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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 at IDP has focused on advocacy efforts to end collaboration between local law enforcement and ICE and to minimize the immigration consequences of contact with the criminal legal system, 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. Mizue also oversees IDP’s community education work.  Mizue has over fifteen years experience in organizing around workers’ rights, racial justice, and immigrant rights. She is also a photographer whose work has appeared in Dying to Live, A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid, published by City Lights Books in 2008.

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

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.

Lee Wang

Staff Attorney

Lee focuses on the impact of the criminal-immigration enforcement system on families. When she first joined the Immigrant Defense Project as a Skadden Fellow, Lee helped to develop the organization’s expertise on the adverse immigration consequences of contact with the Family Court system. She now regularly trains assigned counsel, court staff, and judges in New York City’s Family Courts and is a member of the Office of Court Administration’s Advisory Council on Immigration Issues in Family Courts.

She earned her J.D. and a certificate in Refugee and Humanitarian Studies from Georgetown University Law Center. Lee also has a B.A. from Yale University and a master’s in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley. Before becoming a lawyer, Lee worked as a journalist and documentary filmmaker for Newsweek, MSNBC, and PBS.

Michelle Parris

Staff Attorney, Training & Resources Director

Michelle brings to the work several years as a public defender in the Criminal Defense Practice at The Bronx Defenders, where she developed a keen understanding of the challenges of representing immigrant clients. Michelle was previously awarded an Equal Justice Works Fellowship focused on indigent defense for defendants with mental health issues. Michelle is a graduate of Stanford Law School where she was a student attorney with Stanford Law’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic. She was also Board Member of the Stanford Black Law Students Association, a coordinator and translator for the Housing Pro Bono Program, a Juvenile Detention Facility Teacher for Street Law, an Editor for the Stanford Journal of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and a member of the Stanford Latino Law Students Association.

Ryan Muennich

Staff Attorney

IMG_0613Ryan supports appellant 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 with criminal convictions before the agency and federal courts.  Ryan is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University and The Ohio State College of Law.

Anthony Enriquez

Equal Justice Works Emerson Fellow

anthony staff photo 2016Anthony provides litigation support and legal training to individuals and attorneys challenging civil immigration detention. He focuses on federal court challenges to unconstitutionally prolonged detention. Prior to joining IDP, Anthony was a removal defense attorney at the Door, a community organization providing developmental services for New York City youth. While at the Door, Anthony helped to found the Immigrant Children Advocates’ Relief Effort, a cross-agency effort to provide legal screening and representation for recent arrivals to the United States facing fast-tracked removal proceedings in the New York City area. Anthony graduated from New York University’s College of Arts and Science and School of Law and clerked for the Honorable Andrew L. Carter in the Southern District of New York.

Michael Velarde

Communications Director

Michael is a Chicano organizer, strategist, and writer from El Paso, TX. At IDP, he directs the organization’s storytelling and fundraising operating areas. His responsibilities include strengthening IDP’s foundation and individual donor programs, expanding our profile in traditional and social media, and supporting our political advocacy, community defense, and movement-building work. With partners across the country, he helps coordinate a broader strategy to disrupt the narratives that hide the human toll of unjust law and criminalize immigrants. Before joining IDP staff in November 2016, Michael held senior organizing, fundraising, and policy roles at various community, coalition, and labor organizations in New York City. With over ten years in the immigrants’ rights and other social justice movements, he has led dozens of campaigns on housing, workplace, healthcare, and policing issues. A former Ford Scholar, he holds a B.A. in Sociology from Vassar College.

Ariadna Rodenstein

Development Director

Ariadna joins IDP with the responsibility of expanding the development efforts of the organization, bringing in several years of experience in both the non-profit and private sectors. Her role will encompass leading multi-tier fundraising efforts, grant writing and coordinating special events. Central to the approach is growing outreach activities with individual donors and foundations, among other key supporters of IDP’s mission.  Previously, Ariadna was a consultant with the New York Immigration Coalition and the New York State Immigrant Action Fund, and collaborated with Mercy Center’s immigrant services.  Prior to that, she started a position from scratch at Credit Suisse focusing on client strategy and event management for over a decade, and worked at the Americas Society/Council of the Americas on Latin American programming. Ariadna holds a B.A. in Political Science and Communications from New York University, and an M.A. in Sociology from the City University of New York.

Joseph Celestin

Development and Operations Associate

Joseph recently joined IDP as its Development and Operations Associate. He will play 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 holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Classics from Bowdoin College, where he was a 4-year varsity athlete. Joe’s presence has raised our office’s athlete quotient dramatically. 

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