Immigration Legal Services

Immigration Legal Services, a part of Catholic Charities’ Newcomer Network, provides direct legal immigration services to foreign-born individuals and their families.

About the Program

Immigration Legal Services works with cases that range from consultations to full representation. The program has represented individuals from more than 135 countries who needed legal assistance with an immigration matter. The program also trains lawyers to provide pro bono services and educates community groups on the latest immigration issues.

Contact Information


Additional Information

  • To schedule a virtual immigration legal consultation, call the Intake Call Center at 240-858-0958 on Mondays from 1-5 p.m., on Tuesdays or Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or on Wednesdays from 3-7 p.m. Or, use our online scheduling tool to make an appointment.

Schedule a Virtual Immigration Legal Consultation

Know Your Rights Presentation

An accredited legal representative from Catholic Charities provides a brief introduction to immigration law in the United States.


Jacqueline Rishty


Jacqueline Rishty is the director of the Immigration Legal Services Program at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. Rishty, a graduate of Brooklyn Law School, has served the immigrant community as a Catholic Charities immigration attorney since 1990. She has represented clients in matters ranging from asylum to citizenship and has advocated for their rights in various forums, including testifying before Congress in 2000 in support of HR 3083, the “Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act of 1999.” She has organized and run citizenship workshops, “Know Your Rights Presentations,” and consultation clinics. In recognition of her service, she was presented with the Griffin Award by Catholic Charities. Prior to obtaining her law degree, she gained immigration experience as an intern at both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service (now known as USCIS). She is a member of the New York bar.

Jennifer Bibby-Gerth

Senior Managing Attorney

Jennifer Bibby-Gerth joined Catholic Charities in September of 2013. Before joining Catholic Charities, she served as an asylum officer at Arlington Asylum Office for almost six years. During her time with the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service, she had the opportunity to go on a circuit ride to East Africa in Summer 2009 and another to Havana, Cuba, in Summer 2011, where she adjudicated requests for refugee resettlement. She has a bachelor’s degree in social work and Spanish from the University of Alabama, a master’s degree in social work from the University of Tennessee, and a law degree from American University, Washington College of Law in May 2007. As a social worker, she worked in mental health and substance abuse treatment. She speaks Spanish and is licensed to practice law in Maryland.

Estefania Higgins

Pro Bono Senior Managing Attorney

Estefania Chavez received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Tennessee College of Law. Before joining Catholic Charities, Estefania served as the interim director for the Legal Department at CARECEN DC after serving 1-1/2 years as a staff attorney. While at CARECEN, she represented victims of crimes and counseled clients on available immigration relief. During law school, she participated in the Immigration Legal Clinic and directed the Tennessee College of Law’s U-Visa Alternative Spring Break Program, which provided legal assistance to the immigrant community. Due to her dedication to public service, she was awarded the William Lecher Jr. Public Service Price and was recognized by the Tennessee Supreme Court as a 2014 Law Student for Justice. She is a member of the D.C. and Tennessee Bars.

Heruy Mebrahtu

Senior Managing Attorney

Heruy Mebrahtu completed his undergraduate studies at the University of California-Berkeley and obtained his law degree from the University of Iowa. His inspiration to work in immigration law stems from his positive law school clinic experience during which he worked on a complicated asylum claim from Sierra Leone, “The ability to make profound and positive changes in an immigrant’s life is what drives me. I myself am an immigrant so I appreciate the hoops and hurdles immigrants have to go through.” He began his legal career working for the former Spanish Catholic Center, now part of Catholic Charities, on July 2003 as the sole staff attorney. He is licensed in Maryland and Washington. He is fluent in Spanish and speaks basic Amharic.

Alyson Runco Beinert

Supervising Attorney

Alyson Runco Beinert joined Catholic Charities in September 2019. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and a minor in political science from the College of Charleston and a Juris Doctorate from the Charleston School of Law. Before joining Catholic Charities, she worked as an attorney for Catholic Charities Office of Immigration Legal Services in Charleston, S.C., for six years. She has extensive experience in family-based immigration and working with clients who have been victims of crimes and trafficking. She has successfully counseled hundreds of clients through their legal matters. She also has served as an adjunct professor at the Charleston School of Law, teaching legal research and writing. She is licensed to practice law in South Carolina and the District of Columbia.

Molly Albano

Staff Attorney

Molly Albano joined the Immigration Legal Services team in September 2022. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland Carey School of Law and a member of the Maryland Bar. During law school, she was an active member of the Immigration Law and Policy Association and served as a student attorney in the Carey Law Immigration Clinic, where she represented an individual seeking asylum before the Executive Office of Immigration Review and advocated in the Maryland General Assembly for passage of several bills protecting immigrants’ rights. As a law student, she also worked in the Immigration Impact Lab of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition and served as an Equal Justice Works fellow at Ayuda. Before attending law school, she worked as a legal advocate in the Women’s Law Center of Maryland’s Multi-Ethnic Domestic Violence Project. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and International Studies from Muhlenberg College.

Kevin Brothers

Staff Attorney

Kevin Brothers joined the Catholic Charities’ Immigration Legal Services team in January 2023 after spending 15 years serving the immigrant community, first as a volunteer and later as a temporary staff member at Catholic Charities. Brothers was a naval intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Navy Reserves. He has worked for the Office of Legal Advisor at the Department of State. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in language arts from Georgetown University, a Master of Science degree in strategic intelligence from National Intelligence University, and a law degree from the Washington College of Law at American University. He has taught graduate courses in intelligence at National Intelligence University and is an adjunct professor of intelligence management at the University of Maryland Global Campus. He is a member of the Maryland bar. The generous support of Maryland

Idna Castellon

Staff Attorney

Before joining Catholic Charities, she worked as an immigration attorney at Sanabria & Associates and represented individuals applying for special immigrant juvenile status and individuals in removal proceedings. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology and a minor in Holocaust and genocide studies from West Chester University of Pennsylvania and a Juris Doctorate from Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. During law school, she worked as a certified legal intern for Villanova’s Farmworker Legal Aid Clinic. Following law school, she worked as a judicial law clerk for the New Castle County Court of Common Pleas in Wilmington, Del. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey and Maryland.

Jonah Kavanaugh

Staff Attorney

Before joining the Immigration Legal Services team, Jonah Kavanaugh attended law school at the University of San Diego, where he graduated with a concentration in international law. He was raised in the border town of Brownsville, Texas, and has strong ties to the Mexican American immigrant community there. His love of immigrants comes from the belief that our society will be improved through a diverse cast of voices and the positive impact immigrants have had on his life. Before attending law school, he was a teaching fellow in the Bronx, N.Y., and New Haven, Conn., where he taught kindergarten and fifth grade, respectively. He has had the opportunity to work with clients on naturalization, asylum, withholding of removal, convention against torture, marriage-based visas and DACA and is admitted to the bar in Maryland.

Shaileen M. Mercado

Staff Attorney

Shaileen Mercado joined the Catholic Charities’ Immigration Legal Services team in December 2022. She previously worked with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona as a staff attorney on the adult team. She was graduated from the Interamerican University School of Law in Puerto Rico in 2020, where she participated in the Human Rights Clinic. She holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and sociology with a minor in social problems and policy. She is a member of the Washington, D.C., Bar.

Sandra Ayala

Department of Justice (DOJ) Fully Accredited Legal Representative

Sandra Ayala has worked as a paralegal for Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services since 2002. Since that time, she has taken cases in a wide range of immigration issues, including family petitions, consular processing, citizenship, Violence Against Women Act relief, and U visas for victims of crimes. She is currently a Department of Justice fully accredited legal representative.

Nora Canchez-Gonzales

Department of Justice (DOJ) Fully Accredited Legal Representative

Nora Canchez-Gonzales joined Catholic Charities in July 2018 and assists the pro bono program by helping to manage cases, conduct intakes and evaluate cases for pro bono representation. She earned a Juris Doctor degree at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima, Peru, and holds a master’s degree in international legal studies and a master’s degree in law and government from American University. She has worked at Catholic Charities sister organizations in Arlington, Va., and Baltimore as a fully accredited legal representative representing individuals in immigration related matters before the Immigration Court and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. She is working to become a licensed attorney in the United States.

Christina Gross


Christina Gross joined Catholic Charities as a paralegal for Immigration Legal Services in August 2022. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English language and literature from the University of Maryland College Park. She began her career in immigration assistance, specializing in citizenship as an AmeriCorps member for CASA de Maryland in Rockville in 2019. There, she taught citizenship classes, mentored extensively and spearheaded efforts to assist managers in establishing protocols for continuing application assistance virtually after the COVID-19 pandemic. She also registered and prepared the virtual attendance for about 50 applicants for each of the six successful virtual citizenship clinics, which she also hosted. Before that, she first worked in political research, media consulting, and legislative assistance. She also taught adults and children English as a Second Language at various D.C.-area immigration services organizations for six years. As passionate as she was about providing English education, it didn’t seem adequate for empowering the immigrant community, and she is excited to assist the Catholic Charities’ legal team in serving in various immigration matters.

Ingrid Mazariegos


Ingrid Mazariegos joined Catholic Charities on June 2015 as the administrative assistant for the Immigration Legal Services Program. Prior to working at Catholic Charities, she worked for five years at the World Bank, also doing administrative work. She was graduated from Trinity University in May 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

Celia Rivas

Immigration Services Coordinator

Celia Rivas obtained a law degree from Pontifical Catholic University of Peru in 1986 and received a Master’s in Law degree from Howard University in 1993. She is a Department of Justice Fully Accredited Legal Representative. She joined Catholic Charities in 1991 and is widely known for her immigration expertise throughout the Washington area and often serves as an adviser to area officials concerned with the impact of new policies on the immigrant community. She was appointed by the governor to the Maryland Advisory Council for New Americans and serves on the advisory panel of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Headquarters and District Offices. In 2008, she was appointed by the Montgomery County executive to be a member of the Latin American Advisory Group. In 2002, she was awarded The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington’s Order of Merit. She also has received the Person of Character Award from the City of Gaithersburg.

Cindy Mendez

Call Center Specialist

Cindy Mendez received her Bachelor of Art degree in psychology in 2004 from Trinity University. She worked with Catholic Charities from 2011 to 2015, providing families in crisis with referrals, advocacy and family support. She is happy to have joined the Immigration Legal Services team as a call center specialist in 2022 and is motivated to help the immigrant community with the intake process and its various needs.

Helena Guerra

LOPC Manager & Department of Justice (DOJ) Fully Accredited Legal Representative

Helena Guerra has six years of experience in immigration. Before joining Catholic Charities, she worked with children in immigration custody at the CAIR Coalition, where she specialized in working with survivors of sexual abuse. She also served immigrant children at KIND and survivors of domestic violence at Catholic Charities. She earned a Master of Law degree from George Washington Law School and a Juris Doctor and master’s in taxation from the University of Lisbon (Portugal). She is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

Kasandra Hernandez Rodriguez

Legal Orientation Program for Custodians (LOPC) Paralegal

Kasandra Hernandez Rodriguez was graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration in international relations and a minor in labor studies. During her undergraduate career, she got involved in the immigrant rights and the labor movements. Before joining Catholic Charities, she worked with the immigrant community in Los Angeles and the D.C. area. Her dedication to serving the immigrant community is rooted in her family’s history and experience in the United States.

Laura Prada

Department of Justice (DOJ) Partially Accredited Legal Representative

Laura Prada obtained a Bachelor of Law degree from Universidad Sergio Arboleda in Bogota and worked supervising the corporate legal team of a large department store in Colombia. She moved to the United States in 2016. Before joining Catholic Charities DC, she worked for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Portland as a Latina services navigator and sexual assault advocate for its Spanish Catholic program. Her LOPC work focuses on connecting unaccompanied youth and their families to social services and resources in the community.

Karina Garay

Caseworker, Legal Orientation Program for Custodians (LOPC)

Karina Garay is a first-generation college graduate from University of Maryland College Park. She obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice. She has four years of experience working in a private law firm, specializing in immigration law and working with the immigrant community. She also has volunteered with Catholic Charities’ Strong Family Initiative Program. Her LOPC work consists of assisting unaccompanied immigrant children and their custodians in accessing needed resources and services.

Pamela Yee

Senior Attorney, Pro Bono

Pamela Yee received her Juris Doctorate from The Catholic University of America and specialized in immigration, removal proceedings, and criminal-immigration. She has spent her career advocating for the rights of victims of violence and trauma, unaccompanied immigrant children, and other vulnerable populations before state family and criminal courts, federal immigration courts, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Before joining Catholic Charities, she was legal director at the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) in Washington, D.C., an organization that fosters the comprehensive development of the immigrant population in the Washington metropolitan region. She was also both a clinical professor in the Criminal Defense Clinic and the director of the Immigrant Defense Program at Rising for Justice, where she founded a clinical teaching program providing representation for noncitizens detained by ICE. She began her immigration career at the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights (CAIR) Coalition as an attorney for the Virginia Adult Detainee program and later as the managing attorney for the Maryland Adult Detention program. While at CAIR, she also supervised the Credible and Reasonable Fear Pro Bono program, managed its social work program, as well as conducted “Know Your Rights” presentations for persons detained by ICE in Maryland and Virginia. She has given numerous trainings and seminars at conferences, law schools, law firms, and the DC Bar’s Pro Bono program regarding asylum, U/T visas, waivers, representation of unaccompanied minors, trauma-informed lawyering, immigration detention and removal proceedings. She is a member of the bar in Maryland and D.C.

Adriana Domingo

Staff Attorney, Pro Bono

Before joining Catholic Charities, Adriana Domingo advised, litigated and advocated for victims of human rights violations in Nicaragua before the Interamerican and UN systems. While in Chicago, she assisted human trafficking survivors and volunteered her time to help the immigrant community with their asylum, TPS, U visas and citizenship applications. She is originally from Guatemala, where she worked representing victims of war crimes. She earned a law degree in Guatemala and holds a Master of Laws in International Human Rights from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Laws in U.S. law from the Loyola University of Chicago.

Yanina Ortiz

Paralegal, Pro Bono

Yanina joined Catholic Charities in August 2023. She was born in Argentina and immigrated to the United States when she was 11 years old. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in political science from Norfolk State University in 2013, she worked in a small firm as an immigration paralegal for three years. For the past five years, she worked for a nonprofit as a Victims of Crime Act family law paralegal.

Elizabeth Britova

Project Assistant, Pro Bono

Elizabeth Britova joined Catholic Charities in February 2021 as the project assistant for the pro bono team at the Immigration Legal Services Program. After graduating with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Spanish and European literature from Moscow State University, she worked for four years at a non-profit organization in Moscow, dedicated to helping children with severe burn trauma. Once she immigrated and settled in the greater D.C. area, she set out to find work in a nonprofit with a great cause, which brought her to Catholic Charities. Having recently gone through the immigration process herself and with an extensive background in charitable work, she aims to use her knowledge and abilities to assist the program and its beneficiaries in any way she can.

Annette Shumway

AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer

Annette Shumway graduated in June 2022 from Carleton College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations and Middle East studies. She is completing a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer. Prior joining Immigration Legal Services, she spent time working with various human rights-focused nonprofits, the State Department, and as an English teacher in Spain.

Margaret Walsh Rudmann

Senior Attorney

Margaret Walsh Rudmann joined Catholic Charities in September 2019. Prior to joining Catholic Charities, she worked as a staff attorney with the Maryland Immigrant Legal Assistance Project at the Pro Bono Resource Center of Maryland. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary and the University of Maryland School of Law. Following her college graduation in 1997, she joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps and spent one year serving as a paralegal at Immigration Legal Services, Catholic Charities, Archdiocese of Baltimore (now Esperanza Center). After her volunteer year, she returned to work at Immigration Legal Services in Baltimore as a staff paralegal, fully BIA accredited representative and, later, as a staff attorney. After a brief move to Norfolk, Virginia, she returned to the DMV area and worked as a staff attorney at the Hispanic Committee of VA, which later became part of Northern Virginia Legal Services. She speaks Spanish and is licensed to practice in Maryland.

Marisa Tillman

Staff Attorney

Marisa Tillman received a Juris Doctorate from the University of Minnesota Law School and a Master of Public Policy at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Before joining Catholic Charities, she served as a lead attorney for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. There, she represented unaccompanied children before immigration court, state court and at the Houston asylum office. During law school, she served as a certified student attorney and as a student director of the Detainee Rights Clinic within the James H. Binger Center for New Americans. She also was a Robina Public Interest Scholar, a Human Rights Center Fellow, and a Minnesota Justice Foundation Fellow, participating in many immigrant law related volunteer internships and clerkships. She was awarded concentration honors in immigration law and the Mondale Hall Engagement Award, and also was recognized with the Spirit of Law & Inequality Journal Award for her work on the “Journal of Law & Inequality.” A member of the Texas Bar, she is a member of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs Alumni Board.

Get Involved by Becoming a Pro Bono Attorney

The Immigration Legal Services Pro Bono Program assists low-income foreign-born individuals in finding pro bono representation for their immigration case. We serve clients in a variety of immigration matters, including asylum, NACARA, SIJS, T/U-visas, VAWA, removal proceedings, adjustment of status, temporary protected status and renewal of work authorization documents.

We strive to offer our pro bono attorneys all the resources and mentorship required for successful outcomes. We offer training and Q&A sessions to ensure attorneys are able to keep up to date. We provide samples, trainings and resources, and we review fillings and even conduct moot hearings, if desired. Read about how the pro bono program has grown to better serve clients and attorneys.

How Attorneys Can Get Involved

  • Sign up for our weekly Action Alert
  • Take a case pro bono
  • Mentor an attorney
  • Become a volunteer attorney – (24 hours a week for three months)
  • Provide translation services
  • Provide administrative assistance.

To apply, send to Immigration Legal Services Pro Bono Program:

  • Bar license
  • Certificate of good standing
  • Resume
  • Proof of malpractice insurance (exceptions can be made).



Other Ways to Get Involved


Family support volunteers compassionately listen to immigrants and assist them in assembling materials for applications for Inadmissibility Grounds Waivers. Learn more about volunteering with Immigration Legal Services administration.


Your gift to Immigration Legal Services will give those most at risk the opportunity to move from crisis to stability.

Interested in providing an education care package to an unaccompanied minor? Visit Immigration Legal Services’ Amazon Wish List.

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