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Alisa Wellek

Executive Director

Through national and local advocacy, community education, and litigation, Alisa guides IDP’s work challenging government programs that funnel immigrants into an unjust detention and deportation system. She currently leads IDP’s federal advocacy efforts, coordinating a communications strategy designed to disrupt the dominant narratives surrounding immigrants convicted of crimes and provide public education in support of legislative strategies and grassroots field operations. Prior to coming to IDP, as an Equal Justice Works fellow, she built her skills in nonprofit management, as the National Campaign and Advocacy Manager at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in New York City. Alisa received her B.A. from Stanford University and her JD from New York University School of Law. She got her advocacy and organizing start growing up in Chicago.

Mizue Aizeki

Deputy Director

Mizue’s work focuses on ending injustices at the intersections of the criminal and immigration systems, including criminalization, imprisonment, and exile. This includes IDP’s campaigns to end the growing entanglement between local law enforcement and ICE, including being one of the leaders in the campaign that led to Governor Cuomo’s suspension of NY state’s participation in ICE’s “Secure Communities” program in 2011 and subsequent campaigns in New York City to limit collaboration between the NYPD and the NYC Department of Corrections and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Mizue also coordinates IDP’s community defense work. Mizue has organized around racial justice, workers’ rights, and the policing and deportation of immigrants in the interior and at the U.S.-Mexico border for over twenty years. Mizue is also a photographer whose work has appeared in Dying to Live, A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid (City Lights Books, 2008) and Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter (Verso, 2016).

Manny Vargas

Senior Counsel

Manny founded IDP in 1997 (in conjunction with our original sponsor, New York State Defenders Association). A nationally known expert on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions, he is the author of several legal resource materials for advocacy on behalf of immigrants accused of crimes, including Representing Immigrant Defendants in New York (5th ed, 2011) and the Removal Defense Checklist in Criminal Charge Cases, and provides training and immigration law backup assistance on criminal/immigration issues.  Manny has also engaged in and supported litigation defending the legal rights of immigrants placed in removal proceedings based on criminal charges. Prior to his work with IDP, Manny represented and counseled immigrants for eight years as a staff and supervising attorney of the New York City Legal Aid Society Immigration Unit.  Manny has received numerous awards for his advocacy work on behalf of immigrants, including, most recently, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and a Jack Wasserman Award for Excellence in Litigation in the Field of Immigration Law from the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Benita Jain

Supervising Attorney

Benita, formerly co-Director of IDP, now leads IDP’s work with the Defending Immigrants Partnership, a national collaboration that trains public defenders on immigration consequences of criminal convictions and assists defender offices in setting up office-wide immigration advisal programs.  Benita also monitors and analyzes legislative proposals affecting immigrants who have interacted with the criminal justice system and has supported IDP’s litigation efforts. She has written several pro se guides for immigrants fighting deportation and is an original co-author of the “Deportation 101” curriculum. She is a past Board member of Families for Freedom and past Steering Committee member of the Detention Watch Network. She is a graduate of New York University School of Law.

Andrew Wachtenheim

Supervising Attorney

Andrew works with IDP’s non-profit and pro bono partners on litigation before the federal courts and Board of Immigration Appeals, and provides technical assistance, litigation support, and training to immigration and criminal law practitioners on the immigration-criminal law intersection.  Andrew came to IDP from the immigration practice at The Bronx Defenders, where he represented noncitizens in immigration-related proceedings primarily at the agency level, and consulted with noncitizen defendants and criminal and family defense attorneys about the potential immigration consequences of contacts with the criminal justice and child welfare systems. Andrew is a graduate of Wesleyan University and Fordham Law School.

Marie Mark

Supervising Attorney, Padilla Support Center

IMG_0578Marie came to IDP from the immigration practice at Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS). Marie has spent her legal career advising clients and attorneys about the immigration consequences of criminal convictions and other contacts with the criminal justice and representing non-citizens fighting to remain in the United States. She has provided substantial training and mentorship for law students and attorneys fighting for the rights of immigrants. She received her law degree from New York University School of Law, where she participated in the Children’s Rights Clinic and Immigrant Rights Clinic. Marie holds an undergraduate degree from Swarthmore College.

Genia Blaser

Senior Staff Attorney

Genia works as part of IDP’s Padilla Support Center where she advises defense attorneys on the immigration consequences of criminal cases and provides trainings on the overlap of criminal-immigration systems.  Genia came to IDP from the immigration practice at The Bronx Defenders, where she worked with attorneys on minimizing the immigration impact for non-citizens of contact with the criminal justice and child welfare systems.  She also represented non-citizens in affirmative and defensive proceedings.  She has served as an intern with the Legal Aid Society’s Immigration Law Unit and Criminal Appeals Bureau, the Pro Se Litigation Office of the United States District Court, Southern District of New York and Asylum Access Ecuador.  Genia received her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law and her undergraduate degree from Hampshire College.

Joseph Celestin

Development and Operations Associate

Joseph supports IDP as its Development and Operations Associate. He plays a key role in supporting the advancement of IDP’s development and communications strategy, as well as its operations and administrative activities. Before coming to IDP, Joe worked at a Denver-based software company, in a sales operations role. He gradudated in 2015 from Bowdoin College, where he was a 4-year varsity athlete. Joe’s presence has raised our office’s athlete quotient dramatically.

Karelle Fonteneau


Karelle joined IDP as a hotline paralegal in March 2018. Previously, she worked at The Bronx Defenders as a legal advocate in the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, which represents detained immigrants in deportation proceedings. Karelle graduated from Yale University in 2016 with a degree in Political Science and Psychology and speaks fluent Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

Ryan Muennich

Senior Staff Attorney

IMG_0613Ryan supports appellate defenders who are representing immigrants, providing assistance both on immigration consequences and appellate strategy, and consults with attorneys on post-conviction relief cases.  As part of IDP’s litigation team, Ryan also provides amicus support to courts regarding proper implementation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Padilla v. Kentucky decision.  Prior to joining IDP, Ryan was in private practice, representing immigrants in administrative and federal courts.  Ryan is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University and The Ohio State College of Law.

Natalia Renta

Staff Attorney

Natalia works to enhance IDP’s infrastructure for resource creation, adaptation, and distribution, taking into account the range of needs from IDP’s varied constituents, identifying critical gaps in resources, and honing in on creative strategies that can most effectively challenge aggressive immigration policing. Prior to joining IDP, Natalia was an immigration attorney at Make the Road New York, first as an Immigrant Justice Corps fellow in their Long Island office, and then supporting their ActionNYC program in their Queens office. During her time at Make the Road New York, Natalia also supported the organizing team and contributed to the communications and development teams. Natalia earned her J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2015 and her B.A. from Harvard University in 2011.

Jane Shim

Advocacy Staff Attorney

Jane comes to IDP as an Advocacy Staff Attorney, working with communities and advocates on policy campaigns to combat the criminalization of immigrants.Previously, she worked on civil and pro bono immigration litigation at WilmerHale.  Jane earned her J.D. from Yale Law School, where she was a member of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy and Legal Services for Immigrant Communities clinics. During law school, she also worked on policing and sex offender registry reform. She holds a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania and received a Fulbright poetry fellowship. Jane self-identifies as a Terrace House aficionado.

Nabilah Siddiquee

Litigation Staff Attorney

Nabilah works as part of IDP’s litigation team, focusing on litigation before federal courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals in support of challenges to adverse immigration consequences of criminal convictions and arrests.  Prior to joining IDP, Nabilah worked in the Immigration Intervention Project of Sanctuary for Families, where she represented non-citizens in affirmative and defensive immigration matters and supervised the asylum practice.  Previously, Nabilah was a litigation associate at a law firm in New York focusing on federal criminal defense and served as a law clerk in the Southern District of New York and the Central District of Illinois.  Nabilah earned her J.D. from U.C. Berkeley School of Law, her A.M. in Middle Eastern Studies from Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and her B.A. from Yale University.

Patrick Baker

Justice Catalyst Fellow

Patrick joins IDP as a 2018 Justice Catalyst Fellow. His work focuses on litigation challenging abusive and unlawful immigration enforcement practices, including courthouse arrests. Patrick gained experience in affirmative litigation as a member of the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale. He has also interned at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and New Haven Legal Assistance. Patrick holds degrees from Yale Law School and Duke University.
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