Kaitlin Kalna Darwal, Managing Attorney: Kaitlin has developed innovative models to expand the availability of immigration legal services by leveraging available resources in the private bar. Prior to co-founding ILD in 2019, Kaitlin worked in leadership at two Bay Area non-profit organizations, Centro Legal de la Raza and Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (“CLSEPA”). Kaitlin built strong and effective partnerships with private law firms committed to pro bono immigration work. Kaitlin has trained and mentored hundreds of law firm associates and partners working on defensive asylum, affirmative asylum, and U Visa cases, giving strategic advice drawn from her own extensive experience representing clients in removal defense cases. Kaitlin developed a unique clinic model that allows non-profits to serve a high volume of asylum seekers and applicants for humanitarian relief by utilizing law firm volunteers. Kaitlin’s commitment to cultivating and supporting volunteers has not been limited to attorneys. She also helped create and manage a Volunteer Interpreter Project and Pro Bono Mental Health Project, both of which enable clients to access services that are essential to their immigration cases. Kaitlin has also worked as a deportation defense attorney at Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP, an attorney with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the U.S. Legal Unit, and a contract attorney with the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies and the CSS/Newman Special Master of Appeals. Kaitlin received her law degree at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law and her undergraduate degree from Boston University.
Alison Pennington, Managing Attorney: Alison has worked for over a decade as an immigrant rights attorney, in several Bay Area nonprofit organizations as well as organizations on the east coast. She most recently has focused on federal and appellate litigation and has successfully litigated several class action lawsuits on behalf of detained individuals including Preap v. Johnson and Aleman Gonzalez v. Barr, which provided the right to a bond hearing for certain detained individuals. She has also litigated petitions for review before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and habeas petitions to remedy the unlawful detention of certain individuals. Prior to joining ILD in September 2019, Alison worked at the Centro Legal de la Raza, Asian Law Caucus, Transgender Law Center and the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center. She also worked as a Staff Attorney for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for close to five years where she focused exclusively on the court’s immigration docket. Alison received her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her B.A. from Columbia University. She is a member of the California State Bar and is admitted to practice law before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and various district courts. She is also a member of AILA and the NLG’s National Immigration Project.
Barbara C. Pinto, Managing Attorney: Barbara’s leadership has contributed to increased capacity, both locally and statewide, for direct representation of immigrants. Barbara has been instrumental in forming partnerships with community organizations, other legal service agencies and government partners to form strong collaboratives that deliver critical legal and education services to immigrants. Barbara developed ILD’s innovative program to provide free legal services to students, staff, and faculty on the California State University (CSU) campuses. Prior to co-founding ILD in 2019, Barbara worked for Centro Legal de la Raza and the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. Barbara started at Centro Legal as a staff attorney in October 2013 and left as a directing attorney in June 2019. Barbara has managed complex government grants, led media and policy work for a large team and oversaw a Know-Your-Rights project that provided education and training at churches, schools, and community based organizations. Barbara’s direct representation work has involved detained and non-detained removal defense, including representation of undocumented youth and unaccompanied children. Barbara also has trained both attorneys and non-attorneys in direct representation, legal education and other forms of advocacy. Barbara has served as the media coordinator for the Northern California Chapter of the American Immigration Law Association (AILA). At the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Barbara in her role as the Ralph S. Abascal Fellow, focused on providing advocacy, outreach, and legal assistance to immigrants and immigration practitioners about the DACA program nationwide. She graduated from UC Hastings, College of the Law and during law school interned at various organizations in the Bay Area, including the Refugee & Human Rights Clinic, S.F. Human Rights Commission, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, and Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, LLP. Barbara is admitted to practice law in California and in the Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She is a member of AILA and the NLG’s National Immigration Project.
Laura Polstein, Managing Attorney: Laura has been a leader in the non-profit immigration field for over a decade. Prior to co-founding ILD in 2019, Laura was an attorney at Centro Legal de la Raza and the Central American Resource Center of Northern California (CARECEN-SF). Laura led a large, dynamic team of attorneys and advocates defending individuals and families against deportation. Laura provided support and mentorship on complex deportation defense cases, including appeals, to both staff attorneys and pro bono volunteers. Laura has developed case management tools and other systems to ensure efficient and high quality representation of clients in a high volume practice. Laura has provided direct representation before the immigration agencies and federal courts in a wide variety of immigration matters, and has been interviewed by English and Spanish media outlets on the topic of immigration. Laura also has engaged in policy advocacy to advance the goal of universal representation for immigrants facing deportation and to strengthen due process protections. Laura helped lead the successful campaign to pass the San Francisco’s 2013 Due Process for All Ordinance, which sharply limits ICE entanglement in local law enforcement. Prior to attending law school, Laura was a paralegal at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, where she assisted immigrants detained in a private prison in Eloy, Arizona, and at Sanctuary for Families where she advocated for immigrant survivors of domestic violence. Laura received a Bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College and a Juris Doctor degree from the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law. A native New Yorker, Laura is admitted to practice law in the New York Court of Appeals, Second Department and the Federal Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Laura is a member of AILA and the NLG’s National Immigration Project.
Siobhan Waldron, Managing Attorney: Siobhan is a passionate and zealous advocate who is known nationally for her work as appointed counsel for Franco-Gonzalez class members (detained individuals unable to represent themselves due to severe mental health issues). Prior to co-founding ILD in 2019, Siobhan worked as an attorney at non-profits in the Bay Area and in Los Angeles. Most recently, Siobhan co-managed Centro Legal de la Raza’s detention project, helping to lead a dynamic team that represented detained individuals in immigration court, provided legal education and consultations at three detention facilities, and provided post-release accompaniment services. Siobhan has successfully handled complex removal defense cases, including claims for protection against torture by foreign governments known for their abymal treatment of those with mental health issues. Siobhan also has experience handling U Visa, Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), I-751 Battered Spouse Waivers, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) cases, and derivative petitions/consular processing/adjustment of status/waivers/naturalization related to those cases. Siobhan received her Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, where she specialized in the David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy and Critical Race Studies Program. She received a Bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley in Legal Studies and Spanish, with a concentration in Hispanic Languages and Bilingual Issues. As a student, Siobhan volunteered with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking individuals seeking asylum. She also worked in solidarity with isolated rural villages in El Salvador with the Oakland-based non-profit organization the Central American Refugee Committee (CRECE). Siobhan is a member of AILA and the NLG’s National Immigration Project.
Eleni Wolfe-Roubatis, Executive Director: Eleni has been recognized both locally and nationally for her service to immigrant communities. Prior to co-founding ILD in 2019, Eleni grew the immigrant rights unit of a local non-profit, Centro Legal de la Raza, from 2 attorneys to a staff of 38. During her tenure as directing attorney, which lasted from October 2013 to April 2019, Eleni secured and managed over 50 public and private foundation grants annually, including large grants from the California Department of Social Services and the Vera Institute of Justice. After Trump’s election, Eleni successfully advocated with local government and private funders to establish the Alameda County Immigration Legal & Education Partnership (ACILEP), a network that provides legal representation and rapid response services to immigrants in removal proceedings. Eleni was also instrumental in establishing the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice (CCIJ), a collective of Bay Area legal service providers dedicated to providing high-quality free legal services to immigrants detained in the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Immigration Court. Both ACELIP and CCIJ are viewed as model programs that have greatly advanced the goal of providing universal representation to immigrants facing deportation, including those who have had contact with the criminal justice system. Prior to relocating to California from Chicago, Eleni worked for 8 years in the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC)’s Detention Project in positions that demanded complex immigration litigation, multidisciplinary advocacy expertise, and management of creative, cutting-edge legal programs. Eleni has extensive experience providing direct representation for detained and non-detained individuals in removal proceedings, and has supervised, mentored and trained attorneys, paralegals and law students throughout her career. Eleni also conducts seminars for immigration and criminal defense attorneys on topics including the immigration consequences of criminal offenses for non-citizens, advanced issues in representing detained individuals and representation of individuals with mental health issues. Eleni is regularly interviewed in the Spanish and English press on a variety of topics related to immigration law and policy. Eleni holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University, and a Juris Doctor degree from DePaul University College of Law. Eleni is a recipient of the national 2016 Michael Maggio Pro Bono Service Award for her work in establishing an innovative pro bono legal services program for detained immigrants. Her team also received the 2017 East Bay La Raza Association’s Tag Team Luchadores Award for outstanding representation of unaccompanied minors and families seeking asylum. Eleni is admitted to practice in Illinois and is a member of AILA and the NLG’s National Immigration Project.
Jean Yamasaki, Managing Attorney: For more than 30 years, Jean has represented recently arrived asylum seekers and immigrant youth in their immigration cases. As Centro Legal’s former Managing Attorney for the Immigrant Youth Project, Jean directly represented and led a team of attorneys and paralegals in representing hundreds of non-citizen youth before the immigration court, Asylum Office, USCIS and state family and probate court in connection with applying for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS). She worked closely with unified school districts and community stakeholders to establish partnerships for legal services tailored to meet the needs of students and their families. As a national expert in SIJS, Jean has advised in and participated in impact litigation aimed at protecting the rights of immigrant children to apply for SIJS. Jean has trained and mentored attorneys and paralegals throughout California on advanced SIJS related issues. Jean’s work also included working on complex and novel issues in DACA cases. Jean previously practiced immigration law at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, where she represented unaccompanied children seeking relief from deportation, as well as clients seeking affirmative asylum, U-Visas, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, naturalization, and family-based petitions. For many years, Jean served as the supervising attorney for the Student-Initiated Legal Services Project (SLPS) East Bay Dreamer Clinic, Berkeley Law. Jean is a member of AILA and NLG’s National Immigration Project.