first became involved at HIAS PA as an intern on the Education team and went on to volunteer as a mentor in the High School Saturday Program. She is so excited to be able to serve at HIAS Pennsylvania and be a voice for refugee students and families.

Jade Flora-Holmquist
Jade Flora-Holmquist
Refugee Resettlement Program Manager
Jade Flora-Holmquist

Jade Flora-Holmquist
Refugee Resettlement Program Manager

Jade Flora-Holmquist is the Refugee Resettlement Program Manager at HIAS Pennsylvania. She received her Master of Social Work with a clinical concentration and an international emphasis from Rutgers University. Ms. Flora-Holmquist also received her Bachelor of Social Work from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. Ms. Flora-Holmquist completed her MSW internship with First Friends of New Jersey and New York where she worked on immigration reform and immigrant rights advocacy, and also served as a regular visitor of immigrant detainees in northern New Jersey detention centers. After completing her MSW,  Ms. Flora-Holmquist worked for a refugee resettlement agency in New Jersey as the Youth Program Coordinator for three years, and has years of volunteer experience as an in-home tutor for refugee youth.

Valeri Harteg
Valeri Harteg
Education Program Manager
Valeri Harteg

Valeri Harteg
Education Program Manager

Valeri Harteg is a native of Reading, Pennsylvania and currently works as the Refugee Education Program Manager at HIAS Pennsylvania. She attended Franklin and Marshall College, where she studied psychology and also took on several leadership roles in campus organizations, including a student-run human rights advocacy coalition. Valeri received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship grant that took her to Guatemala after graduating from college in 2011. In addition to developing her passion for teaching while living abroad, Valeri also furthered her interest in intercultural relations and human rights advocacy. Soon after returning to the US, she began an M.S.Ed. program in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Temple University and was able to combine her love of teaching with her interest in supporting immigrant populations through her work as a volunteer ESL instructor for refugee English classes. At HIAS Pennsylvania, Valeri continues to teach English to new Americans in addition to coordinating two after-school programs for refugee youth in Northeast Philadelphia. She is deeply grateful that she can live out her passion for education while being a voice of welcome to refugees in Philadelphia.

Charlie Heil
Charlie Heil
Education Specialist
Charlie Heil

Charlie Heil
Education Specialist

Charlie Heil is an ESL Instructor at HIAS Pennsylvania, working primarily with preliterate and beginner-level refugee, asylee and immigrant adults and youth. He is a graduate of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland with an MA (Hons) in English-Art History. Charlie’s first experience as a teacher happened in 2002, when he moved to Barcelona to attend an ESOL training course and wound up spending two years teaching at a military base in León, Spain. Since then, his career in education has taken him to New York, Miami and London, where he has served as a teacher, academic manager and college principal. Upon returning to Philadelphia, he started volunteering at HIAS Pennsylvania in 2016, and this eventually led to a full-time position with the agency. When not preparing lessons and assigning homework, Charlie acts in plays, make short films and wanders around Eastern State Penitentiary dressed as a ghoul during Halloween season.

Meagan Hume
Meagan Hume
Health Coordinator
Meagan Hume

Meagan Hume
Health Coordinator

Bestman Judue
Bestman Judue
Resettlement Case Manager
Bestman Judue

Bestman Judue
Resettlement Case Manager

As a Refugee and Immigrant Case Manager with HIAS Pennsylvania, Bestman Judue links refugees with community resources to enable them acculturate and lead healthy lives. He immigrated to the US as a refugee from Liberia, West Africa- where he often volunteered over the years to help address postwar and post Ebola issues. Prior to working with HIAS Pennsylvania, he worked as WASH Focal Point/Advisor to the Minister of Public Works, Republic of Liberia, and a Volunteer School Principal (pre-k to 9th).

He holds a BS in Human Services from Springfield College, MS in Administration of Human Services from Wilmington University, and have worked in various roles (i.e. Clinician, Behavior Health Worker, Program Supervisor, Therapeutic Support Staff, etc.) providing mental health services to consumers in the home, school, and community settings in Pennsylvania. Organizations worked for include Devereux PA Adult Services, Devereux BHRS, WES Health Systems, Staffing Plus Inc., etc.

Jennifer Selpa
Jennifer Selpa
Employment AmeriCorps VISTA
Jennifer Selpa

Jennifer Selpa
Employment AmeriCorps VISTA

Jennifer Selpa is currently serving as the Refugee and Asylee Employment and Self-Sufficiency AmeriCorps VISTA under the Matching Grant Employment Program. Her VISTA project includes working to help build the capacity of the employment program through resource development and volunteer mobilization with students from the University of Pennsylvania’s Civic House. She is a recent graduate of Villanova University where she majored in Political Science with a minor in Peace and Justice. Previously, Jennifer worked with non-profits that work to support people experiencing housing and food insecurity. She is excited to work to build refugees’ self-sufficiency and security during her year at HIAS Pennsylvania.

Gin Sum
Gin Sum
Employment Program Manager
Gin Sum

Gin Sum
Employment Program Manager

Gin Sum was born in Burma where he lived with his father and mother and his four siblings in Chin Hill. His father was a Christian spiritual leader who was targeted by the military junta. When Gin was just three years old, his father fled Burma to the United States where he gained asylum. Gin’s family was separated from his father for 17 years. They eventually fled to India where they applied for refugee protection.

In 2009, Gin’s father developed a terminal illness.  He reached out to HIAS Pennsylvania seeking assistance to be reunited with his family. HIAS Pennsylvania helped expedite the family reunification application and finally, in December 2009 Gin and his family were reunited with his father.  Gin and his family are grateful they had a year together before his father passed away.

Gin joined our refugee resettlement team as a case aide in January 2011. He was promoted to Refugee Housing & Basic Needs Coordinator job in July 2014 and became Employment Program Manger in July 2016. Gin speaks Burmese and Tedim (Zomi) dialect.