2012/2013 Fellows for a New California

Adel Syed | Director of Development and Community Relations, UMMA Community Clinic

Adel Syed is the Director of Development and Community Relations for UMMA Community Clinic, a community health clinic based in South Los Angeles. He most recently served as the Statewide Policy and Government Relations Coordinator for the Council on American Islamic Relations California, where he mobilized the community to address the challenges faced by American Muslims, and other minority groups at the local, state, and national level. Adel was also a 2011 New Leaders Council Los Angeles Fellow and Co-Founder and Co-Director of New Leaders Council Orange County.


Benjamin Wood | Community Organizer, Pomona Economic Opportunity Center

Benjamin Wood is a community organizer with the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center with more than ten years of experience in the movement for social justice and human rights. While he has worked in numerous issue areas, his focus over that time has been the rights of immigrants. After majoring in languages at University of California, Santa Barbara, he returned to that institution for a Masters in Education and a teaching credential. While in Santa Barbara, he became involved in the grassroots organization PUEBLO, ultimately serving on the Board of Directors. He returned to his Inland Empire community to teach high school, and immediately became involved in local struggles. He eventually transitionined to a career in organizing, at first with a faith-based organization, and now with PEOC. He has also volunteered in Latin America as an interpreter for women’s rights and in health care.


Carlos Amador | Lead Organizer, California Immigrant Policy Center

Carlos is the Lead Organizer at the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC). Prior to working at CIPC, Carlos served as the Project Manager of the Dream Resource Center at the UCLA Labor Center. He is also a Steering Committee member of the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance, a state-wide network of immigrant youth in California. Carlos graduated from UCLA with a Masters of Social Welfare in 2011. He lives with his wife in Los Angeles. Amador emigrated with his family from Mexico in 1999 at the age of 14, living as an undocumented immigrant until 2011. He has been active in the immigrant youth movement through legislative campaigns, stopping deportations of undocumented youth, as well as fighting against anti-immigrant legislations and programs. Carlos was a key member of the successful national campaign that pressured President Obama to stop all deportations of immigrant youth.


Christina Fialho | Co-Founder/Executive Director, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC)

Christina Fialho is the Co-Executive Director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), a national network of independent community visitation programs working to end the isolation and human rights abuses of people in immigration detention. Christina is a member of the State Bar of California, has argued before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and has helped defend immigrants before the U.S. Immigration Courts. She is a recipient of an Echoing Green Fellowship, a Steering Committee Member of the Detention Watch Network, and has a blog on the Huffington Post. Prior to starting CIVIC, Christina co-founded the first immigration detention visitation program in California, researched immigration detention internationally for the Global Detention Project, and worked at Upwardly Global to build more inclusive hiring practices for skilled immigrants in the United States.


Christina Mansfield | Co-Executive Director, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC)

Christina Mansfield is the Co-Executive Director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), a national network of independent community visitation programs supporting immigrants in detention and their families. Prior to starting CIVIC, Christina co-founded Detention Dialogues, the first detention visitation program in the state of California. Her vision for Detention Dialogues and CIVIC is shaped by her academic research on the criminalization of immigrant communities and her desire to apply this knowledge to social justice initiatives.


Cinthya Muñoz | Head Immigrant Rights Organizer, Causa Justa :: Just Cause

Cinthya Muñoz is the head immigrant rights organizer at Causa Justa :: Just Cause and co-chairs ACUDIR: Alameda County United In Defense of Immigrant Rights, a coalition fighting to defend and advance rights for all immigrants. Muñoz’s political involvement began in Sacramento, CA, where, as a high school student, she organized against the criminalization of young people of color by school officials and the police. She became involved in the immigrant rights movement and was instrumental in organizing the student walkouts, community forums and marches that were part of the massive immigrant rights strikes of May 1, 2006. She began work at St. Peter’s Housing Committee in 2007 as part of SOUL Summer School program for young organizers. In addition to her tenant and immigrant rights work at St. Peter’s, Muñoz has been involved in various grassroots campaigns in the Bay Area. Cinthya is an alumni of the Women’s Policy Institute.


Esmeralda Zendejas | Staff Attorney, California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA)

Esmeralda Zendejas is a staff attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance (“CRLA”).  Since 2006, after receiving her J.D. from U.C. Davis School of Law, she began working with CRLA. She worked on a variety of housing, education and employment cases for all low-income individuals in Stanislaus County. In 2008, she transferred to the CRLA Stockton office, where she now advocates for workers who are in agricultural employment, including farm workers, nursery workers, dairy workers, and packing shed workers.  Her work covers four counties in the Central Valley. Her main area of practice is advocating for employment rights of these immigrant workers, where she has represented clients in both administrative and litigation proceedings, including issues of sexual harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination, as well as state and federal wage and hour violations on both an individual and class representative basis. Her work also consists of providing community education and leadership amongst her colleagues.


Felicia Espinosa | Directing Attorney, Fresno Migrant Office of California Rural Legal Assistance Inc.

Felicia Espinosa is the Directing Attorney for the Fresno Migrant Office of California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. where she advocates for the rights of low-wage agricultural and dairy workers. After attending the University of San Francisco School of Law, Espinosa returned to her hometown of Fresno with the intent of providing equal access to the legal system. In addition, Espinosa seeks to provide top quality advocacy and representation for the low-income immigrant community of the Central Valley. Prior to law school, she received a Bachelors of Arts degree in Women’s Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara. While pursuing her degree, she decided that she wanted to make advocating for women’s rights a central part of her career. This is seen in her strong advocacy, both in litigation and seeking immigration relief, on behalf of women in the agricultural industry who have been sexually harassed and discriminated against. Espinosa is committed to bringing awareness to workplace rights which are being routinely violated within the agricultural industry in the Central Valley of California. Her work includes advocacy and representation at administrative hearings, civil litigation, conducting “Know Your Rights” presentations, collaborating with other nonprofit organization and human services providers throughout the State of California, and promoting civic participation.


Fernando Romero | Co-Founding member, AB 540 group FUEL at California State University

Fernando Romero is the co-founding member of the AB 540 group FUEL at California State University, Long Beach. He is also the Coordinator for the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California, an immigrant-rights coalition in the Inland Empire region of California. Fernando graduated from Cal State Long Beach in 2009, and studied Creative Writing and Journalism. He is a co-founding member of a new media project for undocumented youth, Dreamers Adrift. He is also a contributing writer to the Huffington Post in the Dream Activist series. Romero serves as a Board Member on the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, a day labor center in Pomona, CA.


Gabriela Villareal | Policy Manager, California Immigrant Policy Center

Gabriela Villareal is the Policy Manager for the California Immigrant Policy Center. Previously, she was the Immigration Advocacy Policy Coordinator for the New York Immigration Coalition and also worked for Safe Horizon’s Anti-Trafficking Program as the Training and Advocacy Director. Villareal served as a board member of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and is a recipient of the King County Coalition against Domestic Violence “Take Action” Award.


Jose Arreola | Director of Organizing and Outreach for Educators for Fair Consideration

Jose Arreola is the Director of Organizing and Outreach for Educators for Fair Consideration. Arreola was born in Durango, Mexico and came to the United States when he was four-years-old. With the unconditional love and support of his family, and the guidance of many mentors along the way, Jose went on to study Political Science, History and Ethnic Studies at Santa Clara University, where he received a full scholarship. During his college career, Jose was an outspoken leader on campus around issues of racism, inequality, and oppression. Jose’s work culminated as the Executive Director of the Multicultural Center of Santa Clara University. Upon graduation, Jose was trained as a community organizer for racial and economic justice by the Center for Third World Organizing in Oakland, CA. As an undocumented student himself, Jose utilizes his experiences to help empower and support other undocumented students across the country.


Kiran Savage-Sangwan | ACLU of Northern California

Kiran Savage-Sangwan joined the ACLU of Northern California in February 2012. She works on local, state, and federal campaigns to advance the civil rights and civil liberties of immigrants. Prior to coming to the ACLU-NC, Savage-Sangwan worked at the New York State Youth Leadership Council, an organization dedicated to the self-empowerment of immigrant youth, and to challenging the broken immigration system through grassroots organizing. While at the NYSYLC, Kiran worked extensively on the federal DREAM Act, and on anti-deportation campaigns. She holds a Masters of Public Administration.


Lucero Chavez | Immigrant Rights Staff Attorney, Orange County Office, ACLU of Southern California

Lucero Chavez is the Immigrant Rights staff attorney for the Orange County office of the ACLU of Southern California. She joined the ACLU in August 2010. Lucero works with attorneys, lobbyists, community organizers, and advocates across California, to confront the issues facing the immigrant community. She also works to implement a comprehensive and coordinated immigrants’ rights statewide strategy, one with a pro-active agenda and consistent support to those regions that are under attack.  Lucero graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in American Literature and Culture and Chicana/o Studies with community service distinctions, and is a recipient of the Charles E. Young Humanitarian Award.  Lucero received her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law where she was an editor of the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal, President of the UC Student Association, and the recipient of the 3L Francine Diaz Memorial Award, which is given to a graduating woman of color who has shown a commitment to social justice. Lucero comes from an immigrant family and community, and is dedicated to ensuring that everyone’s rights are respected, regardless of their immigration status.


Moisés Escalante | Clergy-Community Organizer, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE CA)

Moisés Escalante is the Clergy-Community Organizer for Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE CA) in the Inland Empire. He was born and raised in San Salvador, El Salvador, where he attended the National University to study Sociology-History. He has lived in the Greater Los Angeles area since the end of 1973. Escalante was involved in the solidarity movement with the People of El Salvador from 1981 to the end of the war in his country in 1992. He helped to organize a movement to stop the war in El Salvador and Central America. He was part of the Sanctuary Movement during the 80s, and the struggle to get legal status in the United States for Salvadorans and Guatemalans fleeing the civil war. Since 1990, he has worked with different organizations as an Organizer-Community Educator focusing on Immigrant Rights and Worker’ Rights and Responsibilities. Mr. Escalante has educated the immigrant community extensively leading hundreds of educational workshops at churches, congregations, and community centers, as well as using TV and radio stations.


Norma Chavez-Peterson | Associate Director, ACLU of San Diego

Norma Chavez-Peterson is Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego.  Prior to serving as Executive Director, Chavez-Peterson was the ACLU’s first Associate Director after being promoted from Organizing Director. She has been an integral part of San Diego’s progressive organizing community. Since the age of fifteen, she worked as an active community leader and change agent, beginning with creating a M.E.Ch.A. chapter at her junior high school. Chavez-Peterson organized for affordable housing, for Native American and Chicano youth coalitions, and most recently was the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Justice Overcoming Boundaries, a network of faith, community, education, business and labor partners working together to advance social justice in San Diego. She has a Bachelors degree from San Diego State University in political science and Chicano/a studies.


Rebecca Concepcion Apostol | Strategic Communications Director, Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (MIV)

Rebecca Concepcion Apostol is the Strategic Communications Director for Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (MIV), a nonprofit, multi-ethnic coalition of grassroots organizations that builds power and capacity of immigrants, their families and communities of color through electoral engagement. Rebecca dedicates her work to her parents, Philippine immigrant activists who shared their commitment to social justice, equality, and empowerment with their daughter by taking her to her first demonstrations while still in the womb, and on her first of many precinct walks at the age of nine. Beyond the world of political campaigns and political data, Rebecca’s dedication to her community has led to work on a variety of issues over the years including youth leadership development, diversity and affordability of higher education, and women’s and LGBTQ issues. Rebecca is a proud alumna of UCLA and the New Leaders Council Fellowship.


Sabina González-Eraña | Regional Director, Communities for a New California — Education Fund

Sabina González-Eraña is the Regional Director for Communities for a New California – Education Fund. González-Eraña was born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, and moved to Fresno, CA at age 14. Inspired by her parents’ dedication to social and economic justice, she has always been committed to improving the life and opportunities for immigrants, youth, and people of color. Her work is focused on these families being empowered and well represented in government and other positions of power. Her organizing experience includes directing grassroots operations in Fresno’s poorest neighborhoods to boost voter participation, elect progressive candidates to local and state office, and build a voter base for progressive tax reform. She also worked with 50+ Latino and African American community leaders in California’s Central Valley to increase their advocacy and community organizing skills, and engage undocumented immigrants in the fight for citizenship. Currently, González-Eraña is coordinating a city-wide campaign with students, parents and CBOs to establish restorative justice in Fresno’s K-12 schools, as an alternative to outdated school discipline policies that worsen alarming drop-out rates. Most importantly, she and her husband Cesar are raising their son, Omar.


Shaw San Liu | Lead Organizer, Tenants and Workers Center of Chinese Progressive Association

Shaw San Liu is the Lead Organizer for the Tenants and Workers Center of Chinese Progressive Association. She leads the Tenants and Workers Center staff team in conducting low-wage worker/tenant organizing, grassroots leadership development, alliance-building, and services and advocacy work at CPA with low-wage workers. She helped coordinate a community-based research project in conjunction with researchers at UC Berkeley and UCSF, and in the San Francisco Department of Public Health, which formed the basis of “Check, Please!”, a report on health and working conditions of Chinatown restaurant workers published in 2010. She was part of the founding leadership of the multi-racial Progressive Workers Alliance which unites the struggles of non-union, low-wage workers across the city. In 2011, PWA launched the Campaign to End Wage Theft, which has successfully passed two ordinances, and helped put low-wage workers and wage theft onto the city’s agenda.


Sonal Ambegaokar | Senior Attorney, National Health Law Program (NHELP)

Sonal Ambegaokar is the Senior Attorney with the National Health Law Program (NHELP). Prior to starting at NHELP, she was the Health Policy Attorney at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) where she leads NILC’s health project. Ambegaokar analyzes, educates policy makers and opinion leaders, and makes recommendations concerning federal, state and local policies affecting low-income immigrants’ access to affordable health care. She also is a resource on policies that impact low-income immigrants’ access to health care for local and national media, and has been quoted in The New York Times,Wall St. Journal, Washington Post, and LA Times, and interviewed on local and national public radio. Prior to joining NILC, she served as Supervising Attorney of the Health Consumer Center of Los Angeles where she worked on local and state health policy issues, and managed a multi-language consumer hotline that served Los Angeles County residents with health coverage and access issues. Prior to her law career, Ambegaokar was a financial analyst at Verizon Communications, Inc. She graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.S. in Business Administration from the University of Southern California, and earned her J.D. degree from the University of California at Davis.


Tom Wilson | Executive Director, Canal Alliance and Canal Housing Alliance

Tom Wilson has been Executive Director of the Canal Alliance since 1992, and is also Executive Director of Canal Housing Alliance, a subsidiary of Canal Alliance, which provides affordable housing to immigrant clients of Canal Alliance. Wilson was Founding President of the Board of Ecology House, Inc., President of the Boards of the Coordinated Youth Council, Marin Nexus (currently the Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership), and Marin Homes for Independent Living. He received both the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award, and the Benjamin Dreyfus Civil Liberties Award for advocacy for social justice and human rights issues. Canal Alliance won the Heart of Marin award for Achievement in Nonprofit Excellence. Wilson leads a local collaboration called Marin Immigrants Rights Advocates, which advocates for local and state immigration issues. He lives in Fairfax, CA, and is a fourth-generation California native.


Vanessa Martinez | Organizer, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice of Orange County (CLUE OC)

Vanessa Martinez is the Organizer for Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice of Orange County (CLUE OC). Vanessa received formal training in advocacy in 2008 through the Hunger Justice Leaders program through Bread for the World in Washington D.C. where she advocated for foreign and domestic aid. Vanessa interned for CLUE OC in 2009 where she was trained in faith-rooted advocacy; an organizing model shaped and guided by faith traditions that enables people of faith to contribute their unique gifts and resources to the broader movement for justice. Martinez continues working for CLUE bringing together a broad spectrum of people of faith for economic justice, and an equal voice for all workers and their families. She was born in Ensenada, Mexico and has lived in Orange County, CA since the age of 12.


Vivian Yi Huang | Campaign and Organizing Director, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN)

Vivian Yi Huang is the Campaign and Organizing Director for Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) where she works with immigrant community members on environmental justice campaigns. Prior to working at APEN, she spent a decade advocating for policy, legislation, and budget funding for immigrants, communities of color, migrant farmworkers, and women at Asian Americans for Civil Rights and Equality, the California Primary Care Association, and as a Presidential Management Fellow. She is also a mentor for the Women’s Policy Institute, a training program for women activists.