Panelists' Biographies

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Keynote

Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia is a law professor at Penn State Law. She is a nationally recognized scholar of immigration law whose research focuses on the role of prosecutorial discretion in immigration law; the association between detention, removal and due process; and the intersection between immigration, national security, and race. Her book, Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases, will be published by New York University Press in 2015 and is the first book on the topic of immigration prosecutorial discretion.

She is the founder/director of the Center for Immigrants’ Rights, an immigration policy clinic where students produce practitioner toolkits, white papers, and primers of national impact on behalf of client organizations. Clients have included the American Bar Association, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Immigration Council, Human Rights First, Kids in Need of Defense, the National Guestworker Alliance, the National Immigrant Justice Center, and the National Immigration Project, among others.

Prior to joining Penn State, Professor Wadhia was deputy director for legal affairs at the National Immigration Forum in Washington, D.C. She has been honored by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Inspector General and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and in 2003, she was named Pro Bono Attorney of the Year by the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. She has also been an associate with Maggio Kattar, P.C. in Washington, D.C., where she litigated asylum, deportation, and employment-based immigration benefits matters.

Additional Viewpoints & Audience Responses

Catherine Kim is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina, where she teaches Immigration & Citizenship Law, Civil Rights Law and Civil Procedure. Prior to joining the faculty at UNC, she litigated civil rights cases with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, National Legal Department, focusing on education rights, discrimination on the basis of religion, and Native American rights Professor Kim clerked for the Honorable Carlos F. Lucero on the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. She earned her J.D. from Columbia Law School, where she served as an editor on the Columbia Law Review, and her B.A from Cornell University. Her research interests include issues of executive power, institutional competence and design, immigration, and civil rights enforcement.

Kaci Bishop joined the faculty of the University of North Carolina School of Law full-time in 2012. Professor Bishop earned her B.A. from Smith College and her J.D. with honors from Carolina Law. Following law school, Professor Bishop clerked for the Honorable Linda McGee at the North Carolina Court of Appeals before becoming a staff attorney with the Immigrants Legal Assistance Project with the North Carolina Justice Center, where she represented indigent immigrants who were victims of domestic violence or other crimes, who were fleeing persecution, and who were facing deportation. She also provided technical assistance and training to other immigrant advocates and attorneys. Professor Bishop teaches Research, Reasoning, Writing, and Advocacy in the first-year curriculum. She has also taught in the school’s Immigration Clinic.

Deborah Weissman is the Reef Ivey II Distinguished Professor of Law. She was the Director of Clinical Programs from January 2001 through July 2010. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Syracuse University and graduated cum laude from Syracuse University Law School. Prior to teaching law, she has had extensive experience in all phases of legal advocacy, and served as Deputy Director and then Executive Director at Legal Services of North Carolina from 1994 to 1998. She has taught the Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic, Civil Lawyering Process and the Civil Litigation Clinic. In 2013, she received the Frank Porter Graham Award from the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union for outstanding civil rights work.

Community Voices: Personal Stories of the Immigrant Experience

Yazmin Garcia Rico was born and raised in Veracruz, Mexico. She immigrated to Burlington, NC in 2002 to join her mother who had come to the U.S. two years before. Yazmin set her sights on a college education early on and worked hard during high school in hopes for a fair chance. She was determined to go to college despite her undocumented status and graduated from Guilford College in May 2011. Yazmin wanted to be more than just a student and became an active campus leader; she coordinated an after school tutorial program for middle school Latino students, organized Soy un Lider Conference at Guilford College, and served as the president of Hispanos Unidos de Guilford (HUG), through which she organized several events to bring awareness about farmworker issues and celebrate the accomplishments of Cesar Chavez. Yazmin participated in SAF’s Into the Fields internship program as a rising sophomore in 2008, working at Prospect Hill Community Health Center, where she learned about health issues and working conditions farmworkers are exposed to by working in the fields. After applying to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Yazmin was approved and joined SAF at the end of 2012. She coordinates the Levante Leadership Institute and National Farmworker Awareness Week as SAF's Youth Director.

Todd Drake is a photographer and visual consultant. He is a long time educator, human rights focused artist, and North Carolina native who has enjoyed seeing the diversity of his home state change over the years. Drake’s art is focused on building bridges of understanding between people. A past UNC Rockefeller Fellow, he has documented the Muslim American community living in North Carolina in the Center for Global Initiatives sponsored project “Esse Quam Videri – Muslim Self Portraits.” His photos and exhibitions show nationally and internationally at universities and museums. He regularly works overseas on photo projects with help of the US State Department and others. Todd has also worked to share the experiences of undocumented immigrants and their children and has recently received funding through the North Carolina Arts Council, in collaboration with FaithAction International House, to conduct an artists in residence photography and storytelling project with immigrant students at North East High School.  Todd Drake is available for exhibitions, workshops on digital photography, and speaking engagements. Feel free to contact him at todddrake@mac.com or visit his website at www.the-equalist.com.

Manzoor Cheema has been active in human rights campaigns since 1999. As a student at Veterinary Medical College in Lahore, Pakistan, he took part in actions against exploitation of dairy farmers by multi-national companies including Swiss Food company Nestlé. Since 2007, Manzoor has focussed on organizing South Asian and Middle Eastern community members in North Carolina in order to bring a progressive social change. In 2013, Manzoor and members of Black Workers for Justice co-founded an organization called Muslims for Social Justice, whose mission is to work for human right and social justice for all. Members of Muslims for Social Justice have participated in Moral Monday movement, rallies against police brutality, May Day rally and protests against Gaza attack. Muslims for Social Justice has worked closely with partners within Muslim, interfaith and social justice organizations. Manzoor, along with interfaith allies, invited NC NAACP President, Rev. William Barber, to speak at Triangle Interfaith Alliance's Annual Dinner in February 2014. In June 2014, Manzoor organized a workshop on voting rights in Apex Mosque. Manzoor, on behalf of Muslims for Social Justice, was invited to speak at Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) rally on Feb 8, 2014, and during Moral Monday rallies. Recently, Manzoor organized an event to connect Palestinian and African American human rights in the wake of 2014 Gaza war and police brutality in Ferguson, MO. Manzoor's goal is to build a broad-based movement to work on local and global human rights and social justice causes.

Police, Profiling, and Punishment: Criminalizing the Immigrant Experience

Across this country and particularly within the South, the intersection of the immigrant experience and the criminal justice system remains problematic. Immigrants remain subject to police departments that racially profile and attorneys that do not fully understand the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction for an immigrant. Their access to justice is further complicated or sometimes wholly denied on account of language and cultural barriers that our justice system ignores. This panel will address the many ways in which the United States criminal justice system continues to disadvantage and discriminate against immigrants and further relegates them to second-class citizens.

Michael Songer is an attorney with the Department of Justice in the Civil Rights Division who specializes in cases involving police misconduct, racial profiling and prisoner's rights. Recently, Songer was involved with the case United States v. Johnson, where the Department of Justice pursued litigation against the Alamance County Sheriff's Department for discriminatory policing practices against Latinos in that county of North Carolina.

H. Esteban Diaz is an immigration attorney who specializes in removal defense. He has represented clients across North Carolina in a variety of criminal and traffic matters and consequently, understands the implications such dispositions can have for immigrants and their families.

Raul Pinto is an attorney with the Immigrants and Refugees Rights Project of the North Carolina Justice Center. His work at the NC Justice Center and at the ACLU of NC, has focused on investigating violations of civil rights with an emphasis on immigrants’ rights, racial justice and community interaction with law enforcement.

The Guarded Gate: Expanding Access to Education

This panel will cover the specific legal issues that face immigrant students in public schools, specifically the conflict between federal protections and lagging local enforcement/access. Language access, enrollment, and in-state tuition will all be discussed, along with different policies and practices that can make Southern (and all) schools more inclusive and supportive of immigrant students.

Emilio Vicente is a senior at UNC-Chapel Hill. In 2014, he ran unsuccessfully for Student Body President. His campaign generated record student turnout, along with press coverage in national media due to the fact that he would have been the first openly gay, undocumented, or Latino Student Body President in Carolina’s history. Emilio came to the US from Guatemala at the age of six, and has called North Carolina home ever since. Although he is a life-long resident, current UNC policies treat him as an out-of-state resident due to his undocumented status. An immigration activist since high school, he has recently focused his attentions on the UNC Board of Governors’ lack of transparency, serving as a leader of the BOG Democracy Coalition.

Cindy Escoto is an advocate and community organizer who works with the SPLC in Alabama to protect immigrant students' rights.

George Eppsteiner is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Florida Levin College of Law. While in law school, George was a Center for Governmental Responsibility Fellow and worked with a public interest law firm on education issues and criminalization of homelessness cases. After law school, he practiced complex civil litigation with large law firms in FL and then in NC, while maintaining an active pro bono practice, including assisting Montravias King in his successful efforts to remain on the ballot for city council in Eastern North Carolina. He joined the Southern Coalition for Social Justice in 2014 as a Staff Attorney who focuses on voting rights, education law, and constitutional cases. Currently, George is working with a coalition of civil rights organizations on litigation and advocacy regarding immigrant children who face obstacles enrolling in public schools in North Carolina. George also advocates with community partners for local government resolutions that affirm the constitutional right of all children, regardless of immigration status, to attend public schools. Such resolutions have been passed in a variety of North Carolina municipalities including the City of Durham, Orange County, and the Town of Chapel Hill.

Detainment, Deportation, and Domestic Violence: Preserving the Immigrant Family

This panel will address a myriad of interconnected issues regarding families and immigration in the U.S. South. Panelists will including leading practicing attorneys and immigration experts, who will provide practical insight and advice gleaned from working in the immigration field today. Among other issues discussed, the panelists will explore: LGBTQ immigrant rights and access to citizenship; the status and experience of immigrant children detained at the border and placed in the U.S. South; and resources available to migrant domestic violence survivors.

Jennifer Shay Stuart practices immigration law with Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Battered Immigrant Project (BIP). The BIP is a statewide project that provides legal services to immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking. Jennifer is a member of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association, North Carolina’s Coalition Against Human Trafficking. and North Carolina’s statewide anti-human trafficking task force. She received her B.A. from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida and her J.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She began her legal career as a Clifton-Everett Fellow in Legal Aid of North Carolina’s New Bern Office where she practiced family law and developed pro se divorce and custody clinics. She is now based in the Raleigh office of Legal Aid and enjoys having clients from all over the world.

Sonal Raja Shah is the Senior Supervising Attorney at Access to Law Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia, a nonprofit foundation dedicated to ensuring that no vulnerable person goes without access to law based solely on the inability to pay. Sonal is extremely passionate about immigrant rights and providing zealous representation to those without a voice. Sonal’s practice primarily focuses on the family and human rights side of immigration including Deportation Defense, Asylum, VAWA, U Visas, Waivers of Inadmissibility, and Consular Processing. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill. She earned her Juris Doctorate from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law, where she was a member of the North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation and a student practitioner in the Immigration and Human Rights Policy Clinic. She is a member of the State Bar of Georgia, State Bar of Florida, American Bar Association, Atlanta-Alabama and Carolinas AILA chapters, and the South Asian Bar Association of Georgia. She also actively volunteers with the Battered Immigrant Project of Legal Aid North Carolina and Justice Matters.

Evelyn Smallwood is an associate at Velasquez and Associates in Durham, North Carolina, where she practices exclusively immigration law, including family-based immigration, deportation defense, and humanitarian immigration cases. Prior to joining her current firm, Evelyn practiced immigration law and criminal defense for several years in Greenville, North Carolina and Goldsboro, North Carolina. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Brigham Young University, where she also studied Spanish and German. She received her law degree in 2009 from the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Law, where she was a student practitioner in the Immigration and Human Rights Policy Clinic. In the clinic, she represented clients on U-Visa and Temporary Protected Status applications and researched Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) detention policies and practices. In 2014, she and several other local immigration attorneys volunteered their services to the women and children being held in a large, isolated ICE detention center in Artesia, NM. These families were part of the "surge" at the Southern border last summer, fleeing rampant violence and abuse in their home countries. Many of these women and children are eligible for protections under U.S. immigration laws, but without legal assistance, they are unlikely to obtain these benefits. Evelyn’s passion is defending immigrants’ rights, and believes that as an immigration attorney, she has a special opportunity to protect people and unite families.

Power & Labor: The Immigrant Workforce in the South

This panel will focus on the myriad issues facing immigrant laborers in the South. It will focus on the struggles to win and maintain legal, regulatory, and political support and protection for all immigrants who are working in the south. To this end, the panel will address the plights of both documented and undocumented workers.

Carol Brooke joined the Justice Center in September 2000 as a staff attorney with the Immigrants Legal Assistance Project. During her tenure with the organization, Carol has quickly developed into one of the state’s leading advocates on behalf of migrant workers – particularly farmworkers. She has handled numerous important cases on behalf of groups and individuals and has successfully represented migrants victimized by unlawful employment practices, unsafe housing, sexual harassment and numerous other abuses and indignities. When not litigating cases, Brooke has conducted countless training sessions and provided untold hours of support to advocacy organizations working with farmworkers. Before attending and graduating from law school at UNC-Chapel Hill, Carol worked as a public health educator with a non-profit organization that provided education and advocacy for low-income poultry processing workers in North Carolina.

Raul Mauro Arce Jimenez of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee was born in Ecatepec de Morelos, Mexico State, Mexico. He is the son of migrant farmworkers and a former farmworker himself. In 1997, at the age of six, he migrated to North Carolina with his family as an undocumented minor. After living in North Carolina for three years, he moved back to Mexico where he stayed for three years, and later returned to North Carolina where he has been living since 2003. Raul works as an organizer for the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO in Dudley, NC. As an organizer, he reaches out to farm workers all across North Carolina, working together to build union membership, improve living and working conditions, educate workers on labor rights, and ensure all farm workers a voice on the job.

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