Leadership

Lindsay Toczylowski, Executive Director

Lindsay Toczylowski is the co-founder and the Executive Director of the Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef), a next-generation social justice law firm that defends our immigrant communities against injustices in the legal system. Lindsay is a social entrepreneur whose work to increase access to justice for immigrants is at the forefront of the movement for universal representation. ImmDef focuses on representing the most marginalized immigrants in CA and is one of the largest deportation defense providers in the state. Previously, Lindsay was the Directing Attorney for representation programs at Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project and she served as a staff attorney at Kids in Need of Defense and the Children’s Law Center of California. Lindsay also served as the Overseas Operations Director at Asylum Access, an international nonprofit that fights for the rights of refugees in the global South. She was recently named one of California’s Top 40 Under 40 Lawyers by the Daily Journal. Lindsay is the proud mother of two revolutionaries-in-training, Maya and Santiago, and they are her inspiration to keep fighting for social justice every day.  

Susan Alva, Associate Director

Susan is a founder and Associate Director at ImmDef. She was the Directing Attorney for capacity building at Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project and Lead Attorney for the Legal Orientation Program for Custodians (LOPC). Susan is also founder and former Director of the Migration Policy and Resource Center at Occidental College’s Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, which works with immigrant organizations on migration policy issues and international immigrant rights advocacy. Previously, Susan was Director of the Immigration and Citizenship Project at CHIRLA. She was Directing Attorney of Public Counsel’s Legalization Appeals Project, and Supervising Attorney for the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice.  As a law student, she worked in the immigration unit of San Diego’s Legal Aid Society. Susan worked with the United Farm Workers Union during their largest-ever organizing drive, and worked for California Rural Legal Assistance in the San Joaquin Valley (1974-76), representing hundreds of migrant workers. Susan advocated to have the short-handled hoe declared illegal in California and worked on several high-profile cases, including the El Monte Thai garment workers case. She is on the Boards of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Susan was born in New York City to Mexican and Dominican immigrant parents.

Meeth Soni, Director of Litigation & Advocacy

Meeth (Munmeeth) Soni is a Co-Legal Director at ImmDef focused on the Adult Representation Project (ARP). Prior to joining ImmDef in May 2016, Meeth spent seven years as staff attorney in the immigration unit at the Public Law Center in Santa Ana. While there, she won an Equal Justice Works fellowship in 2011 to build an in-house asylum and deportation defense practice. Before that, Meeth held an AmeriCorps Equal Justice Works fellowship. From 2008 to 2009, she was an associate at Fraleys & Associates, a boutique business litigation firm in Los Angeles. Meeth represented Petitioner in the Ninth Circuit published decision Avendano-Hernandez v. Lynch. She received the 2016 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year award from the Daily Journal and was awarded the inaugural M. Katherine B. Darmer Outstanding Community Service Award by the Orange County Lavender Bar Association in recognition of her advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ immigrants. Meeth is member of the adjunct faculty at the UCI School of Law and the Western State College of Law. She received her Juris Doctor cum laude from American University, Washington College of Law (2007) and her B.A. with honors from Wesleyan University (1997). Meeth speaks Punjabi, Hindi, and Spanish and is a known dog-whisperer to strays. When she is not working, she might be found dancing in the ImmDef hallways to her Burning Hips routine.

Joyce Noche, Legal Services Director

Joyce L. Noche is co-legal director for ImmDef. She has practiced immigration law for over 18 years. Joyce began her legal career as an Equal Justice Fellow, where she founded one of the first holistic legal services programs for immigrant domestic violence victims in New York City at the Legal Aid Society of New York. She later became a policy attorney with Legal Momentum in Washington, DC providing legislative advocacy and technical assistance on the intersection of immigration and family law to advocates and attorneys around the country. Joyce later became a supervisory asylum officer at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services under the Refugee and Asylum International Operations Directorate. Joyce has previously served as a supervising attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Los Angeles, and directing attorney at the Public Law Center in Santa Ana, CA. In 2012, Joyce was a member of LA-based legal team assisting the Los Angeles Dream Team in its advocacy efforts for administrative relief (DACA). Joyce received her undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California and her law degree from the University of California, Davis Martin Luther King Hall School of Law. Joyce is a recipient of the Martin L. King Jr. Public Interest Award and was honored for her work with undocumented youth by Orange County Immigrant Youth United. Joyce is a member of the California and New York state bars.

Yliana Johansen-Mendez, Legal Services Director

Yliana Johansen-Méndez is a managing attorney in the Children’s Representation Project (CRP). Prior to joining ImmDef in February 2018, she worked at the Los Angeles Asylum Office, and served as Attorney Advisor at the Las Vegas Immigration Court through the DOJ Honors program. She was also a 2011 Equal Justice Works Fellow at Kids in Need of Defense, where she represented unaccompanied minors and developed a procedural manual for attorneys representing one-parent SIJS cases before the Los Angeles Superior Court. While studying at Boston College Law School she worked for the program formerly known as the Post-Deportation Human Rights Project, an interdisciplinary project focusing on the design, implementation, and evaluation of participatory Know Your Rights workshops with community-based immigrant rights organizations, and co-authored a book chapter publishing the results of the interdisciplinary study. As a student she also published an article regarding the effects of the media on the development of San Francisco’s policies on immigrant juvenile offenders, and volunteered at Mujeres Transformando El Mundo, a women’s rights organization in Guatemala, through BC Law’s Human Rights Semester in Practice. She is originally from Pasadena, CA, and received her B.A. from Occidental College. She is the wife and daughter of Mexican immigrants. When she’s not working you’ll probably catch Yliana spending time with family and friends, or on the soccer field. 

María Sofía Corona, Managing Attorney 

Sofía is a managing attorney in the Adult Representation Project. She was previously a BLF law fellow at the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties, where she focused on detention cases. She began a know-your-rights pro se outreach program at a rural detention center. Sofía spent ten years as a community organizer in issues of racial justice, inequality, environmental racism, and immigration issues. Her M.A. in History focused on borderlands and Latin America. She is a daughter of campesino immigrant farmworkers. Her immigrant community has roots in the San Joaquin Valley and the El Bajío region of Guanajuato, Mexico. Sofía is dedicated to empowering marginalized communities through education and legal resources. She received her B.A. from Cal State Fresno and her law Juris Doctor from Berkeley School of Law.

Marion Donovan-Kaloust, Managing Attorney

Marion (“Mickey”) Donovan-Kaloust is a current managing attorney and former Skadden Fellow and staff attorney in the Children’s Representation Project (CRP). She manages Immigrant Defenders Law Center’s Riverside Satellite Office and oversees the organization’s provision of representation to detained unaccompanied children and refugee minors. She graduated from UCLA School of Law with a specialization in public interest law and policy. She earned her B.A. from Goucher College in Maryland. Prior to entering law school, she was a public high school teacher in Los Angeles, and she also worked with Kids in Need of Defense and Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project in Los Angeles.

Lisa Okamoto, Managing Attorney

Lisa is a staff attorney-turned-managing attorney in the Children’s Representation Project (CRP) at ImmDef. Previously,  she worked with older and disabled immigrant adults in Los Angeles and New York, focusing on their eligibility for state and federal benefits. Lisa is a daughter of immigrants and devotes her career to ensuring all clients can understand their legal process regardless of economic/language barriers. She has a B.A. from Pitzer College and graduated cum laude from Brooklyn Law School. Lisa enjoys long-distance running and taking public transportation, avoiding driving at all costs.

Amanda Schuft, Managing Attorney

Amanda manages ImmDef’s Los Angeles Justice Fund Program representing adults detained at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center. Previously at ImmDef, Amanda’s work focused on representing individuals who had been found incompetent by an Immigration Judge pursuant to the Ninth Circuit injunction in Franco-Gonzalez v. Holder. Prior to working with ImmDef, Amanda represented unaccompanied children in deportation proceedings with Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project. Amanda graduated from University of Oregon School of Law and earned her B.A. from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. In her free time, Amanda likes to spend time with her friends and family, enjoy the outdoors, play soccer, and find fun, new things to do!

Derek Loh, Managing Attorney

Derek is a managing attorney in the Children’s Representation Project (CRP) at ImmDef. He considers it a privilege to represent unaccompanied minors in their immigration and deportation cases. In his spare time Derek loves eating, watching The Good Wife, and playing Scrabble in online tournaments. Derek earned his B.A. from Davidson College, his M.A. from the University of Southern California, and his Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Bhairavi Asher, Managing Attorney

Bhairavi is a Staff Attorney for the Children’s Representation Project (CRP). Before joining ImmDef, Bhairavi represented abused and neglected foster children in dependency court at the Children’s Law Center. Previously, Bhairavi also volunteered in Tanzania for 2-years as an English Teacher with World Teach and as a Legal Advocate for Asylum Access providing legal aid to asylum seekers and refugees. In law school, Bhairavi was a Law Student Representative with the Justice & Immigration Clinic providing pro bono legal services to immigrants. When she is not working, you can find Bhairavi hiking, running, exploring new places, or hanging out with friends and family.

Margaret Cargioli, Managing Attorney

Margaret has worked on behalf of underserved indigent groups, including victims of domestic violence and  asylum seekers throughout her legal career. She has a B.A. in International Relations and Political Science from Boston University, a M.A. in International Relations from The University of Chicago, and a J.D. from The City University of New York School of Law.

After graduating from law school, Margaret served as a law clerk at the Superior Court of New Jersey, Civil Division. Thereafter, she joined Greater Boston Legal Services as a Staff Attorney in the Family Law Unit litigating matters on behalf of survivors of domestic violence. Most recently, as Assistant Supervising Attorney at Legal Services of New Jersey, Margaret handled various legal matters for detained and non-detained immigrants. Margaret also conducted know-your-rights presentations to immigrant detainees. Margaret is a native Spanish-speaker and speaks basic French.

Nicole Cortes, Human Resources Manager

Nicole joined ImmDef in November 2017 with a goal to help build the organization's very first HR department. A California native, she was raised up and down the west coast and beyond before resettling back home in her senior year of high school. Nicole obtained her B.A. in Psychology from California State University, Northridge, where she also served as Vice President of the Photography Club. She worked her way through college at a local agency housing youth from DCFS and the L.A. County Department of Probation with the ultimate goal of family reunification. After gaining valuable experience in the private sector, Nicole is thrilled to return to the nonprofit world helping drive ImmDef’s mission from behind the scenes! In her free time, Nicole enjoys creating and cooking new dishes, annoying her friends with her pun-derful sense of humor and taking advantage of all the unique opportunities for recreation and relaxation afforded to the residents of Los Angeles.

Jonathan Barrales, Support Services Manager

Jonathan is the program coordinator for the Detained Youth Empowerment Project (DYEP). Previously, he worked as community organizer at the Eastside Café, an autonomous community space in El Sereno, for more than seven years. While there, he cofounded the El Sereno Bungalows Collective, a non-profit organization dedicated to converting a group of abandoned houses into a community arts and culture space. As an activist dedicated to artistic forms of critical teaching, Jonathan is ecstatic to work with immigrant youth to educate and empower them. Jonathan received his B.A. in Latin American Studies from California State University, Los Angeles.

© ImmDef 2017

Proudly created with Wix.com