Our Staff

Department

Location

Luis Arias

Luis Arias

Director, Institutional Giving

Brenda Balcarcel

Brenda Balcarcel

Human Resources Assistant/Office Coordinator

Peter Chan

Peter Chan

Director of Information Technology

Warren Craig

Warren Craig

Supervising Senior Staff Attorney

Vlad Davydovych

Vlad Davydovych

Finance Accountant

Diana Diaz

Diana Diaz

Social Worker

Diyerly “DJ” Duque

Diyerly “DJ” Duque

Human Resources Generalist

Grace Ewing

Grace Ewing

Development Coordinator

Miranda Hawkins

Miranda Hawkins

Event Operations Associate

Navid Ahmad Hewadwal

Navid Ahmad Hewadwal

Legal Services Coordinator, Special Projects

Quentin Hines

Quentin Hines

Chief of Staff

Seelai Karzai

Seelai Karzai

Afghanistan Advocacy Campaign Manager

Carla Medina

Carla Medina

Office Coordinator/Receptionist

Kyyon Nelson

Kyyon Nelson

Budget and Grants Manager

Kurt Pacquette

Kurt Pacquette

Senior Vice President, Finance

Ioana Răducu

Ioana Răducu

Associate Attorney

Diana Rodriguez Flores

Diana Rodriguez Flores

Staff Attorney

Dennis Rosensteel

Dennis Rosensteel

Systems Security Analyst

Fatima Safi

Fatima Safi

Legal Services Coordinator, Special Projects

About

Eleanor Acer

Recent Articles:

Upholding President Biden's Asylum Commitments Pandemic as Pretext The Real Solution: Regional Response Rather than Border Closures, Mass Incarceration, and Refugee Returns A Sordid Scheme: The Trump Administration’s Illegal Return of Asylum Seekers to Mexico Orders from Above: Massive Human Rights Abuses Under Trump Administration Return to Mexico Policy Human Rights Fiasco: The Trump Administration’s Dangerous Asylum Returns Continue A Year of Horrors: The Trump Administration’s Illegal Returns of Asylum Seekers to Danger in Mexico Sweeping Guatemala Agreement Illegal and Inhumane Is Honduras Safe for Refugees and Asylum Seekers? Is Guatemala Safe for Refugees and Asylum Seekers? Real Solutions to the Disorder at the Border Compact on Migration Adopted, But Without America Top 10 Reasons Family Incarceration is Not a Solution Trump's Fabricated Border Crisis Will Trump DHS Nominee Adhere to International Law? Remembering Juan Osuna A Sign of Desperation: Syrian Refugees are Selling Their Organs Parole Denials Lead to Increased Detention Under Trump’s Executive Order Executive Orders Could Block Access to Asylum for Vulnerable Individuals U.S. Should Not Turn away Asylum Seekers at its Borders Barring Refugees Would Hurt National Security President Trump to Issue Revised Executive Order—Will It Be Better or Worse? Questions for Secretary Kelly United States to Resettle Refugees Languishing Indefinitely in Australian Off-Shore Detention Centers The World Humanitarian Summit and Beyond Utah Shows the Way on Welcoming Refugees Obama’s Opportunity in Germany The Right to Run Deserving Asylum Seekers are Trapped in Detention, Like Military Interpreter Samey Human Rights First Expresses Concern on Some Proposed Asylum Changes A Death in Limbo: How one refugee family’s loss demonstrates the toll of resettlement backlogs They Hear Us: The Toxic U.S. Debate about Refugee Resettlement Refugees Shouldn't Be Deported Federal Court Got It Right: Detaining Mothers and Children to Deter Other Asylum Seekers Is Wrong President’s Budget Recognizes Need for More Immigration Judges, but Congress Should Fund More Report Details Flaws in U.S. Immigration Detention System Alternatives to Detention are a No-Brainer Christmas in Immigration Detention U.S. Pledges to Resettle More Syrian Refugees, But Doesn’t Say How Many In-Country Refugee Processing for At-Risk Children in Central America: Potential Benefits and Risks More Needs to be Done to Address the Syrian Refugee Crisis Syrian Refugees: The Snow is Just One of Many Dire Challenges The Guardian: America has resettled 121 of Syria's 2m refugees. We must do better – now Refugees in Egypt Urgently Need Protection Bipartisan Call to Address Impact of Immigration Inadmissibility Provisions Addressing the Challenges of Immigrant Representation in Louisiana Human Rights First Researches Asylum System at U.S. – Mexican Border Asylum Seekers Facing Religious and other Persecution Impacted by Impediments to Protection, in Europe and the United States U.S. Government Should Take Steps to Address Challenges Due to Border Surge TAKE ACTION: Urge Congress to Address the Border Crisis by Properly Funding Immigration Courts Fraud Prevention Tools in Immigration System Should Be Strengthened without Adding Unnecessary Burden Strong U.S. Commitment and Leadership Key to Launch of Global Resettlement Initiative for Syrian Refugees Asylum and the Border: Setting the Record Straight Faith, Human Rights Groups to Urge U.S. Leadership in Protecting the Persecuted Fraud Prevention Tools in Immigration System Should Be Strengthened without Adding Unnecessary Burden Eleanor Acer "Safe" Zones Should Not Trap Syrian Refugees Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Support Asylum Reform to Protect Refugees ABA and CMS Event Focuses on ABA Civil Immigration Detention Standards and Need to Reform U.S. Immigration Detention Policies Debating Immigration Detention Reform

Eleanor Acer

Senior Director, Refugee Protection

As the director of Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection program, Eleanor Acer oversees Human Rights First’s research and advocacy on issues relating to refugee protection, asylum, and migrants’ rights. Eleanor advocates, speaks and writes regularly on issues relating to the human rights of refugees and migrants, including legal representation, detention, U.S. asylum law and policy, U.S. global refugee protection and resettlement policies, and protection from xenophobic and bias-motivated violence. She works closely with Human Rights First’s pro bono legal representation team, conducts field research, has authored numerous reports and articles, and has testified before the U.S. Congress.

 


Eleanor was awarded the Louis J. Lefkowitz Award for Public Service by Fordham University School of Law in 2007. She was selected by the American Bar Association to serve on its Commission on Immigration, and serves on the Advisory Board of the International Detention Coalition. She was also vice chair of the Refugee Council USA from 2006 to 2008. She has taught classes on refugee protection and migrants rights as an adjunct professor at the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs.

 


Before coming to Human Rights First, Eleanor was an associate handling federal litigation at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart LLP. She has coordinated mentoring programs and has served on the International Human Rights Committee and Immigration Committee of the Association of the Bar of New York, as well as the Board of Advisors to the Crowley Program in International Human Rights at Fordham University School of Law. Eleanor received her J.D. from Fordham University School of Law and her B.A. in History from Brown University.

About

Luis Arias

Luis Arias

Director, Institutional Giving

About

Brenda Balcarcel

Brenda Balcarcel

Human Resources Assistant/Office Coordinator

About

Robyn Barnard

Associate Director, Refugee Advocacy

Robyn Barnard is Associate Director, Refugee Advocacy with Human Rights First. She supports Human Rights First’s efforts to promote the protection of refugees at home and abroad and to bring other U.S. immigration policies and practices into line with international refugee protection and human rights law standards, with a particular focus on ending the use of immigration detention of refugees. She also supports Human Rights First’s Refugee Representation team in its efforts to provide pro bono representation to asylum seekers at all levels of the immigration system.  Prior to this role, Robyn was Senior Staff Attorney within the Los Angeles office and an attorney in the New York office of Human Rights First.

Previously, Robyn was a staff attorney at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at the UC Hastings School of Law in San Francisco and a CV Starr Law Lecturer at Peking University’s School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen, China. Robyn is a graduate of the University of Melbourne Law School and is admitted in New York State. Robyn serves on the board of Aldea – the People’s Justice Center.

About

Jim Bernfield

Jim Bernfield

Senior Vice President, Marketing & Communications

Jim Bernfield oversees Human Rights First’s marketing and communications efforts.  His work has always focused on using data to craft emotional narratives that brand organizations, elect leaders, and change policy.

Before joining Human Rights First, he worked with a range of nonprofit, political, and commercial organizations, from the Alliance for Climate Protection to the Rockefeller Family Fund, the Los Angeles Dodgers to the last five Democratic Presidential nominees.  For Repower America, he amplified voices not typically at the center of the environmental movement in the fight against climate change. The success of his work at American Resources Network led to his creating the television documentary Rally Behind the Virginians and writing a chapter on communications strategy in Let the People Judge.  In electoral politics, Jim produced media that defeated Joe Arpaio, known as America’s worst sheriff for his disregard of immigrants’ and prisoners’ human rights.

As President of the 1661 Foundation, Jim nurtured new generations of leaders from underrepresented communities.  At the outset of his career, he helped plan and lead the Chaney-Goodman-Schwerner Memorial Coalition’s bus caravan from New York City to Philadelphia Mississippi to highlight America’s unfinished journey toward social justice.

Jim produced and directed Me To Play, a documentary feature now streaming about actors with Parkinson’s disease who put up Samuel Beckett’s Endgame.  He wrote It’s Best Not to Know, a TV miniseries based on two sisters’ experience in the Holocaust.

Jim holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film from Columbia University’s School of the Arts.  He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Columbia College at Columbia University in the City of New York.

About

Michael Breen

President and CEO

Michael Breen is President & CEO of Human Rights First. In partnership with a diverse and highly skilled team and their allies around the world, he leads actions that defend human rights, democracy and the rule of law, hold oppressors accountable, and free people from injustice. On Mike’s watch, Human Rights First has launched a series of impactful new initiatives to oppose antidemocratic extremism with a rights-based approach, develop and field advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning tools for the human rights movement, respond to crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine, protect asylum seekers on the southern border, bring accountability to the world’s worst human rights abusers, and confront systemic injustice.

Before joining Human Rights First, Breen served as President and CEO of the Truman National Security Project and the Center for National Policy, co-founded the International Refugee Assistance Project, served in the Obama administration’s Office of White House Counsel, and led American paratroopers in combat as an Army officer. He has worked and served in conflict zones around the world, led dozens of successful and award-winning campaigns for policy change at the federal and state level on a range of climate, national security, and human rights issues, and advised hundreds of electoral campaigns for offices from state representative to president. His writing and commentary have been featured by the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Meet the Press, and many others.

Breen holds a JD from Yale Law School and a BA from Dartmouth College, having studied in Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and England. A former ice climbing instructor, big wall rock climber, martial artist, wilderness search and rescue team leader, and open ocean sailor, Mike can often be found enjoying the outdoors with his family.

About

Peter Chan

Peter Chan

Director of Information Technology

About

Farida Chehata

Farida Chehata

Managing Attorney (Los Angeles)

Farida Chehata is the managing attorney of the Los Angeles office of Human Rights First where she oversees the pro bono legal representation of indigent asylum seekers.  She provides support and guidance to volunteer attorneys in law firms located in Los Angeles, California, who represent asylum seekers at all levels of the immigration system.

Before joining Human Rights First, Farida was the Director of the Immigration Practice Group at Inland Counties Legal Services (ICLS), where she oversaw direct legal representation of survivors of domestic violence and other serious crimes.  Prior to that, Farida founded the Immigrants’ Rights Center at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA) office.  As Managing Attorney, she positioned CAIR-LA as a legal resource on immigration matters through varied publications, speaking events, and media interviews on issues impacting AMEMSA immigrants.

Farida has a dual degree in political science and economics from the University of California, Irvine. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Pepperdine Caruso School of Law and is admitted to practice law in California. She is fluent in Arabic.

About

Philip Chwee

Philip Chwee

Staff Attorney

Philip Chwee joined the Washington, D.C. office of Human Rights First as a staff attorney in August 2020. As a staff attorney in the Washington, D.C. office of Human Rights First, Philip Chwee mentors and supports pro bono attorneys who represent asylum seekers. He also represents asylum seekers living in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. 

Before joining Human Rights First, Philip Chwee was a senior associate at a boutique immigration litigation firm in New York City. He represented detained and non-detained individuals facing removal proceedings across the United States. In addition, he also headed the firm’s appellate work before the Board of Immigration Appeals and federal circuit courts. While in New York, Philip presented on the material support bar and terrorism-related inadmissibility grounds at the New York Asylum & Immigration Law Conference in 2018 and 2019. 

Philip is a native of Queens, New York, and received his JD from Fordham University School of Law. He was a staff editor of Fordham’s International Law Journal, where he published a note on comparative internet censorship laws. Philip is admitted to the New York State Bar and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He is fluent in spoken Mandarin.

About

Ashley Collins

Accountability Legal Fellow

As the Accountability Legal Fellow, Ashley Collins supports Human Rights First’s efforts to hold human rights abusers and corrupt actors accountable through the imposition of targeted sanctions. In this role, she provides assistance to HRF’s targeted sanctions coalition through researching, drafting, and editing sanctions recommendations that identify persons involved in serious human rights abuses and corruption; developing training and informational resources; and analyzing gaps in the use of targeted sanctions programs.

During law school, Ashley interned at Perseus Strategies, the American Bar Association’s Center for Human Rights, and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. In these roles, she has worked on political prisoner cases and conducted domestic and international legal research on a range of issues, including violence against human rights defenders, migration, and women’s rights. Prior to law school, Ashley was a fellow at the Brazil Office of Harvard University’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies as well as Harvard Business School’s Latin America Research Center.

Ashley received her J.D. and a Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies from Georgetown University Law Center. She focused on human rights throughout law school, was a Public Interest Fellow, and served on the executive board of the Georgetown Journal of International Law. Ashley holds a B.A. cum laude in Social Studies, a Certificate in Latin American Studies, and a foreign language citation in Portuguese from Harvard University.

About

Warren Craig

Warren Craig

Supervising Senior Staff Attorney

About

Emilee Cutright

Emilee Cutright

Program Strategist, Veterans for American Ideals

As Program Strategist for the Veterans for American Ideals (VFAI) initiative at Human Rights First, Emilee Cutright supports and advances the policy objectives of VFAI by engaging in research, policy analysis, administrative support, and targeted advocacy with veterans and refugees around the country.

Prior to joining Human Rights First, Emilee worked at the Tennessee Fair Housing Council, where she managed a caseload of over one hundred clients. There, she conducted targeted advocacy, facilitation, and mediation to eliminate housing discrimination and homelessness in the greater Nashville area.  She has also interned with the Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice in San Diego, CA, where she worked as a member of the editorial staff for their Women Peacemakers initiative. During graduate school, she interned with the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Community Relations Service, the “Peacemaking” agency of the DOJ for communities in conflict.

Emilee holds a Master of Arts in Peace and Justice Studies from the Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego, where she focused on Human Rights Advocacy. She also attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she graduated with highest honors with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a minor in Psychology.

About

Vlad Davydovych

Vlad Davydovych

Finance Accountant

About

Diana Diaz

Diana Diaz

Social Worker

About

Milena Diaz

Milena Diaz

Legal Services Coordinator

As the legal services coordinator in the Los Angeles office, Milena provides legal services to asylum seekers and their pro bono attorneys and supports the attorneys within the Los Angeles office. She is responsible for conducting screenings and intake interviews of potential clients, and assists with ongoing case management, among her other duties.

Prior to joining Human Rights First, Milena worked for the Central American Resource Center in Washington, D.C. There, she provided educational outreach about relevant COVID-19 legislation, assisted community residents in accessing social services, and developed strategies to reach hard-to-reach immigrant populations. Milena also worked for the Center for Social Justice Research, Teaching & Service at Georgetown University where she led a program specific Advocacy Committee for immigrant families, supported the logistics of DC and global immersion programs for faculty and staff, and developed curricula to support social justice teaching and learning.

Milena holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies and Religious Studies from the University of South Florida, Tampa Bay. She also holds a Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution with a certificate in Refugee and Humanitarian Emergencies from Georgetown University, Washington, DC. She is fluent in Spanish.

About

Brian Dooley

Recent Articles:

Biden to Visit Saudi: Recalibration of the Relationship or Rehabilitation of MBS? On Bloody Sunday’s 50th Anniversary: Frustration at New British Proposal to Hide the Truth Blinken’s Decision Imminent on Funding an Egyptian Government that Enables Terrorism Time for Biden to Call for Prisoner Releases in Bahrain as Medical Neglect Continues The F1 Grand Prix: A Chance to Spotlight Bahrain’s Abysmal Record on Rights For the Biden Administration, 10 Lessons from 10 Years of U.S. Mideast Policy Bahrain Stages Fake Elections For Poodle Parliament Trump Prepares Dangerous Sale of F-16s to Bahrain Bahrain Travel Bans Reveal Insecurity Biden Administration Faces Imminent Decision on Egyptian Military Aid as 12 Await Execution Cairo Family Targeted as US Embassy Tweets Support for Egypt’s Security Forces Members of Congress Should Question Egyptian Ambassador About Rights Activist Kharkiv Battles on Despite Russian Rocket Attacks Responsibly Researching War Crimes in Ukraine Air Raid App Offers Reassurance in Ukraine Ukraine’s Public Mobilizes to Document War Crimes Underground in a Ukrainian City at War: How Kharkiv’s Metro System Offers Shelter Ten Years But Still Counting – UAE Fails To Release Jailed Activist Al-Roken Biden to Visit Saudi: Recalibration of the Relationship or Rehabilitation of MBS? Biden Administration Should Move to End a Decade of Pain in Bahrain What’s Happening Behind the UAE's PR Mask Blinken’s Decision Imminent on Funding an Egyptian Government that Enables Terrorism Biden Faces Golden Opportunity To Send Signal to Cairo on Human Rights New Report Details Abuse and Radicalization of Children in Egyptian Jails Blinken’s Decision Imminent on Funding an Egyptian Government that Enables Terrorism Poland's Secret Heroes Biden Should Speak Out on Trans People Blocked from Leaving Ukraine For the Biden Administration, 10 Lessons from 10 Years of U.S. Mideast Policy The Polish Catholic Group Taking Risks to Help Refugees Listening to Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence in Ukraine Kharkiv Battles on Despite Russian Rocket Attacks A Taste of Normal Life in a Ukrainian City at War Leading Rights Activist Joins Ukraine’s Army and is Taken Prisoner Ten Years But Still Counting – UAE Fails To Release Jailed Activist Al-Roken Responsibly Researching War Crimes in Ukraine International Expert Panel: State Impunity and the Northern Ireland conflict Biden to Visit Saudi: Recalibration of the Relationship or Rehabilitation of MBS? "There is a Shortage of Body Bags" U.S. Should Spell Out How It Will Help Activists Needing to Flee Ukraine Human Rights Activists in Ukraine Call for Swift Response Leading Human Rights Figure Under Attack in Northern Ireland State Department’s Second Chance To Get HRD Guidelines Right Families Preventing Britain from Burying the Truth on Irish Conflict Families Preventing Britain from Burying the Truth on Irish Conflict British Government Proposes Amnesty for Killings That’s Worse Than Pinochet’s Ballymurphy Families Win Decades-Long Fight For Official Truth Lessons for the Next US Ambassador to Bahrain The Biden Administration Can and Must Help Save Abdulrahman al-Sadhan Do Not Split: An Illuminating Look at Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Uprising COVID Outbreak in Prison Sparks New Protests in Bahrain Reimagining Protection for Human Rights Defenders Celebrating 2021 Martin Ennals Award Winner Yu Wensheng Hong Kong Human Rights Icon Albert Ho Battles On How AI Could Help the Fight for Accountability and Justice Cover-up in the Finucane Case + Brexit = Trouble in US-UK relations How LGBT Groups in Kharkiv Help The City Fight Back November Offers Ideal Time for Bahrain to Release Jailed Activists Crimea Offers Disturbing Blueprint for Russian Takeover of Ukraine Mila Yankina’s Medical Work in the Violence of Kyiv Driven by Humanity: One Polish Volunteer's Efforts in Ukraine Tracking War Crimes in Ukraine with the Truth Hounds Ukraine Medics Face Rocket Attacks with Defiance Lviv Offers Fast Track to Safety Four Reasons Middle East Governments Should Release Prisoners UN Makes Public Independent Experts’ Fears Over Attacks on Hong Kong Medics Egypt Activist Mozn Awaits April 22 Court Verdicts Members of Congress Should Question Egyptian Ambassador About Rights Activist New Report Details Abuse and Radicalization of Children in Egyptian Jails Putin Presses Gulf Advantage with Saudi Visit October 1: A Turning Point for Hong Kong Protests? Hong Kong Volunteer Lawyers Provide Public Education During Unrest Congress Pushes Back Against Trump's Erratic Saudi Friends Response to Egypt's Referendum on Constitutional Changes How ISIS Recruits in Egyptian Prisons Trump's Extreme Hypocrisy: Venezuela & Egypt Trump Clings to MBS as Saudi Arabia Targets Americans Bahrain Stages Fake Elections For Poodle Parliament Anti-Orban Protestors Rally in Budapest New Book Details Activist Responses to Modern Authoritarianism in Hungary and Beyond Egypt Targets Disappearance Activist Working on Regeni Case Trump Prepares Dangerous Sale of F-16s to Bahrain Fears for Sudan Human Rights Defender Mudawi Middle East Activist Experts Offer Advice on Fighting Trump Policies Bahrain Travel Bans Reveal Insecurity State Department Should Speak out for Aya Hijazi, U.S. Human Rights Defender in Egypt Prison October 31 to Test Bahrain’s Reforms Apple, Shaggy, and Hacks in the Gulf Still Fighting for the Truth About Argentina’s Disappeared Bahrain’s Truth Will Out High Price for Exposing Disappearances in Egypt Time for Washington to Act as Bahrain Government Provokes Crisis Time for Washington to Act as U.S. Ally Bahrain Targets Human Rights Defenders Bahrain Targets Clerics in New Wave of Attacks Bahrain’s Money Talk 50 Days of a Broken Promise in Bahrain Bahrain’s False Claims On BICI Today is Razan Zaitouneh’s Birthday Egypt Human Rights Defender Ahmad Abdallah Accused of Belonging to Terrorist Group US Ally UAE Attacks Leading Academic Naser Bin Ghaith 5 Things Obama Should do in Saudi Arabia Finding the Key to Release Zainab Al Khawaja Six Things John Kerry Should Do in Bahrain "Say Their Names:" Statement before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission Civil Society Should Not be Locked Out of Syria Talks Bahrain's Window Dressing Reforms Can't Hide Botch Job Bahrain's Fake Human Rights Conference Another PR Disaster Five Years On, Egypt's Uprising Flagged at Tahrir Bahraini Sheikh and FIFA Presidential Hopeful Continues to Dodge Allegations over Targeting Athletes FIFA, Man United, and Torture in Bahrain Who Needs to Know at Guantanamo Guantanamo: Washington's Expensive Mistake Guantanamo September 11 Detainee Suggests Becoming His Own Lawyer Smiles Jar in Guantanamo Court Drama Kenyan Government Struggles to Fight Mombasa Terrorism No Hollywood Ending for Bahraini Opposition Leaders A Bad Year for Yara Sallam in Egypt's Republic of Fear Bahrain Medic Recounts Conditions in Jaw Prison Fighting Bahrain's Sectarian Threat 2022 Becomes a Crucial Test of Human Rights and Sport In Cairo, Kerry Should Reinforce Obama's Remarks in Kenya Kenyan Corruption Undermines Fight Against Extremism Calls for Solidarity as Attacks on Colin Harvey Intensify Top 5 Things John Legend Should Know About Bahrain Reports of Torture Haunt Bahrain's CID Why February 14 Matters in Bahrain Four Years On, U.S. Should Push Bahrain to Reform Security Forces Why Bahrain Needs Security Force Reform How CIA Torture Didn't Prevent an Attack on Heathrow Seven Helpful Things the New Ambassador To Bahrain Can Do The CIA Torture Report and the UK’s Hooded Men Five Useful Things America's New Ambassador to Egypt Can Do Ukrainian Experts Produce Guide for Journalists Reporting War-Related Sexual Violence Bahrain Human Rights Defender Faces Charges for Tweet Is the United States Government Finally Losing Patience with Bahrain? Six Things to Watch Out for in Ukraine's Elections What's Next for Maryam Al Khawaja? Ambassador Nominee States Intent to Flout Bahrain Law on Meeting Opposition A Day in the Life of Maryam Al Khawaja Abdulhadi Al Khawaja Embarks on Hunger Strike State Department Responds to Bahrain's Denial of Access to Rep. McGovern and Human Rights First Washington’s Wishful Thinking Policy on Egypt The Exceptional Egyptian Human Rights Defender Yara Sallam New Year, New Congress: What to Watch on Middle East Policy Matar Matar and Brian Dooley Discuss Bahrain’s Intensive Weeks Ahead The Beginning of the End for Bahrain’s Tolerated Opposition Bahrain Allies’ Dangerous Myopia 100 Days Later Bahrain Rewards Assad's Arms Supplier With New Contract Remnants of Revolution in Kyiv LGBT Activist Refused Membership of New Ukrainian Party Embassygate In Bahrain Not The Fundamental Problem Bahrain's Sunningdale Three Years Later, Reform in Bahrain is Nowhere to be Seen More Sisters Vanish into UAE Police Custody Stories from Bahrain's Crackdown: Dr. Ali Al Ekri Irish America's Identity Parades Cairo's Dispersal Dilemma U.S. Ambassador Donahoe Hits Back at Bahraini Media Distortion of Meeting with Regime Officials The United States should Speak Out on Bahrain Abuses Bahrain No More Stable as Nabeel Rajab Marks One Year in Custody Bahrain Torturers Must Be Held Accountable American Recounts Arrest in Egypt Bahrain’s Soldier Sailor Sunni Shia Struggle State Department Report on Bahrain Confirms Extent of Repression Brian Dooley Lift UAE Dissident's Travel Ban U.S. State Department Country Report on Bahrain Highlights Key Abuses Manchester United, Denis Law, and Torture by the Bahrain Regime Silent Witness - The U.S. Government and the Trial of Bahraini Human Rights Defender Abu Deeb A Message from Nabeel Rajab Egyptian Police: Million Man Mafia? Crimean Human Rights Lawyers Appeal for Solidarity in Wake of Attacks Maryam al Khawaja Accepts Baldwin Medal of Liberty Ordeal Continues for Targeted Bahraini Medics Americans Jailed in UAE For A Year Without Charge Saudi Arabia Threatens FATF Progress A Generation of Fighting for Human Rights Bahrain's Prisons At Their Breaking Point Is Bahrain the New Apartheid State? Bahrain Medics Still in Prison Same-sex Partnerships In Ukraine Would Show Its Values One Year Later, Bahrain Reform Remains Shallow Promise Questions Remain Unanswered Eight Years After Munir’s Death Derision on Prison Indecision Bahrain Escalates Attacks on Civil Society Younis Ashoori: One of Bahrain’s Forgotten Prisoners

Brian Dooley

Senior Advisor

As Senior Advisor, Brian supports Human Rights First’s work to contain and counteract a U.S. retreat from global leadership on human rights. Prior to his role as Senior Advisor, Brian directed Human Rights First’s engagement with the U.S. government and with other partners to end threats and obstacles to human rights defenders.

For the 20 years prior to joining Human Rights First, Brian worked for U.S., Irish and international NGOs. Most recently, Brian led Amnesty International’s work on partnering with national NGOs in the global South. Brian has also worked as Head of Media for Amnesty International in London and in Dublin, and as Director of Communications for Public Citizen in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books about civil rights and U.S. politics, and had early experience on the Hill, interning for Senator Edward Kennedy in the mid-80s as a legislative researcher, contributing to what ultimately became the 1986 Anti-Apartheid Act. Before that, he lived and worked as an English teacher and community organizer in a black township in South Africa in 1981-82, which was prohibited under apartheid’s racial segregation laws.

Brian has an MPhil in Government and Politics from The Open University in London, and a B.A. with honors in Political Science from the University of East Anglia.

About

Nathan dos Santos


Nathan dos Santos


Individual Giving Associate

As our Individual Giving Associate, Nathan helps coordinate peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns and spearhead innovative donor recruitment initiatives such as the Emerging Leaders Group (ELG). 

Before coming to Human Rights First, he led the New Arts Initiative for the World Aral Region Charity, where he organized numerous contemporary classical symphony concerts in New York City, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia to raise awareness about ecological challenges facing western Uzbekistan. 

Nathan graduated with honors from Columbia University in 2020 and Stanford University in 2021 with a B.A. and M.A. in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, respectively. In Kenya with the Columbia University Chaplain’s office, Nathan studied interfaith cooperation.  He studied international human rights law in Spain and France, where he co-drafted a proposal to the European Commission for an online database of practical legal information for Syrian refugees. 

In his spare time, he dances with Ballet Folklórico de Revolución, a traditional Mexican ensemble that brings attention to the needs of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

About

Diyerly “DJ” Duque

Diyerly “DJ” Duque

Human Resources Generalist

About

Maya El Cheikh

Maya El Cheikh

Legal Services Coordinator/DOJ Fully-Accredited Representative

As a legal services coordinator in New York, Maya El Cheikh conducts screenings of potential clients; writes case assessments; supports pro bono and in-house attorneys; helps manage the New York office’s client database; assists in supporting advocacy efforts; and helps select, train, and supervise interns.    

As a Department of Justice (DOJ) fully-accredited representative, Maya directly represents immigrants in removal proceedings before the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review under the supervision of our New York office’s managing attorney. She helps clients secure various immigration-related benefits, including asylum, employment authorization, family reunification, and adjustment of status. 

Prior to joining Human Rights First, Maya worked with the Victim Services Unit at the District Attorney’s office in Brooklyn. There, she assisted victims of various crimes, including domestic violence, with VAWA and U-visa petitions. 

In addition to her legal background, Maya holds a master’s degree in Special Education and Inclusion from the University of Roehampton, a master’s degree in Social Work from New York University, and a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in Canada. Maya is a native Arabic speaker and is conversationally fluent in Spanish.

About

Grace Ewing

Grace Ewing

Development Coordinator

About

Ira Forman

Senior Advisor for Combating Antisemitism

As Senior Advisor for Combatting Antisemitism, Ira Forman supports Human Rights First’s work to expose and counteract antisemitism at home and abroad in keeping with a U.S. foreign policy rooted in a strong commitment to human rights, universal values, and American ideals.

Ira was appointed the U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism (SEAS) in May 2013, serving until January 2017. From 2011-2012, He served as the Jewish Outreach Director for the Obama for America campaign. He also served for nearly 15 years as the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC). Today, Ira is a visiting professor and senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Jewish Civilization, where he teaches courses on confronting contemporary antisemitism, and is also is a senior fellow at Moment Magazine.

Ira received his B.A. from Harvard University and his MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

About

Shala Gafary

Shala Gafary

Managing Attorney, Project: Afghan Legal Assistance (PALA)

Shala leads Project:  Afghan Legal Assistance, Human Right’s First’s nationwide coordination of legal stakeholders responding to the resettlement of at-risk Afghans by the U.S. government.  She also oversees the pro bono program that provides legal screenings and representation to Afghans eligible for asylum, Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), and other forms of humanitarian protection.

Prior to joining Human Rights First, Shala served as Director of Mercy Center’s Immigrant Services Department and as Supervising Attorney with Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of NY.  Previous to that, she was a Blossom Hill Legal Fellow with Refugee Rights Turkey in Istanbul, and worked in Greece for Greek Council for Refugees and HIAS, serving Afghan and Iranian asylum seekers.  Shala worked on a report documenting reconciliation following the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina and served in anti-poverty projects in Guatemala and Costa Rica.

Shala obtained her B.A. in Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies from New York University, and her J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She is admitted to practice law in New York and is fluent in Dari, Farsi, and Spanish.

About

Rebecca Gendelman

Senior Research and Policy Counsel, Refugee Protection

As Senior Research and Policy Counsel with Refugee Protection, Rebecca supports Human Rights First’s efforts to promote the protection of refugees and reform the U.S. asylum system.

Rebecca received a Juris Doctor degree from Yale Law School in 2019. In law school, Rebecca was a student director of the Immigration Legal Services Clinic, where she represented asylum seekers and green card applicants. She was also a research coordinator for the Immigration Policy Tracking Project, which catalogues every immigration policy from January 2017 to January 2021. During law school, Rebecca interned at the Capital Area Immigrants’  Rights Coalition and the Legal Aid Society’s Criminal Appeals Bureau.

Rebecca graduated Cum Laude from Williams College, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with honors.

About

Reema Ghabra

Black Immigrant and Refugee Equity (BIRE) Project Fellow

Reema Ghabra is the BIRE Fellow in the Los Angeles office of Human Rights First, where she provides pro bono legal representation to asylum seekers.

Before joining Human Rights First, Reema was a student attorney with the George Washington University’s Prisoner and Reentry Clinic in Washington, D.C. There, she represented incarcerated individuals facing legal barriers as a result of their criminal records. Reema interned at Corporate Accountability Lab in Chicago, Illinois, a nonprofit organization that focuses on holding corporations legally accountable for their human and environmental abuses.  Reema previously interned with Human Rights First in the Washington, D.C. office.

Reema received her Juris Doctor degree from the George Washington University Law School, where she focused on international human rights and civil rights law. She received her Bachelor of Arts in political science with honors from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

About

Jenna Gilbert

Director, Refugee Representation

Jenna Gilbert is Director of Refugee Representation, where she oversees Human Rights First’s pro bono legal representation program, which provides indigent asylum seekers with high quality legal representation in the New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles metropolitan areas. 

She previously served as the Managing Attorney of the Los Angeles office of Human Rights First, leading the Los Angeles team, overseeing the legal representation of indigent asylum seekers in the Los Angeles area, and training and mentoring pro bono volunteer lawyers. Prior to her role as Managing Attorney, Jenna was a Staff Attorney in both the New York and Los Angeles offices of Human Rights First. 

Before joining Human Rights First, Jenna was an associate attorney at an immigration law firm in Los Angeles, CA, where she managed a large caseload of defensive and affirmative immigration cases. Jenna specialized in removal defense, and frequently appeared in the Los Angeles Immigration Court representing clients with various forms of relief, including asylum, cancellation of removal, adjustment of status, NACARA, and criminal waivers. She also successfully appealed cases before the Board of Immigration Appeals and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Prior to that, Jenna received a public interest fellowship to work for Asylum Access Ecuador, where she provided legal services for refugees and led a prison advocacy project in an effort to ensure that detained migrants were guaranteed protection under the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1967 Protocol. Jenna litigated and presented oral arguments before Ecuador’s highest court in a case involving Ecuador’s unlawful imprisonment and denial of reparations to a Guinean refugee.

Jenna has a dual degree in international relations and Spanish language and literature from the University of San Diego. She received her Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School, Los Angeles. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and is admitted to practice law in California. She is a frequent speaker on immigration-related topics affecting asylum seekers and is fluent in Spanish.

About

Miranda Hawkins

Miranda Hawkins

Event Operations Associate

About

Navid Ahmad Hewadwal

Navid Ahmad Hewadwal

Legal Services Coordinator, Special Projects

About

Quentin Hines

Quentin Hines

Chief of Staff

About

Alix Hirsh

Alix Hirsh

C.V. Starr Accountability Legal Fellow

As the C.V. Starr Accountability Legal Fellow, Alix Hirsh supports Human Rights First’s efforts to hold human rights abusers and corrupt actors accountable through the imposition of targeted sanctions. In this role, she provides assistance to HRF’s targeted sanctions coalition through researching, drafting, and editing sanctions recommendations that identify persons involved in serious human rights abuses and corruption; developing training and informational resources; and analyzing gaps in the use of targeted sanctions programs.

During law school, Alix interned at the Anti-Defamation League, Physicians for Human Rights, The Jacob Blaustein Institute and New York State Division of Human Rights. She also worked as a research assistant and participated in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court competition.

Alix received her J.D. from New York Law School. Prior to law school, Alix lived in Tel Aviv, Israel for five years where she earned a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from Tel Aviv University. While in Tel Aviv, Alix worked for a non-profit consultant.

About

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges

Senior Advisor

Lieutenant General (Retired) Ben Hodges, the former Commanding General of US Army Europe, is a Senior Advisor to Human Rights First.

General Hodges held the Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA).  General Hodges serves as NATO Senior Mentor for Logistics, consults for several companies on Europe, NATO, and the European Union, and is co-author of the book Future War and the Defence of Europe, published by Oxford University Press.

General Hodges served in a variety of Joint and Army Staff positions, including Chief of Plans, 2nd Infantry Division in Korea; Aide-de-Camp to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe; Chief of Staff, XVIII Airborne Corps; Director of the Pakistan Afghanistan Coordination Cell on the Joint Staff; Chief of Legislative Liaison for the United States Army; and Commander, NATO Allied Land Command 2012-2014 in İzmir, Turkey. His last military assignment was as Commanding General, United States Army Europe in Wiesbaden, Germany from 2014 to 2017. 

General Hodges graduated from the United States Military Academy in May 1980 and was commissioned as an Infantry Officer in the US Army.  After his first assignment as a Lieutenant in Garlstedt, Germany, he commanded Infantry units at the Company, Battalion, and Brigade levels in the 101st Airborne Division, including the First Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne” in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (2003-2004). His other operational assignments include Chief of Operations for Multi-National Corps-Iraq in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (2005-2006) and Director of Operations, Regional Command South in Kandahar, Afghanistan (2009-2010).

He retired from the U.S. Army in January 2018 and lives today with his wife in Frankfurt, Germany.

About

Gita Howard

Associate Attorney, Accountability

As Associate Attorney for Accountability, Gita Howard supports Human Rights First’s use of targeted sanctions to promote accountability for human rights abuses and acts of corruption around the world. In partnership with civil society organizations and pro bono attorneys in our coalition, Gita conducts trainings and assists in the development of sanctions case files, liaises with U.S. government personnel, and contributes to Human Rights First’s research, writing, and advocacy on targeted human rights and anticorruption sanctions.

During law school, Gita interned at the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs and the Tibetan Legal Association in Dharamshala, India. She also served as a legal intern and fellow at Miami Law’s Human Rights Clinic. Prior to law school, Gita worked as a research assistant and interned as a reporter.

Gita received her J.D. and graduated cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law. At Miami Law, she co-founded and served as president of Miami Law’s Human Rights Society. Gita was also published in and a member of Miami Law’s International and Comparative Law Review. Gita holds a B.A. in psychology from Scripps College. During college, she participated in a study abroad workshop at the Oxford Consortium for Human Rights.

About

Anwen Hughes

Director of Legal Strategy, Refugee Programs

Anwen Hughes helps oversee Human Rights First’s pro bono representation program for indigent asylum seekers. Anwen provides training and support to volunteers from law firms in New York and New Jersey who represent asylum seekers through our program and assists in Human Rights First’s local and national advocacy on asylum issues. She also provides information and legal services to asylum seekers in INS detention, and helps coordinate their legal representation.

Before joining Human Rights First, Anwen was a staff attorney with the Passaic County Legal Aid Society in Paterson, New Jersey, where she represented recipients of public benefits and coordinated legal services for the elderly.

She graduated summa cum laude from Yale University (1993) with a B.A. in Classics, and from Yale Law School (1998).

About

Piibe Jogi

Piibe Jogi

Managing Attorney, New York

Piibe Jogi is the managing attorney of the Refugee Representation team at the New York office of Human Rights First, overseeing the pro bono legal representation of indigent asylum seekers.  She mentors pro bono attorneys from New York and New Jersey law firms who represent asylum seekers at all levels of the system.

Before joining Human Rights First, Piibe was a senior staff attorney at Immigration Equality, a nonprofit organization that represents and advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-positive immigrants.  She co-managed Immigration Equality’s pro bono asylum program, mentored pro bono attorneys, and also directly represented clients in affirmative and defensive proceedings.

Prior to joining Immigration Equality, Piibe worked for several years as a corporate attorney at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, then briefly as a solo practitioner.  She also worked pro bono for several nonprofit organizations in Westchester County, assisting undocumented immigrant survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking to gain legal status in the United States. 

Piibe has taught law courses at Tartu University in Estonia, Uppsala University in Sweden, and Seton Hall Law School’s online program.  She is the author of the textbook “Law and Ethics” (in Estonian) and several other publications.

Piibe’s degrees include an LL.B. (with the highest distinction) from Tartu University, Faculty of Law in Estonia, an M.Phil. from the University of Cambridge, England, and an LL.M. and a J.S.D. from New York University School of Law, where she was a Fulbright Scholar.

About

Vladimir Kara-Murza

Vladimir Kara-Murza

Senior Advisor, Human Rights Accountability

Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian activist, former opposition leader, and filmmaker, is a senior advisor for human rights accountability. In this capacity, he helps shape the organization’s efforts to hold major human rights abusers accountable via the Global Magnitsky Act.  

Vladimir is a former deputy leader of the People’s Freedom Party and was a candidate for the Russian State Duma. A longtime colleague of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, he chairs the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom. Vladimir played a key role in the passage of the original Magnitsky legislation, which imposed targeted sanctions on Russian human rights violators. Twice, in 2015 and 2017, he was poisoned and left in a coma; the attempts on his life were widely viewed as the Russian government’s retribution for his work on the Magnitsky sanctions.

He is a contributing writer at the Washington Post, hosts a weekly show on Echo of Moscow radio, and has worked for the BBC, RTVi, and Kommersant. He has directed three documentary films, They Chose Freedom, Nemtsov, and My Duty to Not Stay Silent, and is the author of Reform or Revolution: The Quest for Responsible Government in the First Russian State Duma.

He has received several awards, including the Sakharov Prize for Journalism as an Act of Conscience, the Magnitsky Human Rights Award, and the Geneva Summit Courage Award. He holds an M.A. (Cantab.) in History from Cambridge.

About

Seelai Karzai

Seelai Karzai

Afghanistan Advocacy Campaign Manager

About

Adam Keith

Director for Accountability

As Director for Accountability, Adam Keith is responsible for Human Rights First’s work advancing human rights in U.S. foreign policy, with a focus on tools and institutions that help promote accountability for serious abuses and corruption.  He oversees our work coordinating a coalition of NGOs that use the Global Magnitsky Act and other targeted sanctions tools to pursue such accountability.   

Adam worked for ten years as a career civil servant for the U.S. Department of State, including an assignment to the National Security Council staff’s Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights directorate as director for war crimes and atrocity prevention (2013-14).  He also served as principal policy advisor to the Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice; a desk officer for the African Great Lakes region and for Iraq; and a short-term political officer in Juba, South Sudan.  

After leaving the U.S. government in October 2017, Adam consulted for the Open Society Policy Center, Open Society Justice Initiative, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Human Rights First.  He is the co-author of the Holocaust Museum’s 2019 report, “By Any Other Name,” on the U.S. government’s policy and practice in making genocide determinations.  

Adam has a Master in Public Affairs degree from Princeton University’s public policy school and a Bachelor of Arts from Rice University.  He was a Fulbright fellow in Ghana, where he worked for the Ghana Center for Democratic Development, and he interned at the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina.  He has lived and worked in Zimbabwe and South Sudan and studied in France.  He speaks French, holds on to fragments of other languages acquired in the course of his travels, and lives in New York City.

About

Katie Langford

Katie Langford

Grants Associate

Katie serves as a grants associate at Human Rights First.

Prior to joining Human Rights First, Katie worked as a legal assistant intern for the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, a non-profit immigration law firm in Portland, Maine.  She created an extensive country condition report to support a Honduran client’s fear of returning home.

As an organizing intern for Amnesty International USA in Boston, Katie devised outreach strategies for a 600-guest Northeast Regional Conference and planned a tabling event as part of Amnesty International USA’s International Write for Rights campaign.

As assistant director of Latinx Action Group, an organization that helps students of color get involved in social justice issues that affect their communities, Katie developed great leadership, campaign management, event planning, collaboration and communications skills.

Katie received a combined B.A. in Spanish and International Affairs from Northeastern University, and an A.A. in Political Science from Southern Maine Community College. She is a member of the community college honor society, Phi Theta Kappa, and the political science honorary society, Pi Sigma Alpha. 

About

Jason Long

Jason Long

Technical Program Manager

Jason Long provides technical and strategic guidance to Innovation Lab projects and manages the Lab’s tech partnerships.  Jason founded and built Blue Witness, an AI tool incubated at Human Rights First’s Innovation Lab to combat police violence in the United States. 

 Jason Long is a software engineer, founder, and technology executive with a passion for social change.  He served as Chief Technology Officer at the digital product firm Sevenstar.  Born and raised in Chicago, Jason is active in organizations providing opportunities to formerly incarcerated and otherwise marginalized people.

About

Carla Medina

Carla Medina

Office Coordinator/Receptionist

About

Jennifer Mellen

Jennifer Mellen

Senior Vice President, Development

As the Senior Vice President for Development, Jennifer is responsible for designing and implementing the organization’s development strategy to broaden the organization’s financial support from individuals, law firms, businesses, and institutional funders.

Before joining Human Rights First, Jennifer spent four years with Truman Center for National Policy and Truman National Security Project where she started as the Managing Director of Development. In her last two years with Truman, Jennifer was the Managing Director of Programs and External Relations where she oversaw the creation and implementation of Truman’s communications and resource development strategies as well as the overall organizational brand management. Additionally, she oversaw the training program, chapter engagement, and the organizations’ major campaigns and initiatives.

Jennifer spent eight years at PAI, a global advocate for reproductive rights. In that time, Jennifer managed the organization’s major gifts program, working closely with individuals and family foundations, and she partnered with the grants team on proposal and report development, led the annual operational planning effort for her department each year, and served as part of an internal team tasked with an organizational re-branding effort. During her tenure with PAI, Jennifer held multiple positions of increasing responsibility. Prior to her work with PAI, Jennifer spent four years at VSA arts, an international NGO focused on ensuring access to the arts for people with disabilities worldwide, where she provided key support to the Executive Office, Board of Directors, and the organization’s vast network of domestic and international affiliates.

Since 2005, Jennifer has been a member of the Junior League of Washington, serving on a variety of fundraising committees throughout her involvement. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Arts Management from Shenandoah University. A Virginia native, Jennifer loves reading and running, and lives with her husband, son, and shepherd-hound mix in Alexandria, VA.

About

Kyyon Nelson

Kyyon Nelson

Budget and Grants Manager

About

Julia Neusner

Research & Policy Associate Attorney, Refugee Protection

Julia Neusner is a Research and Policy Associate Attorney with Refugee Protection at Human Rights First. Her work has focused on monitoring the impact of U.S. immigration policies on migrants and asylum seekers at the U.S. Mexico border, including tracking violent crimes against migrants in Mexico, seeking accountability for abuses by U.S. immigration officers, and promoting protection pathways for people displaced in the context of climate change. 

Julia earned a Juris Doctor and a master’s degree in International Policy from Stanford University, where she focused on migration, labor, and human security. She founded the Refugee Rights Network at Stanford Law School and coordinated monthly student trips to the U.S.-Mexico border to provide legal services to people seeking asylum. 

Julia previously taught middle and high school special education in the New York City public school system through the New York City Teaching Fellows program. She also holds a Master of Science in Education from Long Island University Brooklyn and a Bachelor of Arts in comparative literature with honors from New York University. 

Julia is admitted to the New York State Bar. She lives in Oakland, California. 

About

Licha Nyiendo

Licha Nyiendo

Chief Legal Officer

As Human Rights First’s inaugural Chief Legal Officer, Licha Nyiendo is responsible for overseeing the full spectrum of legal matters for the organization, including risk and compliance programs, advancement of high impact litigation that addresses social justice issues, and legal representation of refugees and asylum seekers.

Ms. Nyiendo previously served as the Commissioner for the New York State Division of Human Rights, the chief executive of the state agency responsible for enforcing New York’s Human Rights Law.  She oversaw all agency operations in twelve offices across the state, including investigation and prosecution of discrimination complaints, settlements, public hearings, development of proposed legislation, public awareness campaigns and community outreach events.

Earlier in her career, Ms. Nyiendo served as the Deputy Special Counsel for Public Integrity in the Office of the Governor of the State of New York.  She managed litigation matters and advanced racial justice initiatives, including review and recommendation of pardon and commutation applications by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals.

She served for eight years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, serving as Deputy Chief of the Narcotics Unit and then Deputy Chief of the Civil Rights Unit.  She was trial counsel on several federal criminal trials, including sex trafficking, forced labor, civil rights abuses committed by law enforcement officers, drug-related homicide and international narcotics conspiracies. She also conducted a weeks-long human trafficking training in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania for local law enforcement and advocacy groups. Ms. Nyiendo began her career as a litigation associate at Sidley Austin LLP.

Early in her career, Ms. Nyiendo clerked for the Honorable Theodore A. McKee, United States Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  She also clerked for the Honorable George B. Daniels, United States District Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Ms. Nyiendo earned her B.A. from Harvard University and received her J.D. from Duke University School of Law.

About

Ana Ortega Villegas

Advocacy Strategist, Refugee Protection

As Advocacy Strategist, Ana works to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and ensure the United States commits to refugee protection at home and abroad. Prior to her role as Advocacy Strategist, Ana served as the Legal Services Coordinator for the Los Angeles Refugee Representation office where she provided direct legal support and services to asylum seekers in the Los Angeles area and to asylum seekers subjected to the Migrant Protection Protocols.

Before joining Human Rights First, Ana worked with the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) in Harlingen, Texas. There, she provided legal orientations, screenings, and case management for unaccompanied immigrant children. This occurred during an unprecedented influx of unaccompanied minors at the United States’ southern border, referred to as a “humanitarian crisis” by President Obama.

Ana earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Spanish at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, and a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Essex in Essex, England.

About

Kurt Pacquette

Kurt Pacquette

Senior Vice President, Finance

About

Chris Purdy

Chris Purdy

Director, Veterans for American Ideals and Outreach

Chris Purdy is the Director of Veterans for American Ideals and Outreach at Human Rights First. He first worked on the VFAI project as a volunteer and joined its staff in 2016. In his time as a volunteer, Chris worked to build relationships between veterans and their community relationships across the southeast.

Prior to working with Human Rights First and VFAI, he developed school reform programs and policy with the Superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools. Chris served as the Director of After School and Summer Programs where he worked to reform the summer education program. He also spent time as a Lead Teacher for the District of Columbia Public Schools. Chris served for eight years in the Army National Guard, deploying to Iraq and Thailand.

Chris is a member of the Truman National Security Project, Georgia Forward, and LEAD Atlanta. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from the State University of New York College at Fredonia, a Master’s of Education, Inclusive Education from Nazareth College of Rochester, and a Master’s of Public Affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

About

Jennifer Quigley

Senior Director, Government Affairs

As Senior Director for Government Affairs, Jennifer Quigley oversees Human Rights First’s efforts to advance critical human rights policy reforms in Congress and the executive branch. Jennifer also leads the organization’s advocacy work to protect the rights of refugees and ensure the United States commits to refugee protection at home and abroad, including access to asylum protections and resettlement.  Jennifer has testified before Congress and been quoted in numerous print, television, and online news sources. 

Prior to joining Human Rights First, Jennifer worked for the U.S. Campaign for Burma for nine years, including as President/Executive Director focusing on U.S. Burma policy and the promotion of human rights, refugees, and democratic change in Burma. Jennifer also previously worked with the Women’s League of Burma and its thirteen member organizations on international advocacy and capacity building of women to advocate in international fora. Jennifer received an M.A. in Intercultural Management from the School for International Training and a B.A. in International Affairs from The George Washington University.

About

Ioana Răducu

Ioana Răducu

Associate Attorney

About

Lamisse Abdel Rahman

Lamisse Abdel Rahman

Legal Services Coordinator/DOJ-Accredited Representative

As a legal services coordinator in the New York office, Lamisse provides general support to the Refugee Representation team, assisting clients and their pro bono attorneys on asylum cases. As a DOJ-accredited representative, Lamisse also provides clients with immigration legal services before the Department of Homeland Security.

Prior to joining Human Rights First, Lamisse worked for UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, in Khartoum, Sudan. As a Senior Child Protection Assistant, she was responsible for registering, screening, and providing direct services to unaccompanied refugee children. Lamisse also worked as a legal assistant at the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA), a development finance institution. 

Lamisse holds a dual bachelor’s degree in French and International Relations from the University of California, Davis.

About

Sydney Randall

Sydney Randall

Communications Associate

As a Communications Associate for Human Rights First, Sydney Randall works to amplify the objectives of all pillars of the organization through social media, digital content creation, and other outreach efforts.

Before joining Human Rights First, Sydney worked at a variety of nonprofits as an educator and communicator, including The Safina Center, The Rockaway Institute for Sustainability and Equity, The Audubon Society, and Girls Inc. She also worked as an editor at the American Institute of Physics and studied shorebirds in Canada with the Quebec Labrador Foundation.

Sydney recently graduated with a master’s in marine conservation and policy from Stony Brook University, where her success at the program earned her the J.R. Schubel Fellowship for Communicating Science. She has a bachelor’s degree from Skidmore College in Environmental Studies and Sciences.

In her free time, you can find Sydney chasing her cat around her apartment in Brooklyn, throwing crooked pottery on the wheel, exploring new hiking trails, or writing.

About

Perris Richter

Perris Richter

Associate Director, Innovation Lab

Perris Richter, a design and operations strategist with expertise in issues of the information landscape and democracy, serves as Associate Director of Human Rights First’s Innovation Lab. 

Previously, Perris served in leadership at MIT Media Lab’s Center for Constructive Communication, which brings together practitioners in emerging technologies and social science to address the effects of deepening societal fragmentation in America. Before that, Perris was Lead Design and Innovation Strategist at Fuseproject, where she supported new initiatives and product launches with USAID, Paypal, Samsung, and the city of San Francisco. 

Perris earned an MsC in Behavioral Economics at the London School of Economics, and a BA from Northwestern University.

About

Ruby Ritchin

Ruby Ritchin

Legal Fellow, Refugee Protection & Representation

As a legal fellow with the Refugee Protection and Refugee Representation teams Ruby Ritchin supports strategic representation of clients affected by anti-asylum policies, conducts legal research, and authors analysis of law and policy.

Ruby earned a juris doctor from Harvard Law School in 2022. During law school, Ruby participated in the Child Advocacy Clinic, served as an editor with the Harvard Civil Rights‐Civil Liberties Law Review, and worked as a research assistant on issues of solitary confinement in immigration detention. Ruby spent her law school summers at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles and the Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center’s Immigration Detention Accountability Project. Before law school, Ruby worked in immigration advocacy and policy and directly with refugee communities.

Ruby graduated cum laude from Washington University in St. Louis, where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree with highest distinction in history.

About

Diana Rodriguez Flores

Diana Rodriguez Flores

Staff Attorney

About

Dennis Rosensteel

Dennis Rosensteel

Systems Security Analyst

About

Fatima Safi

Fatima Safi

Legal Services Coordinator, Special Projects

About

Jenine Saleh

Staff Attorney

Jenine Saleh is a staff attorney in the Washington, D.C. office of Human Rights First. She provides mentorship and support to pro bono attorneys who represent asylum seekers. She also directly represents asylum seekers living in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

Before joining Human Rights First, she worked to combat the Afghanistan crisis by advising and training pro bono attorneys and self-petitioners regarding immigration relief for Afghans, to include the Afghan USRAP program, the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, Humanitarian Parole and Petitions for Alien Relatives. She previously worked for the Department of Homeland Security where she worked with victims of trafficking and assisted unaccompanied alien children regarding their eligibility for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and asylum. Prior to joining DHS, she was the Senior Supervising Attorney at Freedom House Detroit, where she supervised, managed, and oversaw the legal department and pro bono legal services of Freedom House Detroit, a homeless shelter for victims of torture funded by the U.N. Fund for Victims of Torture. She oversaw all representation in matters involving asylum, family reunification and adjustment of status. She engaged in advocacy on refugee and immigration issues. 

From 2013 to 2018, Jenine served as Founder, Chief Executive Officer and President of an international NGO, Global Health Conscious, which donated $2.5 million in medical supplies to five different United Nations Relief and Works Agency refugee camps. Global Health Conscious also co-sponsored a multicultural health center providing clinical services to women, infants, and children in Central Illinois.

Jenine has a degree in Honors Political Science from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, and a Juris Doctorate with a concentration in immigration law and policy from the University of Chicago Law School.

About

Laura Senkevitch

Laura Senkevitch

Director of Donor Relations

Laura Senkevitch brings 15 years of experience in donor cultivation, program development, strategic partnership management, and non-profit board governance to her role as Director of Donor Relations.

Prior to joining Human Rights First, she was the Associate Vice President of Education and Employment Services at The Fortune Society, a human services and advocacy organization that holistically serves justice-involved individuals and their families, where she created and raised funds for data-driven high-impact programming. 

Laura is a member of the New York City Brownfield Partnership, serving on their board of directors since 2016.  She advises on their annual awards ceremony, industry education programming, grant-giving initiatives, and scholarship fundraising activities. She holds a Master of Science degree from Pratt Institute and a Bachelor of Science degree from Pace University. 

About

Kareem Shora

Executive Vice President, Programs and Policy

Kareem Shora is the Executive Vice President for Programs and Policy for Human Rights First.  This position, created in October 2021, links the organization’s policy and advocacy work to best help clients, move legislation, and further our policy priorities.  Shora oversees the organization’s programs to set, coordinate, and accomplish those priorities.

Shora previously served as the acting Deputy Director for Programs and Policy at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) where he was a member of the senior executive leadership team and directed assistance efforts around local violence prevention across the United States. Shora also helped implement the Department’s public-health approach to violence prevention, with special attention to Domestic Violent Extremism (DVE) and its impact on American communities.  He spent over a decade leading the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) community engagement section.  While serving at DHS, he earned the 2015 Homeland Security Secretary’s Award for Excellence and the 2016 US Department of State Benjamin Franklin Award for Diplomacy.

Shora joined DHS after ten years with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), culminating in service as national executive director.  While at ADC, Shora was the youngest member and only civil rights advocate appointed to the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC).

A recipient of the 2003 American Immigration Lawyers Association’s (AILA) Arthur C. Helton Human Rights Award, Shora is widely published. He is fluent in Arabic and brings extensive experience working with national and international media.

After graduating from Marshall University, Shora earned his J.D. at the West Virginia University College of Law and received his LL.M. specialty in International Legal Studies (Public International Law) from the American University Washington College of Law.

About

Rebecca Soroka

Rebecca Soroka

Staff Attorney

Rebecca Soroka provides support to volunteer lawyers at law firms in the New York and New Jersey area, directly represents asylum seekers in New York, and oversees the New York Refugee Representation team’s internship program.

Prior to joining Human Rights First, Rebecca served as a staff attorney at African Services Committee, where she represented low-income individuals in the areas of immigration, family law, housing, and public benefits. Previously, Rebecca was a staff attorney for New York Legal Assistance, where she represented homeowners impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Rebecca is from Montreal, Canada and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of British Columbia. She earned her J.D. from the University of La Verne and is admitted to practice in New York state.

About

Amanda Strayer

Supervising Staff Attorney, Accountability/Joffe Fellow

As Supervising Staff Attorney for Accountability at Human Rights First, Amanda Strayer coordinates the Targeted Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Sanctions Coalition, a group of more than 330 NGOs using the Global Magnitsky Act and other legal authorities to hold human rights abusers and corrupt actors accountable. In this role, she serves as the primary liaison with U.S. government personnel and assists NGOs and pro bono attorneys working to produce recommendations for sanctions in Africa, the Near East, and Europe and Eurasia.

Previously, Amanda worked with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights as the Dale and James J. Pinto Fellow focused on human rights advocacy in South and Southeast Asia. She received her juris doctor from Georgetown University Law Center and a Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies. During her time at Georgetown, she co-authored a report on violence and discrimination against LGBT persons in Guyana as part of the Human Rights Fact-Finding Practicum. She prepared a strategic litigation case to challenge child marriage laws in Botswana with the International Women’s Human Rights Clinic and participated in the Guantanamo Observers Program. During her summers, Amanda worked with the South African Human Rights Commission in Johannesburg and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights.

Prior to law school, Amanda worked with Women for Women International on communications and advocacy focused on challenges faced by women in conflict-affected countries. She has a B.A. in Foreign Affairs and a minor in French from the University of Virginia.

About

Selam Tesfai

Selam Tesfai

Legal Services Coordinator

Selam Tesfai is the Legal Services Coordinator for Human Rights First’s Refugee Representation team.  As the Legal Services Coordinator in our Washington, D.C. office, Selam works closely with pro bono attorneys who represent indigent asylum seekers in their claims for protection.  She also oversees the screening, intake, and case placement for our asylum-seeking clients.

Prior to joining Human Rights First, Selam worked as a Pro Bono Coordinator for the Immigration Justice Campaign where she recruited, engaged, and retained volunteers in the Justice Campaign network and placed them with asylum volunteer opportunities. She also worked as a Faculty Advisor at Envision EMI, where she facilitated leadership skills training for middle school and high school students from across the United States.  Selam also worked as a legal assistant at a private law firm and served as an interpreter and documents translator at the Arlington Asylum Office, among other immigration agencies.

Selam received her BA in Archaeology from the University of Asmara in Eritrea and her Master’s in African Studies degree from Ohio University.  She also has an Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies.  Selam speaks Tigrinya and Amharic fluently

About

Erin E. Wilson

Erin E. Wilson

Senior Director for Extremism and Human Rights

Erin Wilson serves as the Senior Director for Extremism & Human Rights at Human Rights First (HRF). Immediately before joining HRF, she served as the Director the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) Presidential Initiative, The People v. Hate: Standing Up for Humanity, on behalf of the 2021 NAAG President, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine. The initiative focused on addressing acute forms of hate, such as hate crimes, and the legacy of hate that permeates our institutions and continues to perpetuate injustice. She also served as the Attorney General’s Senior Policy Advisor on issues related to social and racial justice, hate, and domestic extremism.

Prior to joining the Washington D.C. Office of the Attorney General, Ms. Wilson spent nearly twenty years in the federal government executive and legislative branchesCapitol Hill, the National Counterterrorism Center, State, a DHS Task Force, and the Department of Defensedeveloping
strategy, policy, and programs to prevent hate and domestic extremism, and to promote social justice.

For instance, in 2019 she was a Brookings Legislative Fellow and Senior Policy Advisor in the Senate, where she furthered legislation to improve social justice, prevent hate, and counter violent white supremacy. While serving at the National Counterterrorism Center as a Senior Policy Strategist in 2017,
she successfully built a coalition of executive branch personnel to ensure that white supremacy was included in a national security strategy for the first time in our nation’s history.

Over her career, Ms. Wilson has established herself as a leading expert on counter hate and domestic extremism policy and programs. She boasts an extensive track record of building and leading diverse coalitions including community stakeholders and federal, state, and local law enforcement and military partners to design and implement strategies, policies, and programs to counter hate and extremism, while promoting civil rights.

Ms. Wilson earned her master’s degree in Comparative Politics and Conflict Studies, with an emphasis on extremism, from the London School of Economics. She received her bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Michigan State University.

About

Elizabeth Yates

Senior Researcher for Antisemitism

Dr. Elizabeth Yates is the Senior Researcher for Antisemitism at Human Rights First.

Prior to joining Human Rights First, Liz spent four years as a Senior Researcher/Researcher on the domestic radicalization team at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) at the University of Maryland. During that time, she contributed to data collection and analysis on a series of datasets tracking trends in domestic extremism and hate crimes in the United States, co-authoring reports, briefs, and articles on topics including extremism in the U.S. military, the growth of anti-Muslim terrorism, mass casualty hate crime attacks, and disengagement from right-wing extremism, among others. In addition, Liz has taught undergraduate classes at the University of Maryland and the University of Pittsburgh, and worked at several other non-profit organizations.

She earned a doctorate in Sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, and a BA in International Relations at Tufts University.