2016 Fellows for a New California
Martha Arévalo | Executive Director, CARECEN
Martha is Executive Director for the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN). In this role, she is responsible for operations, fundraising, program development and strategic communications. Prior to her appointment, Martha was the chair of the Board of Directors for the organization. She specializes in immigrant advocacy work, community outreach and Latino strategic communications. Martha has more than 17 years public relations experience and specializes in media relations, community outreach and Latino strategic communications. She has extensive experience in the areas of social marketing, public education, immigration, education, civic participation, public policy and community organizing. Prior to her CARECEN appointment, Martha was the co-founder of Arévalo-Sánchez, Inc., a boutique public relations and advertising firm. In 2004, Martha was the Communications Manager for Univision 34 and TeleFutura 46 TV in Los Angeles. She also worked with CARECEN as community organizer in the 1990s.
Hussam Ayloush, MBA | Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations
Hussam has been a lifelong human rights and democracy activist for causes here and abroad. He has served as Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Southern California since 1998. Through his work at CAIR, Hussam engages elected officials, law enforcement, media, and the public to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice. Hussam is a member of the West Coast Muslim-Catholic Dialogue and the Abrahamic Faith Peacemaking Initiative. He is an elected delegate and Executive Board member to the CA Democratic Party. He is currently serving as the National Chairman of the Syrian American Council, an organization that supports democracy and human rights in Syria. Hussam holds a BS degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas, Austin and an MBA degree from California State University, Fullerton. He is married and has 5 children.
Shiu-Ming Cheer | Immigration Attorney, National Immigration Law Center
Shiu-Ming is an Immigration Attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, where her work currently focuses on challenging immigration enforcement and promoting access to legal status. She spent eight years representing detained children and adults facing deportation and has a long history of involvement in social justice organizing projects, campaigns, and coalitions, including a current project to organize Los Angeles Chinatown residents and workers.
Ronald Coleman, JD | Government Affairs Manager, California Immigrant Policy Center
Ronald is CIPC’s Government Affairs Manager based in Sacramento. Formerly, Ronald was the Legislative and Policy Director for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), and most recently with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). He has over 10 years experience leading advocacy on a wide-range of issues, to advance policy interests that bring transformative changes to low income communities, working families, immigrants, and communities of color. Ronald, who is also a lawyer, has received his JD from Southern University Law Center, and his BA in Political Science from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans.
Estela De Los Rios | Executive Director, CSA San Diego County
Estela prides herself in the work she does as a civil rights activist. She works tirelessly to give a voice to those whose voices are silenced . She has championed the on-going struggle to end human trafficking, hate crimes, and discrimination in the Southern California region. Estela’s mission is to promote peace, social justice, and human and civil rights in the community through outreach and education on Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity for all residents of San Diego County.
Ellen Dumesnil | Executive Director, International Institute of the Bay Area (IIBA)
Ellen joined the International Institute of the Bay Area as Executive Director in 2011. Ellen has over 20 years of experience in nonprofit management and leadership. The majority of her career has been working for a more fair and just world as an advocate for immigrant and refugee rights. Previous positions include Division Director of Economic Development Services at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, INS Asylum Officer and Director of the U.S. Refugee Program in Saudi Arabia.
Basim Elkarra | Executive Director, Council on American Islamic Relations, Sacramento Valley Office (CAIR-SV)
Basim is the Executive Director of the Sacramento office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SV). For over a decade, Basim has founded and run CAIR-CA’s youth leadership program at the State Capitol. Basim is a member of the California Democratic Party’s (CDP) Executive Board and Chairs the Affirmative Action Committee. Basim was recently appointed to the Sacramento Community Police Commission. He also regularly appears in the media as a commentator on civil liberties issues. Basim previously served on numerous boards including: the Los Rios Community College Bond Oversight Committee, ACLU Sacramento, New Leaders Council (Sacramento) Advisory Board, Sacramento Police Multicultural Advisory Committee, and the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association’s (APAPA) Outreach Committee. The San Francisco native holds a BA in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley and resides with his wife and four children in Sacramento, California.
Luz Gallegos | Community Programs Director, TODEC Legal Center
Luz was born in Upland, California. She began en la causa, el movimiento as a very young child with the guidance of her parents, advocating for social justice and marching alongside with great leaders like Bert Corona, Soledad “Chole” Alatorre, and Cesar E. Chavez. Luz is a natural leader. Her organizing and advocating experience came first hand throughout her childhood. At a very young age, she developed a community consciousness and commitment, what has become part of her life. Luz completed her professional education in business, taxation, and immigration law. She has led hundreds of community programs and campaigns dealing with immigrant rights, and civic engagement. Luz has mentored hundreds of youth and has motivated them to continue with their education while not forgetting their roots. As Community Program Director at TODEC Legal Center, she continues to give continuity to her family’s community commitment and legacy.
Katharine Gin | Cofounder and Executive Director, Educators for Fair Consideration
Katharine is the Cofounder and Executive Director of Educators for Fair Consideration (E4FC). For more than 20 years, Katharine has worked to enhance education and arts opportunities for low-income and minority youth. Her educational and artistic work with youth has been exhibited and published widely in college textbooks, literary anthologies, magazines, and national newspapers, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and The Harvard Educational Review. Outside of her work with E4FC, Katharine serves on UC President Janet Napolitano’s Advisory Group on Undocumented Students, the Leadership Committee of the California Immigrant Policy Center (CIPC), and the National Advisory Board of TheDream.US. She was born and raised in San Francisco, and received her BA from Yale University and MFA from the University of Oregon.
Jorge Gutierrez | National Coordinator, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement
Jorge is an UndocuQueer activist born in Nayarit, Mexico, and was raised in Santa Ana, California. Most recently he is the founder of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, a national and local organizing, political and cultural home for the LGBTQ Latinx community in the United States. In addition, he has co-founded various organizations focused on social justice for the LGBTQ, Latinx and immigrant communities: DeColores Queer Orange County, the California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA), and the founder of the Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP).
Maricela Gutiérrez | Executive Director, Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN)
Maricela is a first generation Chicana and the proud daughter of Mexican Immigrant parents. She grew up in a small farm working town south of Fresno with her two brothers and two sisters and lots of extended family members. As Executive Director of SIREN, Maricela is responsible for agency leadership and oversees program and organizational management, resource and fund development, and financial operations and administration. Maricela graduated from UC Berkeley, was awarded the 2014 Shannon Fellowship and graduated from Blue Shield Foundation Leadership Executive Management Program. She is a founding member of an Unaccompanied Immigrant Youth and Families Collaborative and the Soñadores Invencibles Program that work to develop safety net systems for children and families seeking asylum. Maricela currently serves as the Northern CA Chair of the statewide Chicano Latino Youth Leadership Project, and is founder of an intergenerational traditional Aztec Dance Program, Grupo Cemanahuac. Maricela’s interests lie in the crossroads of art, education and social justice organizing.
Rufaro Gwarada | Development Manager, Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (MIV)
Rufaro is Development and Communications Manager at Mobilize the Immigrant Vote (MIV). She is an US-born Zimbabwean who spent the formative years of her life in Zimbabwe and moved back to the United States as a young adult. Rufaro is committed to the advancement of women and girls’ and migrant rights, African-led solutions for Africa, and is a writer. She was previously interim coordinator at Priority Africa Network (PAN), coordinator for Sub-Saharan Africa at Global Fund for Women, and editor and content developer for AfricaSpeaks4Africa. She was also grants manager and prior to that, development officer at Campaign for Female Education (Camfed). Rufaro is on the Board of PAN and is involved with the OneAfrica Collaborative in the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds a Masters in Gender and Development from the Institute of Development Studies at University of Sussex.
Nao Kabashima | Executive Director, Karen Organization of San Diego
Nao has been serving the Karen Organization of San Diego (KOSD) as the Executive Director since 2011. She is originally from Japan and first came to the U.S. as a graduate student. Initially, she started to work in the refugee resettlement field as an intern for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) San Jose office in 2006. After she earned her Bachelor’s degree in education and her Master’s degree in political science, she began volunteering for Jewish Family Service of San Diego in 2008, working specifically with refugees from Burma. In August 2009, she co-founded the KOSD to meet the urgent needs of refugees from Burma and served as one of the organization’s board members until September 2011. In 2012, she also served as the Chair of the San Diego Refugee Forum, a professional association of organizations and advocates serving all populations fleeing persecution and seeking refuge in San Diego.
Steven Kim | Director, Project Kinship
Steven is the co-founder of Project Kinship, an organization that serves formerly incarcerated individuals and their families to successfully re-integrate back into the community. He holds a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Southern California where he focused on mental health, families and trauma. His combination of personal life experience, theoretical knowledge and community involvement has allowed him to effectively bridge gaps and extend the reach of services to marginalized populations. Prior to Project Kinship, Steven has worked as a Mitigation Specialist on high-profile death penalty cases providing expertise on biopsychosocial factors that are linked to violence, mental health, gangs and traumatic disruptions to healthy development. He is grateful for his own second chance in life and is committed to changing the narrative of those touched by incarceration to stories of resiliency and transformation through a community of health and hope.
Aarti Kohli | Deputy Director, Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
Aarti is the Deputy Director at Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, the first organization in the country to represent and promote the legal and civil rights of low-income Asian and Pacific Islander communities. At Advancing Justice-ALC, Aarti helps guide the work of the national Advancing Justice partnership as well as oversee key issue areas including Immigration, Criminal Justice Reform, and ASPIRE, an undocumented youth-led program. Formerly, she was the Director of Immigration Policy at the Warren Institute at UC Berkeley School of Law, a research and policy institute. She was also proud to serve on the UC Berkeley President’s task force on undocumented students. Prior to her work in California, she worked in Washington, DC, as Judiciary Committee counsel to Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) and as Assistant Legislative Director at UNITE union where she lobbied on behalf of low-income garment workers.
Claudia Leiva | Executive Director, CLUE-Ventura County
Claudia has 10 years of experience in social justice advocacy and community organizing, and over 10 years as an educator. She is passionate when it comes to standing with the community at large to bring awareness and consciousness to issues such as the lack of affordable housing and immigration reform. She also believes that motivating & inspiring our brothers and sisters in Ventura County to become empowered will make long-term changes that will create a more just society. As a spiritual being, Claudia understands how important is it to nurture relationships just as we would nurture a garden which in turn, allows us to honor ourselves as humans and connect with a higher purpose in life while also staying grounded to the Earth and all of its life forms.
Erica Lomeli Corcoran | Civic Participation and Policy Director, UFW Foundation
Erica works with the UFW Foundation where she oversees the organization’s day-to-day operations in the Advocacy and Policy department. Erica legislative and organizing work includes leading some of the largest political and advocacy campaigns in California and Washington DC for the passage of immigration reform. She graduated from the University of California Irvine with a degree in social science and pursued a Master’s Degree at the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington. One of her goals in life is to continue to help ensure that the rights of traditionally underrepresented people are respected at their jobs and communities.
Judy London | Directing Attorney, Immigrants’ Rights Project, Public Counsel
Judy is the Directing Attorney of Public Counsel’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. From 1996 to 2000, she was the Legal Director of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) in Los Angeles and focused her work on securing legal protections for Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees. She joined Public Counsel in 2002, where she has expanded the agency’s impact litigation, detention work, and pro bono representation for asylum-seekers and other vulnerable immigrants, and developed a comprehensive program to provide legal representation to unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America. She is an Adjunct Professor at UCLA School of law where she co-teaches a clinical course on asylum law. She received her law degree from UCLA in 1990 and her undergraduate degree from Stanford University in 1985.
Abraham Medina | Project Director, Santa Ana Boys and Men of Color
Abraham is DACAmented and is the Project Director for Santa Ana Boys and Men of Color. He came to the U.S. at the age of 7 and experienced crossing the border without his parents along with his brother. He began organizing in High School and co-organized the county wide walkout marches in 2006 through the Orange County Conscious Student Uprising. He was part of the Orange County Dream Team from 2006 to 2010. He is one of the co-founders of RAIZ, an immigrant rights group in Orange County. He was also a founding member of SAPO, a community mural project collective that has helped put together 4 community murals in Santa Ana. He graduated in 2011 from UCI with a bachelors in sociology. He became the youth engagement coordinator for Santa Ana Boys and Men of Color in 2013 and in 2014 he became the Project Director.
Natasha Minsker | Center Director, ACLU of California Center for Advocacy & Policy
Natasha is the Center Director for the ACLU of California Center for Advocacy & Policy. The Center is responsible for advancing the ACLU’s civil liberties and civil rights policy goals in the State Capitol and advocates on a broad range of issues including criminal justice, education, freedom of expression, immigrants’ rights, LGBT rights, privacy, racial justice, reproductive justice, and voting rights. Before coming to Sacramento, Natasha served as the ACLU of California’s Death Penalty Policy Director and as the Associate Director of the ACLU of Northern California. Before joining the ACLU, Natasha worked as a public defender and for the state and federal courts.
Ola Osaze | Development Senior Manager, Transgender Law Center
Ola is a trans feminist of Edo and Yoruba descent who serves as the Development Senior Manager for Transgender Law Center in Oakland, CA. Ola has also been involved with the Audre Lorde Project, Uhuru Wazobia, Queers for Economic Justice, and Sylvia Rivera Law Project. As a writer, Ola’s work has been featured in Black Public Media, Black Girl Dangerous, Black Looks, Apogee, HOLAAfrica, Autostraddle, Trans Atlantic Times, and anthologies, including Yellow Medicine Review, Queer African Reader, and the soon to be released Outside the XY: Queer, Brown Masculinity.
Jennie Pasquarella | Director of Immigrants’ Rights, ACLU of California
Jennie is director of immigrants’ rights for the ACLU of California and staff attorney at the ACLU SoCal. She joined ACLU SoCal in 2008. Jennie specializes in immigrants’ rights litigation and policy advocacy. Her work currently focuses on the intersection of immigration enforcement and the criminal justice systems, as well as federal immigration national security policy that discriminates against Muslim immigrants to prevent them from naturalizing or receiving other immigration benefits. Prior to joining ACLU SoCal, Jennie was a legal fellow/staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, both in New York. She is a graduate of Barnard College and Georgetown University Law Center, where she earned her JD with a certificate in refugee and humanitarian emergencies and was a Public Interest Law Scholar.
Aquilina Soriano Versoza | Executive Director, Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California
Aquilina is a founder and current Executive Director of the Pilipino Workers Center of Southern California, a nonprofit serving and organizing the low-wage Pilipino immigrant community in Los Angeles. She has served as Executive Director of PWC for 13 years and has been working in the Pilipino community for 15 years, both here in Los Angeles and in the Philippines. She has been at the head of PWC as it has been a part of the growing statewide and national movement of domestic workers. She studied her BA in Asian American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. A mother of two, she sees her work for social justice as a life long endeavor that she hopes to pass on to her daughters. Aquilina has also been recently elected as the President of the Board of Directors of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.
Leoncio Vasquez Santos | Executive Director, Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño
Leoncio has over 15 years experience working with the indigenous population, and is the current executive director of Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño (CBDIO). Leoncio has played a key role in organizing since 2006 a yearly immigrant rights march in the City of Fresno through the May First Coalition for Immigrants Rights. He also in the Steering Committee of the Central Valley Immigrants Integration Collaborative, which is joining forces to assist new immigrants’ integration in the U.S. He has been an active member of the Binational Front of Indigenous Organization or the Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB) and current State Vice-Coordinator in California. FIOB is constituted as a group of organizations, communities and individuals, defending the rights and identity of the indigenous peoples.