NILC Staff

Our mission is to defend & advance the rights & opportunities of low-income immigrants and their family members.

To contact NILC by email:


Marielena Hincapié

Marielena-headshot-3-188x125Marielena Hincapié is the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, the main organization dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants in the U.S. Under her executive leadership, NILC has grown to be one of the premier immigrants’ rights organizations, strategically using a combination of litigation, policy, communications, and alliance-building strategies to effect social change. Ms. Hincapié is highly respected for her legal and political strategies and is seen as a bridge builder within the immigrants’ rights field as well as across broader social justice sectors.

Fully bilingual and bicultural, Ms. Hincapié serves as a resource and is often interviewed by media outlets such as Univisión, Telemundo, CNN en Español, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. She also is a frequent lecturer at national and international conferences, addressing issues of migration, and she works closely with emerging leaders in the social justice movement. Ms. Hincapié began her tenure at NILC in 2000 as a staff attorney leading the organization’s labor and employment program. During that time, she successfully litigated law reform and impact-litigation cases dealing with the intersection of immigration laws and employment/labor laws. She then served as NILC’s director of programs from 2004 to 2008, after which she became executive director.

Before joining NILC, Ms. Hincapié worked for the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco’s Employment Law Center, where she founded the Center’s Immigrant Workers’ Rights Project. She holds a juris doctor degree from Northeastern University School of Law, served on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration, and is currently a member of the Jobs with Justice, Welcome.US, and Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) boards of directors.

Among the awards Ms. Hincapié has received are Univision’s Corazón Award for 2013, in honor of her commitment to the Latino community. The media company, which honors one organization and one individual each year, cited her leadership at the National Immigration Law Center as a key reason she received the award. In 2014, she received the Latina of Influence award from Hispanic Lifestyle, the National Public Service Award from Stanford Law School, and was selected as a Prime Mover Fellow by the Hunt Alternatives Fund. She also recently served as the Northeastern University School of Law Daynard Distinguished Visiting Fellow and the Practitioner-in-Residence at the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

Ms. Hincapié immigrated as a child from Medellín, Colombia, to Central Falls, Rhode Island. She is the youngest of 10 children.

Follow Marielena on Twitter: @MarielenaNILC

Executive Assistant: Claudia Lara


legal-policy-188x125Marisa Aguayo, Senior Officer, Institutional Giving. Marisa Aguayo has lead responsibility for developing and implementing institutional fundraising strategies, which involves securing support from foundations, law firms, unions, corporations, and other associations. She also plays a leadership role in crafting annual fundraising plans that ensure NILC’s long-term sustainability. Prior to joining NILC in 2004, Marisa worked as a program director for the MultiCultural Collaborative, a social justice organization created after Los Angeles’ 1992 civil unrest. Prior to that, she was a development associate for El Rescate, a legal and social services agency serving immigrants in Los Angeles..

Adela de la Torre, Communications Director. Adela de la Torre directs communication and media outreach efforts for NILC. In this role, she works with others to conduct communications research and helps shape messaging for major legal and policy campaigns. Under her leadership, NILC’s media presence has grown, and NILC experts are now sought-after thought leaders who help shape the news. Adela joined NILC in 2009 as a communications specialist. Prior to joining NILC, she served as a media relations specialist for the George Washington University, where she earned her B.A. in International Affairs and her M.A. in Latin American Hemispheric Studies.

Kamal Essaheb, Director of Policy & Advocacy. Kamal Essaheb directs NILC’s federal, state, and local policy and advocacy work. He also engages in advocacy relating to access to legal status for immigrants, including implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Prior to joining NILC, Mr. Essaheb was a practicing immigration attorney at CUNY Citizenship Now, a nonprofit immigration legal services provider in New York City. He is a graduate of Fordham Law School, where he was a Stein Scholar in Public Interest Law and Ethics. He is an immigrant from Morocco and is fluent in Arabic.

Linton Joaquin, General Counsel. Linton Joaquin became NILC’s first general counsel in September 2008 after having served as executive director since 2004. Prior to that, he was NILC’s legal director. In his 35-plus years of legal practice, Mr. Joaquin has gained national recognition for his expertise in immigration law and in litigation to preserve and promote immigrants’ legal rights. He has served as lead or principal counsel in numerous class action lawsuits, such as Walters v. Reno, requiring the Immigration and Naturalization Service to comply with due process in charging immigrants with civil document fraud; Orantes-Hernandez v. Meese, prohibiting the INS from coercing a nationwide class of Salvadoran refugees into abandoning their right to seek asylum, and requiring the agency to allow detained class members access to counsel and legal rights materials; and Perez-Funez v. District Director, enjoining the INS from having detained children waive their right to a hearing without first having access to legal advice. Prior to joining NILC in 1990, Mr. Joaquin served as executive director and director of litigation for the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) in Los Angeles, and staff attorney for the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO. He also has taught immigration law on an adjunct basis at the University of Southern California Law School (1997) and Southwestern University School of Law (1991-1996). Mr. Joaquin holds a juris doctor degree from the University of California (Boalt Hall).

Tom Kam, Deputy Director, Development and Operations. Tom Kam oversees NILC’s internal operations and special projects, and he helps lead NILC’s strategic fundraising efforts. He also serves as a key member of NILC’s Senior Leadership Team. More than half of Tom’s career has been dedicated to serving immigrant and refugee communities. From 1997 to 2006, he had a leadership role in directing the Washington Area Partnership for Immigrants, a funder’s collaborative that served, and advocated on behalf of, immigrant communities across the Washington, DC, metropolitan region. As Vice President, Social Justice Programs, at the Arcus Foundation, and as Vice President, Strategy and External Affairs, at Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC, he was responsible for strategic planning and the evaluation of critical initiatives. Tom is proud to be the son of an immigrant family from Panama, he was born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and raised on more military bases than he cares to remember. He holds master’s degrees in Divinity and in Social Work.

Reshma Shamasunder, Deputy Director, Programs. Reshma Shamasunder oversees the NILC’s legal, policy and advocacy, and communications strategies and serves as a key member of NILC’s Senior Leadership Team. Before joining NILC in 2017, Reshma served as executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center from 2003 to 2015.  Under her leadership, CIPC helped to spearhead many successful campaigns at the state level, including placing limits on cooperation between local law enforcement and immigration authorities, preserving important health and human service programs, winning driver’s licenses for all Californians, and furthering important immigrant integration efforts. Reshma served on the boards of Health Access California and the South Asian Network in Los Angeles. She was previously director of benefits policy and government affairs at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and also worked for several years on child labor issues in India. She is the daughter of Indian immigrants and was raised in California’s Mojave Desert. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from UCLA and a Master’s in City Planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Karen Tumlin, Legal Director. Karen Tumlin focuses on promoting the rights of low-income immigrants through litigation and related advocacy. She has successfully litigated numerous cases of national importance, including the constitutional challenge to Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant SB 1070 law, and has testified before the U.S. Congress on immigrants’ rights issues. Her primary responsibilities are leading NILC’s legal department and overseeing NILC’s impact litigation. Before joining NILC as a Skadden Fellow in 2005, Karen clerked for Judge Dorothy W. Nelson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Prior to law school, she worked as a research associate at the Urban Institute, where she coauthored studies on immigration, welfare, and language access issues. She also spent a year as a Luce Scholar in Bangkok, Thailand, where she conducted a study on child trafficking in the region for the U.N. International Labor Organization. Karen holds a juris doctor degree and a master of public policy from the University of California at Berkeley (Boalt Hall). Follow Karen on Twitter: @karentumlin.


legal-policy-188x125Bianca Alcala-Ruiz, Paralegal. Bianca Alcala provides legal assistance to the NILC litigation team, which focuses on promoting the rights of low-income immigrants through litigation, technical assistance, and administrative advocacy.

Tanya Broder, Senior Staff Attorney. Tanya Broder specializes in the laws and policies affecting access to health care, public benefits, and education for low-income immigrants across the United States. She writes articles and policy analyses, provides technical assistance, co-counsels on litigation, and presents trainings to legal and social service providers, government agencies, legislative staff, and community-based organizations.

Meredith Cabell, Paralegal. Meredith Cabell works to defend and support low-income immigrants through litigation, administrative advocacy, and community engagement.

Cecilia Chang, Supervising Attorney

Shiu-Ming Cheer, Senior Staff Attorney & Field Coordinator. Shiu-Ming Cheer focuses on challenging immigration enforcement, promoting access to legal status, and integrating a field strategy into NILC’s issue areas.

Justin B. Cox, Staff Attorney. Justin B. Cox works to defend and advance the rights of low-income immigrants through litigation and administrative advocacy.

Nicholas Espíritu, Staff Attorney. Nicholas Espíritu focuses on promoting the rights of low-income immigrants through litigation and administrative advocacy.

Jessie Hahn, Labor & Employment Policy Attorney. Jessie Hahn engages in legislative and administrative advocacy focused on protecting and expanding the rights of low-wage immigrant workers. She also provides legal counsel and strategic advice to support immigrant worker advocates around the country on legal and policy matters affecting immigrants in the workplace.

Jessica Hanson, Skadden Fellow / Staff Attorney.  Through her Skadden fellowship, Jessica Hanson focuses on ensuring immigrant students are not chilled from accessing and thriving in their K-12 and higher education under the current immigration enforcement regime, through the creation and implementation of “safe zone” policies. Ms. Hanson’s current litigation docket includes challenges to anti-immigrant state policies, enforcement actions against DACA recipients, and the Trump administration’s termination of the DACA program.

Alvaro M. Huerta, Staff Attorney. Alvaro M. Huerta works to defend and advance the rights of low-income immigrants and their family members through litigation, administrative advocacy, and community education. His practice includes litigation on due process, equal protection and civil rights, and challenging anti-immigrant state legislation. He also helps state and local advocates ensure that immigrants and their families can obtain access to health care and economic supports. Follow Alvaro on Twitter: @AlvaroMHuerta.

Mayra Joachin, Staff Attorney. Mayra Joachin focuses on improving access to affordable health care coverage for uninsured immigrants. She engages in policy analysis, consumer advocacy, direct work with affected individuals, and impact litigation to advocate for improved access to health care.

Melissa Keaney, Staff Attorney. Melissa Keaney focuses on promoting the rights of low-income immigrants through litigation, technical assistance, and administrative advocacy. Her main work areas focus on immigration enforcement, with particular focus on programs that permit local law enforcement to collaborate in immigration enforcement.

Gabrielle Lessard, Senior Policy Attorney. Gabrielle Lessard specializes in the laws and policies affecting access to health care for immigrants and their families, in particular the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the maintenance and expansion of safety-net services for immigrants left uninsured. She writes articles and policy analyses, provides technical assistance, and presents trainings to legal and social service providers, government agencies, legislative staff, and community-based organizations.

Matthew Lopas, Health Campaign State and Local Manager; Health Policy Attorney. Matthew Lopas engages in policy advocacy and coalition-building to protect and improve immigrants’ access to affordable health care through federal programs, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and efforts to expand programs to cover the remaining uninsured. His work focuses on outreach and support to groups working at the state level. He manages a national coalition of advocates and health care assisters, and he leads NILC’s efforts to support state and local campaigns to advance expansion of health care programs.

Daisy Lozano, Administrative Assistant, Legal

Sheila Miller, Supervising Paralegal. Sheila Miller has extensive experience with case management, multidistrict litigation, investigative research, and court liaison at the state and federal levels.

Avideh Moussavian, Senior Policy Attorney. Avideh Moussavian’s advocacy at NILC focuses on reducing the vulnerability of low-income immigrants to deportation on account of their race, class, or gender.

Diana Pliego, Policy Associate. Diana Pliego works on a range of issues, including protection for DACA recipients and fighting immigration enforcement. She conducts policy research, analyzes and tracks legislation, and develops materials for movement and field partners as well as for congressional advocacy.

Nora Adriana Preciado, Senior Staff Attorney. Nora Preciado focuses on promoting the rights of low-income immigrants through litigation, technical assistance, and administrative advocacy. Her main areas of focus include immigration enforcement and workers’ rights issues.

Trudy Rebert, Staff Attorney

Jenny Rejeske, Senior Health Policy Analyst. Jenny Rejeske advocates for federal, state, and local policies giving low-income immigrants meaningful access to affordable health care.

Ignacia Rodriguez, Immigration Policy Advocate. Ignacia Rodriguez conducts legal research as well as legislative and administrative advocacy focusing on immigration executive actions and congressional action on immigration. She also engages in litigation, policy analysis, education, and advocacy to support the integration of low-income immigrant youth and children through access to education.

Josh Rosenthal, Staff Attorney

Joshua Stehlik, Supervising Attorney. Joshua Stehlik engages in policy advocacy, strategic litigation, technical assistance, and community education focused on enforcing and expanding the workplace rights of low-wage immigrant workers.

Esther Sung, Staff Attorney

Nina Torres, Program Associate. Nina Torres focuses on supporting local and statewide campaigns that NILC is involved in and provides the community with presentations and outreach services. She supports administrative and legislative advocacy related to immigration enforcement issues, DACA, workers’ rights, health, and other core issues.

Subha Varadarajan, Muslim & Refugee Ban Legal & Outreach Fellow. Subha Varadarajan is the Muslim Ban Outreach and Legal Fellow for Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, CAIR San Francisco Bay Area, and National Immigration Law Center.

Jackie Vimo, Economic Justice Policy Analyst

Jana Whalley, UCLA Public Service Fellow


dev-comm-staff-188x125Hayley Burgess, Media Relations Associate. Hayley Burgess supports NILC’s strategic communications and media outreach efforts, primarily working to facilitate interaction between NILC experts and the media. Follow Hayley on Twitter: @hayleyrburgess.

Acasia Flores, Development Coordinator. Acasia Flores supports NILC’s fundraising efforts, including coordinating special event planning, assisting with donor cultivation mailings, overseeing donor database management, and producing fundraising performance reports and statistics.

Juan Gastelum, Media Relations Specialist. Juan Gastelum works to advance NILC’s programmatic goals through strategic communications and by helping to keep interested parties outside the organization abreast of our work. He serves as the organization’s media contact and facilitates interview requests. Follow Juan on Twitter: @juangastelum.

Richard Irwin, Editor. Richard Irwin helps write, edits, designs, and produces the written resources NILC publishes, both online and on paper. He is also primarily responsible for maintaining and updating NILC′s website.

Victoria Johnson, Online Communications Associate. Victoria Johnson coordinates and implements strategies to expand the reach of NILC’s online communications — messages and other information disseminated via social media, email, and the NILC website.

Tiffanie Luckett, Senior Officer, Individual Giving

Patrick O’Shea, Research and Narrative Strategist. Patrick O’Shea is developing and implementing a comprehensive communications research plan to produce a pro-immigrant narrative that will shine a nuanced light on the issues that impact low-income immigrants and their families. This project includes conducting interviews with plaintiffs, advocates, and other individuals for the creation of a story bank that will serve as a resource for NILC’s legal, policy, and development teams.

Irene Santos, Development Associate. Irene Santos provides administrative support for the Development Team.

Natalia Skinner, Grants Compliance Coordinator. Natalia supports NILC’s grants management and institutional giving efforts.


operations-188x125Karina Balderas, HR Coordinator

Armen Bazikian, Controller. Armen Bazikian is responsible for maintaining accounting records at NILC.

Maria Cisneros, Staff Accountant. Maria Cisneros is responsible for helping maintain fiscal order at NILC.

Nasiba Clark, Executive Assistant

Shaun Clarke, DC Office Coordinator. Shaun is responsible for the administrative functioning of NILC’s DC office as well as assisting with special projects.

Claudia Lara, Senior Executive Assistant. Claudia Lara provides executive assistant support to NILC’s executive director, executive team, and board of directors.