Immigrant Justice Leadership Academy

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Colibrí Fellowship for DOJ Accreditation

The Colibrí Fellowship for DOJ Accreditation is the first of its kind professional fellowship for individuals seeking partial or full Department Of Justice (DOJ) Accreditation. Our goal is to train future non-attorney legal representatives to strengthen the capacity of community-based legal aid organizations.

The fellowship seeks to:

  • Open the legal profession to Black, Brown and Immigrant communities
  • Increase the number of legal professionals particularly in areas outside of metro Chicago
  • Increase the number of bilingual and bicultural legal professionals


Fellows will participate in both virtual training components in partnership with the Villanova Interdisciplinary Immigration Studies Training for Advocates (VIISTA), and in-person training with local partners. In addition to virtual and in-person training, fellows will be paired with an existing DOJ Accredited Representative that will provide mentorship and support throughout their training and DOJ accreditation application process. Fellows will also have opportunities to shadow and observe staff at the various participating sponsor organizations.

Meet the 2023 Colibrí Fellows

Aida Estela Pino Quizhpi
HANA Center
Partial Accreditation Track

Aida is from Acapulco, Mexico and has been in Chicago for more than 30 years. Aida loves to read and enjoys spending her free time with family. As an immigrant, working at HANA Center has opened her eyes to many ways that she can help the community with information and more. Aida started out assisting with DACA Renewals, Naturalizations and is now in the Access to Justice (A2J) Department and is hopeful to learn more through the Fellowship.

Ana Cristina Chávez Andonie
Legal Aid Chicago
Full Accreditation Track

Born and raised in Mexico, Ana Cristina forms part of Legal Aid Chicago’s Trafficking Survivor Assistance Project, where she works with primarily survivors of labor trafficking. A recently naturalized citizen, she previously worked for the National Immigrant Justice Center working on removal defense cases with survivors of domestic violence and asylum seekers. Prior to that, she lived in a community in Phoenix, Arizona working with individuals experiencing homelessness. Ana Cristina recently spent the month of December on the border in Arizona volunteering with the humanitarian aid organization No More Deaths.

Andrea Escobar
Western Illinois DREAMers
Partial Accreditation Track

Andrea Escobar is the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Foreign Languages and Cultures. As the first person in her family to go to college, she has made it a goal to do work worthy of her parents’ sacrifice. She is currently employed with Western Illinois DREAMers, where she is the vice-president and helps run four welcoming centers in Central Illinois. In this capacity, Andrea loves providing the help and resources her parents did not have. With this Fellowship, Andrea hopes to bridge the gap between our immigrant communities and accessible, affordable, and compassionate immigration legal services.

Ashley Santos
Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors
Partial Accreditation Track

Ashley is a paralegal with Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors. Ashley is a Latina daughter of immigrants from Mexico. She started working in the immigration advocacy field a little over 2 years ago. Her goal is to become fully DOJ accredited in the future so that she can be the best advocate for her comunidad.
¡Que continúe la lucha!

David A. Flores
Spanish Community Center
Partial Accreditation Track

David Flores currently works as the New Americans Initiative Director at the Spanish Community Center and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He started as a Social Service Assistant during the pandemic and shares he has learned so much information from all the dedicated staff at the Spanish Community Center. David has always had a passion for helping others and joining the Colibrí Fellowship will allow him to grow professionally and continue serving the community.

Denisse Adriana Arango Moreno
Jewish Child & Family Services (HIAS)
Partial Accreditation Track

Adri Arango joined JCFS Chicago in May 2022 as the Outreach and Education Specialist for the HIAS team. This time has been a learning experience where passion, compassion, and vocation are in continuous relationship and growth. Adri is a vegetarian, bilingual (Spanish-English), passionate about social justice, animals, arts, and music. Adri has a Bachelor’s degree in Education and Arts. She graduated from North Park University in 2021 with a Master‘s, a certificate in Conflict Resolution, and a certificate in Intercultural Studies.

Jaihoon Amiri
Muslim Women Resource Center
Partial Accreditation Track

Jaihoon Amiri immigrated from Afghanistan through the SIV process in 2014. Jaihoon worked as a legal language officer for more than 12 years for the U.S. army and U.S. Department of State. Jaihoon currently works as the Mentors/Interpreters Program Director within the Muslim Women Resource Center in Chicago. Jaihoon loves helping people and is very glad to have the opportunity to serve their underserved communities.

Jessica Mendez
Binational Institute of Human Development
Partial Accreditation Track

Jessica came to the United States when she was 8 years old. She is passionate about helping immigrants because she is an immigrant herself. She previously had DACA and became a Permanent Resident in May 2022. Jessica started working at BIDH in 2019 and has worked as a case worker and client liaison, the Community Outreach Coordinator, and Community Navigator. She managed the grant reporting and compliance, developed BIDH’s Angel Dorado program to reunite individuals in the US with their family members in Mexico, and she is now the Director of Operations. She believes that DOJ accreditation is crucial for expanding her organization’s capacity for providing legal services to immigrants.

Liza Gutierrez
Partners for Our Communities
Partial Accreditation Track

Liza Gutierrez grew up in Chicago to Puerto Rican parents who came to the U.S. in the 1960’s. Lisa found out as a child that her name should be spelled ”Liza” and had been spelling it that way although ”Lisa” was on her birth certificate. Liza is currently employed since 2009 with Partners for Our Communities. Past employers include Loyola University Research in Criminology, ICJIA, Rolling Meadows Police, and NCH Psychiatric Unit. Lisa has been married for 20 years to a Mexican immigrant. She is a mother of two teens and two dogs. She is a Trustee in Hanover Park.

Lizbet Zavala
Erie Neighborhood House
Full Accreditation Track

Lizbet Zavala is a partial DOJ Accredited Representative at Erie Neighborhood House. Lizbet helps the immigrant community by providing immigration counseling and representation. Lizbet is an immigrant herself and came to the United States in 2012 and has worked in the immigration field since 2014. Prior to 2014, while attending the University of Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico, she worked as a clerk at the Third Civil Court, then worked for the Chamber of Commerce, and her last job before coming to the United States was at a private law firm. Lizbet graduated in 2011 from the Universidad Michoacán de San Nicolas de Hidalgo in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico with a Bachelor of Law and Social Sciences.

Dr. Magdalena Rivera
Illinois Migrant Council
Partial Accreditation Track

Magdalena is a daughter of a late Farmworker, working on her 3rd Master’s degree, holds a Bi-National PhD in Education, LULAC member 30 years, and human rights advocate since age 16. She is the CEO of the non-profit organization, Illinois Migrant Council. Magdalena has worked in many different fields, from crop picking in the fields to government, mental health clinics, banking and other public and non-profit institutions. Magdalena also helps her husband manage the family businesses. She has been the recipient of many special awards and recognitions. She is a mother of one daughter and grandmother of four.

Manissan Karamoko
United African Organization
Full Accreditation Track

Manissan Karamoko was born and raised in Cote D‘Ivoire. Manissan spent some years in Burkina Faso and later immigrated to the United States. She is currently the Citizenship and Immigration Coordinator at the United African Organization (UAO). Manissan holds a Degree in Business Law from the University of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and a Paralegal Certificate from Loyola University. She is a Department of Justice partially Accredited Representative. Manissan is passionate about human and migrant rights.

Maria Del Rosario Salgado Ortiz
Centro Romero
Full Accreditation Track

Maria Del Rosario Salgado Ortiz “Chayito,” was born in Mexico City to parents originating from Guerrero and Michoacan and has called the northside of Chicago home for the last 24 years. She has been working in the Latin American Legal Services Department for the last 11 years and is currently a Partial DOJ Accredited Representative. As an immigrant herself, she has been involved in immigrant rights work since 2000. Her favorite pastimes are enjoying the company of her three young daughters and creating art.

Marina Maric
North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic
Partial Accreditation Track

As the daughter of Serbian immigrants, and as a suburban native, Marina strongly believes in the Colibrí Fellowship’s mission to strengthen the capacity of community-based immigrant legal aid organizations throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. Currently, she works on family-based and humanitarian cases as an Immigration Practice Assistant with the North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic in Highland Park. Prior to joining NSLAC, her nonprofit experience included volunteering with Quebec’s Regional Program for the Settlement and Integration of Asylum Seekers in Montréal, as well as interning with the Centro de los Derechos del Migrante in Mexico City – a nonprofit denouncing labor abuses suffered by guest workers in the US. She also worked as a legal assistant in family-based immigration law for two years at a private law firm in Chicago. Marina holds a BA in International Development Studies and Latin American & Caribbean Studies from McGill University in Montréal, Canada.

Martha M. Armenta-Robles
Enlace Chicago
Partial Accreditation Track

Martha M. Armenta-Robles is from Sinaloa, Mexico and migrated to the United States in 2000 at 6 years old. After 22 years, she was able to become a Legal Permanent Resident in April 2022. Her experience applying, gathering her paperwork, preparing for her immigration interview, and dealing with the long wait times has led her to want to do this work herself. She spent several years volunteering for organizations and elected officials to raise awareness about the importance of DACA and DAPA, provided interpretation support, and helped translate legal documents. For the last two years, she has worked at Enlace working to organize community leaders. She has also been managing Enlace’s free Legal Clinic. She is hoping to help develop capacity in her organization to be able to provide legal services to immigrants in her community.

Monica Alvarez
The Resurrection Project
Full Accreditation Track

Monica was born in Chicago, Illinois and grew up in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. Both of Monica’s parents are immigrants and came to the United States when they were teenagers. Monica has been an immigration paralegal for the last 8 years. Previously, she worked in the private sector, and she has been at The Resurrection Project for a year.

Ngoc Le
Vietnamese Association of Chicago
Partial Accreditation Track

Ngoc Le has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the Open University in Sai Gon. Prior to joining Vietnamese Association of Illinois, she worked in the fashion industry as an After Sales Services Manager for the leading luxury retail specialist and brand builder Duh Anh Fashion & Cosmetics Ltd, Viet Nam. She has more than 8 years of extensive experience in customer services, user support, marketing, and sales. Ngoc Le moved to the U.S. with her family in 2015 and raised their children to speak Vietnamese fluently. Through the Community Support Lead position at Vietnamese Association of Illinois, Ngoc Le would like to contribute her knowledge and skills to make a positive contribution to the organization and serve the community.

Olga Patricia Guerrero Gonzalez
National Immigrant Justice Center
Full Accreditation Track

Olga Patricia is 23 years old and an immigrant. Like her parents, she was born in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico. She was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and is happy to call Chicago home. In 2021, Olga Patricia graduated from The University of Chicago with a Bachelor’s in Sociology and a minor in Human Rights. After graduating, she started working for the National Immigrant Justice Center as a paralegal for the Detention Project. Olga Patricia loves the work that she does. Although unsure what she will be doing in 10 years or even 5 years, she knows that there is countless work to be done around immigration.

Salek Khalid
Indo-American Center
Partial Accreditation Track

Salek Khalid has been the Intake Specialist for Indo-American Center’s Immigration and Citizenship Department since 2021. Prior to that, he was an activist for immigrant and refugee rights. He is the son of Pakistani immigrants and has lived in the Chicago area for most of his life. He hopes to become a DOJ Accredited Representative in order to better serve the needs of the South Asian community.

Sergio Casillas Vazquez
The Immigration Project
Partial Accreditation Track

Sergio is a Civil Attorney authorized to practice law in Mexico. Sergio recently joined The Immigration Project, assisting people in need in downstate Illinois. Sergio is a Trilingual communicator who enjoys helping others.

Ubaldo Aguilar
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos
Partial Accreditation Track

Ubaldo Aguilar is an immigrant from Guatemala who came to the US 10 years ago with his wife and 2 kids. He studied International Affairs and Political Science in Guatemala. Due to his need for legal future representation in attaining legal status, Ubaldo found Centro de Trabajadores Unidos who helped his family obtain their status. After this, Ubaldo began to volunteer at CTU and after 4 years he was offered a position on staff as Citizenship and Legal Clinic coordinator. When applying for the Colibrí Fellowship, Ubaldo held the Immigration Advocacy Director position, but he has since been selected to be the organization’s new Executive Director!

Yessenia Guadalupe Cairo
Chicago Workers Collaborative
Partial Accreditation Track

Yessenia G. Cairo was born in a small town of roughly 4,000 people, in Zacatecas, Mexico. Yessenia is the second oldest of 5 children. Her parents immigrated to the United States in search of the American Dream. Yessenia and their family lived in California for the first few years, before moving to Chicago. She is a mother of three beautiful children, as well as a wife to a wonderful and supporting husband. Her loved ones are the reason she strives to be her best self and motivation to pursue her dreams.

Zulairam Iracema Toro Rodriguez
Centro Romero
Partial Accreditation Track

Zulairam Iracema Toro Rodriguez, also known as Zully, is 19 years old and I was born in Nezahualcoytl, Mexico. She was brought to this country at the age of 2. She started participating in Centro Romero’s youth program and soon began to understand what Centro Romero did and the miracles they created. When the pandemic hit, her whole family lost their jobs. She had to become the main provider for her family until her family could get back on their feet. Juggling work and school, she still found time to be active at Centro Romero. Centro Romero became a safe place, a second home for her. Zully had an interest in law, so Centro Romero gave her the opportunity to work with their legal department as an assistant. She assisted in preparing, organizing case files, translating documents and more. Upon graduating, Centro promoted her to paralegal. That year of practice as a legal assistant prepared her to be able to manage her own cases, under the supervision of accredited representatives. She plans to continue her career journey with Centro Romero and hopefully to become accredited through the Fellowship.

Program Eligibility and Application Information

Program Eligibility
The Colibrí Fellowship is open to nonprofits who work with immigrants. Organizations can nominate non-accredited individuals who will seek partial DOJ accreditation or DOJ Partially Accredited Representatives seeking full accreditation. Due to the unique training needed for full accreditation, two training tracks will be run while still providing space for both groups to learn together.

  1. Non-accredited individuals must apply for partial accreditation during the fellowship. Partially accredited individuals must apply for full accreditation during the fellowship.
  2. Nominating organization must serve Illinois immigrants.
  3. For organizations not yet recognized by the DOJ, the organizations must commit to submitting both applications for recognition and fellow’s application for accreditation during the fellowship period.

Sponsoring organizations will receive a $20,000 grant to support their fellow(s) in completing the program and assist with on-site training and convenings.

Application process and dates
2024 Fellowship application will open Summer 2023. Check back in the coming months for additional details.

The application period for the 2023 Colibri Fellowship is now closed.

More information
For more information, please contact Jane Lombardi, Director of Immigrant Justice Partnerships at [email protected].

Funding for the Colibrí Fellowship provided by Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Welcoming Centers for Refugee and Immigrant Services.

Thank you to the Colibrí Fellowship Committee!
Alianza Hispanoamericana NFP Inc. • Centro Romero • Chicago Workers Collaborative • Erie Neighborhood House • HANA Center • Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center • Hispanic American Community Education & Services • Indo-American Center • Instituto del Progreso Latino • Muslim Women Resource Center • North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic • The Immigration Project • United African Organization • Western Illinois Dreamers • YMCA of the University of Illinois