Paula Fitzgerald has been practicing immigration law for over ten years. Paula joined Ayuda in 2008 and help build Ayuda’s Virginia office. Paula’s immigration legal work focuses on humanitarian relief, including VAWA self-petitions, U visas, T visas, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions. She is also experienced in family-based immigration matters, consular processing, waivers and NACARA cases. She serves on the Fairfax County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council. Prior to Ayuda, Paula worked as an immigration attorney at Hogar Hispano and Hunton & Williams LLP. Paula received her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2004.
Arleen Ramirez Borysiewicz has close to 30 years of experience in fundraising, strategic communications, community relations, board development, branding and marketing. Prior to Ayuda, she worked for 26 years with a DC-based national higher education nonprofit, leading programs for diverse college students, corporate and foundation fundraising, alumni affairs, external relations, board recruitment and management. Arleen received her MPA degree from The George Washington University, and B.A. in broadcast communications from the University of the Philippines.
Erin brings a breadth of domestic violence policy and direct services experience to Ayuda. Recently, Erin served as a policy attorney at the DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, where she lead advocacy efforts for funding for domestic violence programs and services, educated policy makers on the impact of legislation on survivors of domestic and sexual violence, and provided technical assistance and training on topics such as confidentiality, domestic violence laws, and legal protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence. Prior to her work at the Coalition, Erin helped create the DC Volunteer Lawyers Project, which provides legal representation to domestic violence survivors in civil protection order and family law cases, and served as the organization’s first Executive Director and Managing Attorney of its Domestic Violence Program. Erin currently serves as the co-chair of the District’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board and has volunteered with the DC Bar’s Advice and Referral Clinic. Before moving to the District, Erin served as an assistant district attorney in Massachusetts, where she prosecuted over 500 domestic violence cases, and clerked at the Connecticut Supreme Court. Prior to law school, Erin worked in the U.S. House of Representatives. Erin received a J.D. with high honors from the University of Connecticut School of Law and a B.A. in International Relations and French from the University of Virginia.
Carolina is the Social Services Director at Ayuda where she oversees multiple programs for survivors of trauma. Carolina has over 12 years of experience working with at-risk youth, survivors of trauma, and immigrant communities in the Washington metropolitan area. Additionally, Carolina has been actively involved in the anti-trafficking field in the region, participating and leading coalitions and victim services task forces, and providing training and consultation to law enforcement agencies and social services providers nationwide. Prior to joining Ayuda, Carolina served for eight years as Director of Client Services at Polaris and most recently at Mary’s Center as Social Services Director. Carolina holds a MA Degree in Counseling Psychology and a PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Maryland. In addition, she holds a certification in Professional Counseling Studies from the University of Baltimore.
Rose is the Director of Operations at Ayuda, where she oversees internal operations, including human resources, administration, and internal systems and processes. Rose holds a Master of Research degree from the University of Glasgow, and a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication from Whitworth University.
Prior to coming to Ayuda, Rose’s work included managing operations at Polaris, a non-profit that combats human trafficking in the US, and serving as the Communications Director of Rise, a political advocacy campaign for sexual assault survivors.
David Steib is the language access director at Ayuda. The Language Access Program trains interpreters, educates service providers, advocates for enforcement and amendment of local and federal language access laws, and arranges interpretation and translation for dozens of nonprofits throughout the DC metropolitan area.
Prior to Ayuda, David was the assistant director of the Office of Public Interest at American University Washington College of Law. He serves on the boards of the DC Language Access Coalition and the Washington Council of Lawyers. David received a JD from Georgetown University Law Center. He earned his BA in Spanish and Theater Studies from Yale University.
Susannah the managing immigration attorney of the DC office. She is a native New Yorker and a graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. After law school she worked for Catholic Charities of Central Texas, where she handled family based immigration matters, humanitarian visa applications, and deportation defense, focusing on remedies for juveniles. She moved to Walker Gates Vela, a small immigration law firm, to expand her removal defense practice. In this role, she handled criminal immigration matters and continued to assist clients pursuing humanitarian relief before the Immigration Courts, as well as representing clients in family based immigration cases, naturalization, DACA, and other visa applications. She has presented numerous CLEs on topics ranging from immigration law for criminal defenders to special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS) procedures and is a volunteer mentor to attorneys handling SIJS cases in Texas family and immigration courts.
Christina Wilkes is a partner at Grossman Law, LLC, an immigration law firm in Bethesda, Maryland, which she joined in 2012. Christina’s practice focuses on family and humanitarian based immigration matters, with a particular emphasis on unaccompanied immigrant children. Prior to joining Grossman Law, she spent seven years at Ayuda (2005-2012), where she wore many hats. She founded and directed the Children’s Project from 2005-2008, served as interim executive director from late 2008-2009, and legal director from 2008-2012. She was inducted to Ayuda’s Hall of Fame in 2014 in recognition of her critical impact on Ayuda.
Diego Marquez joined General Electric Company as sanction attorney in spring 2015. Prior to this, he was with Alston & Bird LLP for seven years as a senior associate in the International Trade & Regulatory Group in the Washington, DC, office. He advised clients on a wide range of legislative, public policy and regulatory matters, specializing on issues pertaining to international trade, federal elections and government ethics. He also managed the pro bono practice at Alston & Bird, focusing primarily on asylum work and other immigration law matters.
Diego received his J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center in 2007, where he was a line editor for the Georgetown Immigration Law Journal. He graduated from Davidson College in 2003 with a B.A. in political science and a minor in mathematics.
Kate Ambler is an associate research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. Her work currently focuses on the evaluation of anti-poverty programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on smallholder agriculture, gender, and household decision-making. She also has a research interest in migration issues, covering information asymmetries in remittance transactions from the United States to Central America and seasonal migration in Malawi and Senegal.
Kate is originally from El Paso, Texas and previously lived in Lima, Peru where she was a Project Coordinator for Innovations for Poverty Action. She holds a BA from Williams College and a PhD in Economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Guillermo Birmingham is currently the Vice President for Management & Administration at Global Communities. He assumes executive oversight of IT, Human Resources, Administration, and Finance. Birmingham previously served at Global Communities as Deputy CFO from 2008 to 2010. Since then he has served as Director of Administration at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Prior to his service at PAHO and Global Communities, Guillermo served for more than 26 years in the United States Air Force, where he held a series of positions that included service at field installations in financial management, operations, and as a three-time squadron commander to include a three-year stint at Andrews Air Force Base from 2003 to 2005.
He also served in the Pentagon as Chief of Accounting Policy and as CFO of the USAF Directorate of Services, a $2 billion worldwide military hospitality and recreation operation. Before retiring as a Colonel in 2008, Guillermo spent two years as the Secretary General of the System of Cooperation Among the American Air Forces (SICOFAA), promoting cooperation and information exchange among the 18 member countries’ air forces. Originally from Panama, Guillermo is fluent in English and Spanish.
Michael Woods is a Vice President and Associate General Counsel at Verizon, where he handles national security, public safety, and cybersecurity policy. Prior to joining Verizon, he served in the Justice Department (National Security Division), the FBI’s Office of General Counsel, the National Counterintelligence Executive, and as a federal prosecutor. He began handling U Visa cases with Ayuda in 2011 through Verizon’s in-house pro bono program. He is a graduate of the Harvard Law School (1992) and Oxford University (1987).
Michael Tubman is a senior fellow at the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), where he directs C2ES policy strategy and outreach with Congress and federal agencies. He came to C2ES after bipartisan service in the administrations of three Alaska governors. He also has worked on sustainability projects for the World Bank and USAID.
Michael has been involved with Ayuda since attending the 2004 Gala. He has been a board member since 2011, and chair since 2012. Over the years, his respect for the staff, mission, clients, and Ayuda community has grown even stronger. He is proud to be a part of the Ayuda family.
Michael has been active in other parts of the immigrants’ rights community. He has been an asylum-seeker host family and a tutor for those with limited English proficiency. He holds a Master of Arts in international policy from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and an undergraduate degree from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.
Stacy Brustin is an associate professor of Law and Co-Director of the Civil Practice Clinic at The Catholic University of America. She and her students represent low-income clients in family law, employment, and public benefits matters. Stacy also engages in court-reform efforts, policy development, and scholarship focused on family law and access to justice. Stacy earned her B.A. from Tufts University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Stacy’s involvement with Ayuda dates back to 1989 when she began as a staff attorney in our family law unit. Stacy came to Ayuda after completing a post-graduate fellowship in human rights in Mexico City where she worked with community-based organizations engaged in developing the leadership capacity of women. When she joined Ayuda, she brought her experiences and inspiration from her time in Mexico and started the Hermanas Unidas project for survivors of domestic violence, which continues today. After leaving Ayuda, Stacy continued as a volunteer and supporter throughout the years and proudly joined the Board in 2011. She is the co-chair of the Board’s Internal Committee.
Mickey Martinez has practiced law in Washington since 2007. He is currently a trial attorney at the United States Department of Justice, Civil Division. He has previously worked as a litigation associate at Gilbert LLP from 2010 to 2014 and at Simpson Thacher and Bartlett LLP from 2007 to 2009. From August 2009 – August 2010, he was a Simpson Thacher Public Service Fellow at the Victory Fund, where he served as assistant general counsel and assisted in their successful effort to increase the number of openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in appointed positions in the executive branch of the federal government. Before law school, Mickey was a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) for 16 years.
Mickey has been on the Board of Directors of Ayuda since 2011 and the Vice Chair since 2012. He is proud to support Ayuda’s mission. Mickey holds a J.D. from Yale Law School and a B.A. from the University of Virginia.
David Ramos is the assistant vice president and regional multicultural markets officer for BB&T in the Greater Washington area. He has held this position for close to three years now, but has been with the company for eight years. A George Mason University alumnus and a recent graduate of Wake Forest University, David has extensive experience in financial management. As well as working as the site manager for BB&T, David is also active in the community and works towards addressing social issues in the Latino community in the DC area. He is bilingual with language fluency in English and Spanish.
Cora D. Tekach is the founding attorney of Tekach Law Firm, PLLC. She has over 20 years’ experience in immigration law and is a published author. She has provided her expertise and skills to dynamic law firms such as Greenberg Traurig and Maggio & Kattar and has also spent some time working as a lecturer for Catholic University of America – Columbus School of Law. Cora received her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Rutgers University and her JD from American University – Washington College of Law. A Pennsylvania native, she currently resides in the DC area. She is fluent in Spanish.
Chief of Staff, Government Affairs U.S.
Paul Caron has served as chief of staff of U.S. government affairs at Microsoft for seven years. Previously, he worked for six years as an attorney for Microsoft Corporation at its headquarters in Redmond, Washington. From 1999 to 2004, he served as an attorney for Software AG in Reston, Virginia.
Gaela K. Gehring-Flores
Arnold & Porter Kaye Sholer LLP
Gaela Gehring Flores concentrates her practice on international arbitration and litigation matters. She represents both multinational corporations and sovereign states in international commercial and investment arbitrations before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) International Court of Arbitration, the International Centre for Dispute Resolution (ICDR/AAA), and in litigation and appellate proceedings before US federal courts. She advises clients in a broad range of disputes, including energy, natural resources, construction, hospitality, transportation, sovereign debt instruments, government contracts, and intellectual property.
Washington Intergovernmental Professional Group, LLC
Nelson Garcia has more than 20 years of experience in congressional affairs, international relations, and federal, state, and local advocacy on behalf of various trade associations and social organizations. He founded the Washington Intergovernmental Professional Group in 2009 to promote embassy exchange programs, professional networking opportunities, and to engage in bi-partisan policy discussions around international trade. Previously, Nelson worked for the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, Intelligent Transportation Society of America, and the Alliance of American Insurers. Early in his career, he was a congressional staff for Rep. Ken Calvert of California.
City of Takoma Park, Maryland
Peter Kovar was elected councilmember for the City of Takoma Park, Maryland in 2016. After serving in political positions in the federal government for over 30 years, Peter left government service in 2013. His employment included working for U.S. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) for 25 years, with 18 years as chief of staff. He also worked in the Obama Administration at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as assistant secretary for congressional and intergovernmental relations.
The Raben Group LLC
With a career dedicated to litigating for civil rights and advancing progressive legislation, Patty First is one of the foremost policy advocates on immigration, women’s rights, civil rights, and technology policy in the nation. She has been a valuable member of The Raben Group since it was founded in 2001. Patty serves as a principal and lead of various client teams across the progressive sector. Prior to joining the Raben team, Patty was on the front lines of the struggle for humane immigration policy and civil rights. She worked for three years on the Senate Judiciary Committee as counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy where she helped craft landmark immigration legislation.
The Honorable Paul Wickham Schmidt
Federal Immigration Court Judge (retired)
Judge Schmidt was appointed as a federal immigration judge in 2003. Prior to his appointment as an immigration judge, he served as a board member for the Board of Immigration Appeals, Executive Office for Immigration Review, and served as its chair from 1995 to 2001. He stepped down as chairman to adjudicate cases full-time. Prior positions include the following: deputy general counsel of Immigration and Naturalization Service; managing partner at Fragomen, Del Rey & Bernsen; and as business immigration law attorney with Jones, Day, Reavis and Pogue. Judge Schmidt also served as an adjunct professor of law at George Mason University School of Law in 1989. He has authored numerous articles on immigration law, and has written extensively for the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Judge Schmidt is a member of the American Bar Association, the Federal Bar Association, and the Wisconsin and District of Columbia Bars.
The Honorable J. Walter Tejada
The Honorable J. Walter Tejada served on Virginia’s Arlington County Board from 2003 to 2015. He was first elected to the Board in a special election on March 11, 2003. Reelected in 2007 and 2011, he served as Chairman of the Board in 2008 and 2013 and Vice-Chairman in 2007, 2012 and 2015.
A community advocate, Walter has distinguished himself as a leader committed to enhancing the diversity of Arlington and the region’s community voice. During his tenure on the Board, he reached out to local communities and encouraged residents to be active participants throughout the County and the Washington Metropolitan region. He has been instrumental in convening community stakeholders to address a wide range of issues such as affordable housing, civic engagement and volunteerism, community and economic development, education and employment, parks and recreation, tenant outreach and empowerment efforts, youth development programming, health and fitness, and nonprofit assistance.
Walter currently serves on the Board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, appointed by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in 2016.
Blank Rome LLP
Victoria Ortega represents clients in a variety of complex civil cases before federal and state courts. Her practice, which covers all phases of litigation from inception through appeal, spans a wide array of subject areas, including commercial litigation matters, government contracts, government investigations, and white-collar defense. Victoria conducted and won a trial on behalf of a large corporation in Maryland State court. She also represents corporations and financial institutions, in connection with corporate governance and compliance matters. Prior to joining Blank Rome, Victoria served as a congressional legal intern for the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and as a judicial intern for the Honorable Marvin J. Garbis, U.S. District Court, Baltimore, MD.