Staff

Emiliano Lerda, J.D., LL.M.
Executive Director

Originally from Argentina, Emiliano Lerda was drawn to America’s Midwest because its agricultural environment reminded him of his native Cordoba province. At the University of Northern Iowa, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, he became the first international student elected student body president. He then worked for the State of Iowa Board of Regents as the student relations officer. Emiliano attended Drake University Law School where he graduated with a juris doctorate (J.D.), and certificates in Public Service Law, Food & Agriculture Law, and International Comparative & Human Rights Law. After obtaining his law degree he worked as government relations manager for the Iowa Corn Growers Association. He has always been passionate about public service and has worked with nonprofit organizations both as a staff member and as a board member since 2002. Emiliano is a licensed attorney and has a Master of Laws (LL.M.) from the University of Arkansas School of Law. He joined Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska (JFON-NE) as Executive Director in January 2011. Emiliano was an adjunct professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha where he taught Immigration, Law & Latinos in 2012 and 2013. He also participated in the Nonprofit Executive Institute and Leadership Omaha Class 36. Emiliano is passionate about building sustainable organizations that make a positive impact in our community and serves on several local nonprofit boards of directors. He is currently enrolled in the Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program, in Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management. He is fluent in English and Spanish.

Charles Shane Ellison, Esq.
Deputy Executive Director/Legal Director

In addition to overseeing the delivery of legal services in Nebraska and western Iowa for JFON-NE, Shane also spearheads impact litigation and provides technical assistance to Site attorneys throughout the JFON network on behalf of National JFON. Shane graduated magna cum laude from Trinity College, and cum laude from Hofstra University School of Law. After law school, he worked in the New York Asylum Office, within the Department of Homeland Security, where he adjudicated asylum claims and provided training to Asylum Officers on developing areas of asylum law. In February 2011, he relocated to Nebraska to join JFON-NE. Shane is licensed to practice law in New York, Nebraska, the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. He has taught immigration law at Creighton University School of Law and frequently presents on immigration law matters at both regional and national conferences.  He is the former Chair of the Nebraska State Bar Association’s Immigration Law Section and is currently on the Section’s Executive Committee. He also serves as the Chicago Asylum Office Liaison for the Iowa/Nebraska Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association  and sits on the Board of Directors of the National Board of Immigration Lawyers.  He is proficient in Spanish.

Dawn Bashara
Communications & Development Director

Dawn is responsible for raising public awareness of JFON-NE and for developing diverse funding sources for long-term sustainability of our agency. Currently focused on building the infrastructure for JFON development efforts, she manages our special events, media relations, brand and publications development, website and social media efforts, grants, and fundraising appeals. With previous long-term experience at Heartland Family Service in strategic communications and marketing, writing, media and events, Dawn developed the annual communitywide Salute to Families Awards, now honoring strong family life for more than 30 years. She is a member of the Integrity Awards Committee of the Better Business Bureau and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism from the University of Iowa.

Damien P. Foster, CPA
Finance Manager

Damien handles JFON-NE accounting and bookkeeping, human resources, grant funds management, cash management and federal and state reporting. He came to JFON after serving as the senior accountant at Claas of America, Inc. He has a broad background in finance and operations in positions as the auditor and financial staff in both the public and private sectors. Previously, while at Hayes & Associates, Damien served as auditor for JFON-NE for two years, so he started with a good foundation and knowledge of JFON and its operations. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration-Accounting from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, a Bachelor of Science from Midland Lutheran College (now Midland University), and is a licensed certified public accountant in the State of Nebraska. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA).

Sanjuanita Jaimes
Operations Manager/BIA Accredited Representative

“Sanny” manages the day-to-day operations of the office, coordinates administrative support and communications, and provides assistance to our collaborations and agency efforts. Working with the management team and executive director, Sanny contributes to the development and implementation of organizational policies, practices, strategic goals and objectives of the agency. In June of 2015, she was accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals allowing her to represent clients before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Sanny has a Bachelor of Science in social work with a major in Latino/Latin American studies, a minor in sociology and a certificate in gerontology. She joined JFON-NE in 2013 and is fluent in English and Spanish.

Giselle ArellanoGiselle Arellano
BIA Accredited Representative/Paralegal

Giselle graduated from College of Saint Mary with Bachelor of Arts in Paralegal Studies and a minor in Business Administration. She supports JFON attorneys by translating documents, interpreting client interviews with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS), meeting with clients and gathering information to complete necessary forms and other tasks to help clients. Giselle previously worked for Union Pacific in the Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action and Law departments as a paralegal intern for two years. She is fluent in English and Spanish, both written and verbal.

Roxana Cortés Reyes, Esq.
Child & Family Staff Attorney

Roxana specializes in cases involving immigrant children and their families.  She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with majors in Psychology, Latino/Latin American Studies and Spanish.  Roxana received her J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2016.  While at Nebraska Law, Roxana served as a student attorney in the Immigration Clinic and earned the Pat Gies Memorial Award for her performance there.  She has worked in the immigration field since 2010 for private firms and has also volunteered her time at various public interest firms.  Roxana is licensed to practice law in Nebraska and speaks Spanish fluently. 

1786_ppAnna D. Deal, Esq.
Domestic Violence Managing Attorney

Anna provides legal assistance on a variety of immigration issues but specializes in U-Visa/VAWA cases involving domestic abuse and other violent crimes.  She also has experience with SIJS, asylum, removal defense, adjustment of status, and consular processing.  Anna attended the University of Washington where she majored in International Studies.  She then graduated cum laude from Boston College Law School in 2013.  Before joining JFON in September 2015, she spent two years as an Attorney Advisor at the Omaha Immigration Court conducting research and drafting decisions on behalf of immigration judges.  Anna speaks Spanish and is licensed to practice law in Nebraska and Washington State.

EmilyGalas1cropEmily Galas
Administrative Assistant

Emily supports the JFON-NE management team with day-to-day operations. Her duties are diverse, assisting with critical details for facilities, staff, fundraising, communications, human relations and financials. She works to improve processes and create efficiencies in the organization’s infrastructure. Emily graduated from the University of Nebraska-Omaha with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and International Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Before joining JFON-NE she worked in human resources at an insurance company, taught English in Brazil, and worked as a Realtor. She is proficient in English and Spanish.

Dearra Godinez 1Dearra Godinez, Esq. 
Rural Capacity Building Attorney – Eastern Nebraska

Dearra joined JFON-NE’s Rural Capacity Building team to provide education, advocacy, and legal services to Nebraska’s rural communities. Her work is complimented by her background–she grew up in rural Falls City, Nebraska.  In 2007, Dearra graduated summa cum laude from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, majoring in Political Science and International Studies, and minoring in Spanish. In 2010, she graduated as a Hatton W. Sumners Scholar from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. Dearra began her practice as a civil litigator in Oklahoma City. Additionally, she served as an adjunct professor teaching civil procedure at OCU law. As a volunteer for CASA and Oklahoma Lawyers for Children, she provided pro bono legal services to abused and neglected children in Oklahoma.  In 2014, Dearra was named an Oklahoma Super Lawyer’s Rising Star. Before joining JFON-NE, she served as an immigration attorney for Lutheran Family Services. She speaks and reads Spanish proficiently.

RosangRosangelaGodinez2015aela Godinez, Esq.
Rural Capacity Building Attorney – Central Nebraska

Rosangela joined JFON-NE in 2015 to provide immigration legal services and support to rural communities in Nebraska, including Lexington and Grand Island, where she facilitates community efforts to meet immigration legal needs. Raised in Lexington, she has diverse employment experience, including working with Legal Aid of Nebraska and Lutheran Family Services. Rosangela graduated cum laude from Creighton University with a double major in marketing and management information systems and received her law degree from St. Louis University School of Law. Before Joining JFON-NE, Rosangela was a judicial extern in the 22nd Judicial Circuit of the City of St. Louis in the family law division. Rosangela is licensed in Nebraska and Missouri and is fluent in English and Spanish.

 width=Virginia Maynes, Esq.
Child Welfare Managing Attorney

Virginia specializes in working with immigrant children and their families.  She attended Brigham Young University, earning dual degrees in Political Science and American Studies.  She then graduated cum laude from the law school at Washington University in St. Louis.  While at Washington University, Virginia earned the Charles Trobman Memorial Award for her performance in Immigration Law.  She previously interned for the U.S. immigration court in Kansas City as well as Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) in Washington, D.C. Virginia speaks Spanish, is licensed to practice law in Missouri and Nebraska, and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

Mindy Rush Chipman, Esq.
Senior Managing Attorney

Initially focusing on Nebraska rural communities including Crete, South Sioux City, Grand Island and Lexington, Mindy coordinates our efforts to promote inclusivity by offering education and advocacy as well as the availability of high-quality immigration legal services. In addition to her work at JFON, Mindy also serves as an officer for several different nonprofit organizations that promote advocacy for the underrepresented and community service.  Previously, Mindy worked as an attorney at Legal Aid of Nebraska, where she was instrumental in the launch of the Nebraska Immigration Legal Assistance Hotline (NILAH), and earlier had her own general law practice in Cass and Otoe counties.  Mindy graduated with distinction in 2007 from Nebraska College of Law and is licensed to practice law in Nebraska and Colorado. 

Alexis SteeleAlexis Steele, Esq.
Immigrant Worker Attorney

Alexis focuses on the intersection of labor and immigration law, working to craft creative, long-term solutions for her clients.  She earned her juris doctorate from the University of Iowa College of Law after majoring in English at Yale University.  Alexis is licensed to practice in Iowa and speaks Spanish.

Gary Walters, Esq.
Iowa Managing Attorney

Gary is experienced in many aspects of immigration law and works primarily with detained immigrants and clients in Pottawattamie County and southwest Iowa. He is located at our office at Centro Latino in Council Bluffs. Gary worked with the JFON-Iowa site for five years before being hired at JFON-NE in November 2013 and brought much knowledge of our JFON network. He is licensed to practice law in Missouri. Gary graduated from the University of Missouri with a major in classical archeology and received his law degree from Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. He is fluent in Spanish and English and speaks French.

Isrrael FinalIsrrael Garcia, Jr.
Immigrant-Focused Medical Legal Partnership Paralegal

Isrrael is currently studying Hospital Administration and Policy and Political Science at Creighton University. As the Immigrant-Focused Medical Partnership (IMLP) Paralegal, he supports the IMLP Attorney by assisting with the provision of direct legal services to immigrants and their families who have significant medical needs.  Isrrael works on cases involving Special Immigrant Juvenile (SIJ) status, asylum/refugee matters, U-visas, T-visas, and family based options among others. He joined JFON-NE is 2017 and is fluent in English and Spanish.

Dorian E. Rojas
Child and Family Staff Attorney

Dorian specializes in cases involving immigrant children and their families. Raised in New York, she has diverse employment experience in both the private and public sector. Dorian attended Trinity College earning degrees in Public Policy & Law and Performing Arts. After College, Dorian worked at the Legal Aid Society. Dorian graduated from St. John’s University School of Law and is licensed to practice law in New York, Nebraska, and the District of Columbia. While in law school, she was the recipient of the Charles H. Revson Law Student Public Interest fellowship and worked on a variety of immigration issues at Safe Horizon, Immigration Law Project. Dorian is of Dominican descent and speaks Spanish fluently.

Veronica Amaya
Legal Receptionist

Veronica is the legal receptionist at JFON.  She is the first point of contact with new clients.  She helps with day to day operations such as answering phone calls from current and new clients.  She also greets clients as they come in for appointments. Before working at JFON Veronica worked as a Sr. Benefit Service Representative at Central States Indemnity.  She is fluent in Spanish and English.

 

Maria Mendoza

Access to Justice Legal Representative

Maria provides support to the Domestic Violence Managing Attorney as well as manages a caseload of her own. She also provides education to law enforcement agencies on immigration benefits available to victims of crime.  Maria graduated magna cum laude from the University of Nebraska – Omaha with a bachelor’s in criminology and criminal justice with a minor in political science. She is fluent in English and Spanish.

Kimberly Fonseca
Legal Administrative Assistant/Client Advocate

Kimberly Fonseca started at JFON on Febraury. Previously she has worked in the Child Welfare System as a Youth Advisor and Educational Navigator. Kimberly graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work and is currently working on her Master’s Degree in Social Work at University of Nebraska – Omaha. She is fluent in English and Spanish.

Magdalena Cazarez
Communications and Development Assistant

Magdalena is passionate about educating and advocating on past, present, and future issues affecting immigrant and refugee communities. As the Communications and Development Assistant, she is responsible in helping with all communication and media relations effort, including developing and implementing strategic plans, producing promotional materials, and managing social media platforms and website. Magdalena graduated from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln with a major in Advertising and Public Relations. She is fluent in English and Spanish.