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Elise de Castillo, Esq.
After working with marginalized communities in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, India and Mexico, Elise received her J.D. from the Hofstra University School of Law where she graduated as the Dwight L. Greene Scholar. In addition to her work at CARECEN, Elise served as the Post-Graduate Fellow at the Hofstra Asylum Clinic. She also worked as a consultant for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the results of her interviews with more than 200 unaccompanied migrant children from Central America were published in the UNHCR's report Children on the Run. Elise is a recipient of the national Burton Award for Distinguished Legal Writing and was named a Top 40 Latino Under 40 by the New York Hispanic Coalition.
Chief Operations Officer
A Carolina transplant, Becca obtained her Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Culture, Politics, and Russian Studies) at the University of Texas - Arlington, worked in non-profit ministry, volunteered in grass roots political campaigns, and gained valuable experience among other industries before beginning her English Language Teaching (ELT) career in Daejeon, South Korea. Becca holds an M.A. in TESOL from The New School for Public Engagement as well as a Graduate Certificate in Sociology from Appalachian State University. She is currently pursuing a Master's in Public Administration and Policy from American University. In June 2016, Rebecca joined CARECEN to help launch a new program, Pathway to English - Long Island, as ESOL Services Coordinator. Since then, she has transitioned into other roles, including development, program coordination for the CARECEN-Hofstra EL/Civics and Citizenship Project, and most recently, Chief Operations Officer. In 2019, Becca graduated from the Advocacy Institute Educator Pipeline, participated in the She Should Run Political Pipeline, has been an advocate for state and federal adult education/ESOL policy change, and was elected Vice President of Outreach for the 2019-2021 New York State TESOL (NYS TESOL) Executive Board. In her spare time, she likes books, baseball games, and hanging out at the beach with her four-legged side kick, Pup Detective Oskar Woofowitz.
Siomara Umaña, Esq.
Siomara provides legal assistance to unaccompanied minors in Long Island facing removal proceedings in New York, who have fled Central America due to gang violence, domestic violence and other dangers. Prior to joining CARECEN, Siomara spent several semesters at the Asylum and Immigrant Rights Clinic at Ave Maria School of Law. There she represented clients before Miami Immigration Court, working specifically on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, U-Visa and Adjustment of Status applications. While in law school, Siomara became interested in international human rights law and interned with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Siomara received her J.D from Ave Maria School of Law, is admitted to practice law in New York and New Jersey and is fluent is Spanish.
Emerson Argueta, Esq.
Emerson was born in El Salvador and emigrated to the United States with his family in the early 1990s, and settled on Long Island. Emerson’s experience working in immigration started in his first year at Fordham University School of Law when he volunteered with the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project. He continued advocating for immigrants through four service trips to the family detention center in Dilley, Texas, and internships with Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) and Human Rights First. Emerson worked with Immigrant Justice Corps’ Adults with Children project where he represented underserved vulnerable women and children facing removal to Central American countries where they fear gang and domestic violence. He will continue to serve the Long Island immigrant community as a staff attorney for CARECEN.
Immigrant Justice Corps - Justice Fellow
As the daughter of Salvadoran and Colombian immigrants, Emily inherited her parent’s resiliency, grit and passion and is dedicated to serving the immigrant community at large. She honed her legal advocacy skills at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law where she worked with the Kathryn O. Greenberg Immigration Justice Clinic and Cardozo’s Criminal Defense Clinic. Emily also interned at The Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit Youth Project, Urban Justice Center’s Street Vendor Project and volunteered at the Family Detention Center in Dilley, Texas. Emily is honored to continue to fight alongside her community as a Justice Fellow at IJC’s Central American Protection Project in partnership with Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) in Hempstead, Long Island. As a Justice Fellow, Emily will represent vulnerable Adults with Children and unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America.
Megan Elman, Esq.
Immigrant Justice Corps - Justice Fellow
Before law school, Megan worked with noncitizen survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in Raleigh, North Carolina on humanitarian immigration petitions. This work led her to law school, where, through internships with the Bronx Defenders and Public Defender Service of D.C., she became interested in removal defense and post-final order relief, particularly where criminal convictions are/were the grounds for removal. She believes that no noncitizen, regardless of criminal history, deserves to be deported. As an IJC fellow, she will be working in removal defense and post final order relief at IJC’s Long Island Project.
Immigrant Justice Corps - Community Fellow
Once an undocumented immigrant, Geovanni understands the mental and emotional struggle of integrating into a new country without any resources. After going through the process to gain documents, residency, and eventually citizenship, Geovanni sought ways to pay forward the legal services that he once received.
He started his first IJC placement at Public Health Solutions in Corona Queens in 2016, serving the Latino community. That same year, he also provided monthly legal services for constituents of Senator Jesse Hamilton at his Brooklyn office. His second placement was at the Queens Public Library. During his 3rd year as a Community Fellow, Geovanni was part of the IJC expansion to the Long Island project here at CARECEN, where he still serves vulnerable families from Central American countries who are facing deportation. Geovanni will serve a 4th year at IJC/CARECEN to continue his work on removal defense cases.
Elisa Nunez Gutierrez
Immigrant Justice Corps - Community Fellow
Born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and raised on Long Island, Elisa is passionate about advocating for the needs of immigrants in isolated spaces. In her hometown of Uniondale, Elisa led workshops and provides mentorship to first-generation High School seniors transitioning to college. Her lived experiences propelled her to research Central American adaptation to white-suburban space in Long Island which she presented at the Annual Eastern Sociological Conference. Elisa’s experience as a NYC volunteer court interpreter allowed her to understand the extent to which the legal process affects immigrants and its limitations. As an accredited legal representative Elisa will be working under IJC’s Central American Protection Project, a partnership with Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) where she will serve Central American children and families seeking humanitarian relief.
Jenny Chévez Kessinger
Citizenship Services Coordinator
Born in Nicaragua, from a very early age Jenny was engaged in her community and exploring her heritage through folkloric dance. As a young adult Jenny worked as a host and tour guide for international relief workers and students of service learning projects for over seven years, which enabled her to attend college at the Universidad Nacional de Nicaragua at León. Jenny immigrated to the United States in 2010, and was incredibly fortunate to have been warmly supported and encouraged by many in her community. She strives to return this warmth to new immigrants each day. Jenny has been an active member of the LGBT immigrant community, including serving as a Coordinator of the LGBT Immigrant Group, a collaborative project between CARECEN and Hofstra University. In her free time, Jenny enjoys knitting, painting, gardening, attending concerts, visiting museums, and she still loves to dance.
Citizenship Services Coordinator
As an immigrant from El Salvador, Mayra understands firsthand the challenges new Americans face when they arrive to the United States. This understanding, as well as a deep desire to help her community, motivated Mayra to attend St. John's University, where she graduated with a B.S. in Legal Sciences. It also motivates Mayra's work as CARECEN's Citizenship Services Coordinator. In this capacity, she helps hundreds of immigrants each year apply for citizenship and obtain the education they need to become part of their new communities on Long Island.
Vivian was born in Colombia, and raised in Spain where she obtained her Bachelor's degree in Social Work, and a Master's Degree in Project Management. Vivian was awarded by the University of Zaragoza, in Spain, to go to Cuba to complete an internship, and to go to Italy to participate in an intensive program to learn about social services in Europe in a multicultural society. Vivian's passion to learn more about different cultures guided her to specialize in International Cooperation, and worked in Peru for 10 months helping people at risk of social exclusion.
Vivian emigrated to the United States in 2012, and obtained her Master's Degree in Social Work at Adelphi University, and is registered to practice in New York State as a License Master Social Worker.
Immigrant Community Navigator
A Michigan native, Samantha attended the University of Tampa. During her undergraduate years, her interest in Latin America grew with trips to study and volunteer in Costa Rica and Peru, along with international development based internships, fellowships, and research work in Washington, D.C., Florida, and other parts of the U.S.
After graduation, Samantha taught English in rural Honduras. Her time in Honduras further motivated her to continue working with Central Americans while learning more about immigration after the challenging experiences she heard while living in Honduras. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, bike riding, and baking banana bread.
Mariann came to the United States from her native Ecuador in 1970. Since her arrival to the United States, her goal has been to help people, particularly her fellow immigrants. In addition to her membership in various Ecuadoran associations, Mariann served as the President of SEPA Mujer, an organization that provides empowerment and legal defense to immigrant women who are survivors of domestic violence, and is the sitting President of the Metropolitan Lion's Club. Over her more than twenty years at CARECEN, Mariann has helped thousands of immigrants gain legal status in the United States.
Beatríz came to the U.S. from El Salvador in 1983. She began her career with CARECEN as a volunteer in 1996 because she wanted to give back to her community. Beatríz has continued to serve the immigrant community ever since. She completes naturalization applications, Legal Permanent Resident Card renewals, TPS renewals, and DACA renewals in our Brentwood office. In her free time, Beatríz likes to go shopping and spend time with her children, grandchildren, and puppy, Milo.