Board of Directors
Jennie Pasquarella, Board Member
Jennie Pasquarella is director of immigrants' rights and senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Southern California. She joined ACLU SoCal in 2008. Ms. Pasquarella leads the ACLU of California’s statewide immigrants’ rights project, which, among other things, works to curtail abusive immigration and border enforcement practices, to end all forms of immigration detention, and to ensure access to effective counsel in criminal and immigration proceedings. Her personal work focuses on litigation and policy advocacy at the intersections of immigration enforcement and the criminal justice systems, and citizenship and national security policies. She has specialized in the federal government’s use of local law enforcement in its deportation efforts, leading national and statewide litigation and policy efforts. She has also led national advocacy and litigation addressing discrimination of Muslim applicants for immigration benefits, the deportation of U.S. veterans, and abusive immigration raids, among other projects. Prior to joining ACLU SoCal, Ms. Pasquarella worked as a staff lawyer/fellow for the ACLU Women’s Rights Project and the Center for Reproductive Rights. She is a graduate of Barnard College and Georgetown University Law Center, where she earned her J.D. with a certificate in refugee and humanitarian emergencies and was a Public Interest Law Scholar.
Alyson Parker, Board Member
Aly Parker is an attorney at the California Department of Justice, where she represents the State in litigation related to health, education, and welfare policy and matters. Before she joined the government, she spent 6 years in private practice in Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman’s Los Angeles office. In that role, she represented clients in general commercial litigation and corporate policyholders in insurance coverage disputes. She was also involved in a variety of pro bono projects. For this work, and for her work on ImmDef’s inaugural board, she was honored as the 2016 Pro Bono Attorney of the Year by USC’s Public Interest Law Foundation. Aly also practiced for two years in Tokyo, Japan as in-house counsel for a leading international chemical company. In Tokyo, she held leadership positions on the Board of the Japan In-House Counsel Network, and the Women in Business Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan. During law school, Aly served as the Student Bar Association President and gave her class’ commencement address. She also founded the Cross-town Pro Bono Challenge, a competition between USC and UCLA Law Schools to determine which school could engage more students in pro bono work.
Marisa Arrona, Board Member
Marisa is the Local Safety Solutions Project Director with Californians for Safety and Justice where she works with systems and community leaders across California to advance the Blueprint for Shared Safety, a framework of principles and practices that local leaders can use to advance shared safety strategies. By shifting the focus from over-incarceration to investments that focus on balanced approaches to safety rooted in dignity and smart justice, and that can truly make our communities safer, the Shared Safety framework aims to re-envision public safety altogether. Marisa joined Californians for Safety and Justice in August 2015, returning to California after spending more than five years working on public safety and criminal justice issues in New Orleans. There she was the Program Manager of the Group Violence Reduction Strategy, one of the Mayor’s core initiatives to reduce homicides. Prior to that, Marisa served as Senior Program Associate for the Vera Institute of Justice in New Orleans, where she developed local reform initiatives in partnership with criminal justice agencies, policymakers and community organizations. This included launching New Orleans’s first Pretrial Services program and working to develop incarceration alternatives for nonviolent, low-level offenses. Prior to New Orleans, Marisa was a Legislative & Policy Analyst to Oakland City Councilmember Nancy Nadel, where she researched, wrote and advanced local policies and programs on adult literacy, job development, public safety, affordable housing and more. She was also an Equal Justice Litigation Fellow at The Impact Fund in Berkeley, working with Spanish-speaking clients and witnesses on employment discrimination cases. Marisa received her J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, and her B.A. in Public Administration from the University of San Francisco. She lives in Los Angeles.
Leila Azari, Secretary & Parliamentarian
Leila Azari is a 2008 graduate of New York University School of Law. At NYU, Leila participated in the Immigrant Rights Clinic, where she represented an immigrant restaurant worker in a wage-and-hour lawsuit and developed a campaign to eliminate collaboration between the New York City police department and federal immigration authorities. After law school, Leila practiced litigation for six years at the law firms of Latham & Watkins and Sacks, Glazier, Franklin & Lodise. At these firms, Leila obtained political asylum for a child from El Salvador fleeing persecution by gangs, as well as an Iranian woman who was persecuted on account of her Christian religion. Leila has been senior counsel at the Writers Guild of America, West for seven years. She practices labor law and enforces an industry-wide collective bargaining agreement on behalf of film and television writers.
Marco Gomez, Board Member
Marco works for the California Labor Commissioner’s Office (DLSE) as the Regional Administrative Manager for Southern California. Here, he works to support the Labor Commissioner’s mission of ensuring a just day’s pay in every workplace in the State and to promote economic justice. He oversees the efficient operation of Labor Commissioner’s offices throughout Southern California to ensure that workers are protected and wage theft is prosecuted. Marco has dedicated his professional career to public service and working for vulnerable communities. Prior to joining the Labor Commissioner’s Office, Marco worked for nonprofits such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project (a project of Catholic Charities). He is passionate about immigrant workers’ rights and finding purpose in life by serving others. Marco is a results oriented person who lives purposefully. He likes to spend his free time with his family and enjoys traveling. Marco has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) with a focus in Business Arts Pre-legal from the College of Business and Economics at California State University, Los Angeles.
Ligiah Villalobos, Board Member
Ligiah Villalobos is a Writer, Producer, Consultant, Educator and Lecturer. She is best known for the independent feature film Under the Same Moon, (La Misma Luna), which she wrote and executive produced. Villalobos was also a Cultural Consultant on the Academy Award winning Pixar movie, COCO. She is currently developing an animated series for Dreamworks TV Animation and another series for Sesame Workshop. She is a writer on the upcoming PBS series, "Rosie's Rules." "Koati," an animated feature film she co-wrote is scheduled to be released in 2021. In addition, Villalobos is committed to bringing more people of color into the entertainment industry. To that end, she teaches at Cal State LA and USC and lectures around the world. Villalobos has been a contributor to The Huffington Post, The Black List Blog and Americana magazine. And she is on the Honorary Board of The Point Foundation, in addition to Immigrant Defenders Law Center.
Zerihoun Yilma, Treasurer
Zerihoun is the Managing Director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA). He is an immigrant from Ethiopia, who is committed to fighting racial, economic, and social inequality. He has worked tirelessly to bridge an alliance between diverse immigrant groups and native-born Americans so that immigration reform is brought to the forefront of the American moral agenda.
Zerihoun has diverse professional and academic experiences within nonprofit and for-profit sectors in countries such as Ethiopia, Botswana, Namibia, India and the US.
He currently serves as a Board member of the Californians for Human Immigrant Rights Leadership Action Fund, as the Board Chair for Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and as a Board member of Casa Libre Shelter/Freedom House (CHRCL)
Before coming to CHIRLA, Zerihoun worked in the financial services industries in both Los Angeles and in Africa, where he managed small to medium-scale manufacturing plants and service industries.
Zerihoun is a determined change maker and has helped shape several non-profit organizations in Los Angeles; he is the co-founder of the African Communities Public Health Coalition (African Coalition), the co-founder of the Academia Moderna, a longtime member of Black Immigration Network (BIN) and has served as Vice President of the Virgin Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral in Los Angeles.
Zerihoun earned his Master’s Degree in Accounting and Cost Accounting from Poona University and his Bachelor Degree in Industrial Management from Shivaji University, both in India.
As a social change leader, Zerihoun continually refines and expands his management skills through participation in leadership programs. He is a 2015-2016 Cross movement fellow at Rockwood Leadership Institute.