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

The activities and trainings agendas we put together are informed by our three pillars:

  1. Increase technical and legal knowledge 
  2. Develop empathetic and justice-oriented fellows 
  3. Develop relationships

Fellows will participate in both virtual and in-person training components, including:  

  • One-hour weekly virtual classes 
  • 5-10 hours of assignments each week   
  • Monthly in-person trainings at participating host organizations 
  • Two overnight retreats 
  • Group Mentorship  
  • Shadowing and observation opportunities 
  • Court observation (Full track) 


2023 Program Impact


Application Process & Dates 

The application for the 2024 Fellowship has closed. The 2025 Fellowship application will open Summer 2024. Check back in the coming months for additional details. 


Meet the 2024 Colibrí Fellows

Alan Peters
Syrian Community Network
Full Accreditation Track
Alan Peters has been working at Director of Immigration at Syrian Community Network since 2017 and a DOJ partially accredited representative since 2019. He is devoted to the cause of refugees, asylees, and immigrants to the US generally. Before specializing in immigration legal services, his educational background was in linguistics. Languages remains one of his main interests; on any given day in his direct service of clients, he might find himself speaking Arabic, French, Spanish, or even, Dutch! He is excited to
apply for full accreditation so he can practice before the immigration courts
and expand SCN’s immigration services to include removal defense.
Alina del Rocio Gonzalez
Centro Romero
Full Accreditation Track
Alina del Rocio Gonzalez Rangel immigrated from Mexico two years ago. In Mexico, she worked as a lawyer, which had been a dream of hers since she was a young child. Her interest in helping others, especially those whose rights are not respected, led her to pursue a career in law. After obtaining a law degree, she wanted to give back to her hometown and began working in the government. Alina’s position allowed her to help those of
disadvantaged populations. When she arrived in the US, she knew she wanted to continue helping
others. She had to learn the language, and that is how she heard about Centro Romero.
Some of her passions are spending time with her wife and dogs, reading, reciting poetry, traveling, working at Centro
Romero, and working closer to the Chicago Immigrant Community.
Armando Cano Aguilar
Ascend Justice
Full Accreditation Track
Armando Cano is a partial DOJ Accredited Representative at Ascend Justice. He began his work in the Immigration field at Hana Center on April 2017, helping immigrants apply for citizenship, renewing their Legal Residents cards, and helping young people with the DACA process. He first became partially accreditation on December 2017. Later, in April 2019, Armando began working with Ascend Justice as an Intake Specialist until July 2021, when he was moved to his current position after getting his partial accreditation again. Armando is from Mexico City and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. Before working at Hana Center, he worked at the Consulate General of Mexico in Chicago for 13 years as head of the Labor Affairs Area within the Department of Legal Affairs. His role as DOJ Accredited Representative at Ascend Justice is to help victims of domestic and gender-based violence to apply for immigration relief like a U Visa, VAWA, Battered Spouse Waiver, and Adjust of Status based on U Visa.
Brenda Salgado
Raise the Floor Alliance
Partial Accreditation Track
Brenda Salgado is a daughter of immigrant parents, she understands that many immigrant communities are often underserved. In her experience, language barrier is often a common challenge she sees in the immigrant community. As a child Brenda always found herself translating for my mother, and now in the work she does, she often translates legal concepts to her clients. As a bilingual speaker, Brenda seeks to facilitate some of the challenges folks encounter, and she hopes with the completion of this program she’d be able to contribute to closing the gap in the services available to immigrant communities.
Dezi Hasani
Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors
Full Accreditation Track
Dezi Hasani is someone who is deeply committed to advocating for immigrant families. Her journey from immigrating to this country, obtaining her LLM to pursuing a legal career while doing a job that she is passionate about, has been transformative, shaping her passion and dedication to this field. Dezi believes this fellowship will lead the way towards her dream of becoming a DOJ accredited representative. In the meantime she will continue to bear witness every day stories of culture, stories of identity, stories of survival, and stories of hope. Dezi believes she will be moved by the common bonds that unite them all.
Graciela Contreras
Northern Alliance for Immigrants
Partial Accreditation Track
Graciela Contreras founded Hispanic Ministry in 1990 at her home parish. She served the community by organizing the response to the immigrant needs of the community in the Northern Suburbs of Illinois. Her work experience includes corporate accounting; Hispanic Ministry Coordinator; Leadership development and formation; developer and founder of the Ministry of Self Development and Social Justice in 10 parishes throughout the Northern suburbs of Chicago, Graciela is currently the Executive Director of the Non-profit Northern Alliance for Immigrants which empowers immigrants of the Northern area of Illinois.
Jennifer Guadarrama
Chicago Volunteer Legal Services
Partial Accreditation Track
Jennifer Guadarrama is a dedicated professional with a passion for making a difference. She graduated from the University of Minnesota Morris in 2015. Jennifer joined Chicago Volunteer Legal Services (CVLS) as an intake specialist, where she has gained extensive experience working with people and providing invaluable support to those in need. Her commitment to her work and her community shines through in every endeavor.
Katerine Torres Martinez 
The Immigration Project
Partial Accreditation Track
Katerine Torres Martinez was born in Mexico City, Mexico, and was brought to the States when she was 2 years old. Coming from immigrant parents and being one herself, she always felt the pressure of having to succeed in life, so she received her associate in computer science and was pursuing her bachelor’s in cyber security. During this time, she worked for a non-profit that services the Latinx Community. Katerine realized how much she truly enjoys working with her community and those who need it the most. Katerine’s experience with scrambling for all the documents needed, completing her DACA, Permanent Resident, and Naturalization applications, attending the interviews and all the feelings that come with that has given her the desire to help others.
Kehinde Azeezat Abass
United African Organization
Partial Accreditation Track
Kehinde Azeezat Abass is a bachelor’s degree holder in agriculture who originated from Western Africa. Kehinde is an enthusiast who enjoys a dynamic atmosphere with creative and innovative minds. She currently works as an immigration case manager with the United African Organization. It is with great pleasure she accepts this privilege of being selected as one of the 2023-2024 Colibri Fellowship for DOJ Accreditation. Kehinde looks forward to a great learning experience.
LuzMarina Zacatzi
Illinois Migrant Council
Partial Accreditation Track
LuzMarina is a support program coordinator for the LULAC Google Certificate Program and Program Manager for the Illinois Migrant Council. She focuses on creating an inclusive community through programming, training, and creating strategic plans and partnerships with organizations. LuzMarina has had the opportunity to travel the world and work in diverse communities with Semester at Sea. She is from Chicago, Illinois, and in her spare time travels and spends time with her family and friends.
Mercedes Rodriguez 
Partners for Our Communities
Partial Accreditation Track
Mercedes Rodriguez is a recent graduate from Northeastern Illinois University. She completed her Bachelor’s in Justice Studies with a minor in Child Advocacy in December 2022. Her college courses and experience in the workplace have given her the understanding and compassion to assist people. In her current position, she supports staff and management using her strong oral and written communication skills. As an employee, she is a link between staff, customers, and management. She plans to use the skills and experience she has obtained to assist and help all. It has always been a dream of her’s to pursue a career in serving the community and the disadvantaged.
Miriam Cesia Figueroa
Youth and Family Center of McHenry County
Partial Accreditation Track
Miriam Figueroa is a proud daughter of Mexican immigrants and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nonprofit & NGO Studies from Northern Illinois University.
Currently, she works as a Bicultural Case Manager at the Youth and Family
Center of McHenry County (YFC), also known locally as ‘la escuelita’. Miriam works primarily as a
case manager for YFC’s community navigation program but also assists in program development for
YFC’s ESL courses and youth programming in which she has facilitated and advocated for an
effective cross-cultural response to the various needs of incoming immigrants
and refugees into the county. She also volunteers monthly as an interpreter at
Administer Justice legal clinics at her church. Miriam has a passion for languages,
advocacy, and mental health, and hopes to become a DOJ Accredited
Representative in order to develop YFC’s capacity to provide legal services and education to immigrants in her community.
Mohammad Asif Shirzai Khoshiwal
Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago
Partial Accreditation Track
Mohammad Asif Shirzai Khoshiwal works for the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago (ECAC) as Refugee Support Services (RSS) Lead Case Manager. Before coming to the U.S., he worked with the American Embassy in Kabul as an interpreter. Mohammad came to the U.S. through Operation Allies Welcome (OAW) in September 2021. Shortly after, he started working as a volunteer for the Department of State as an interpreter for their legal team. There, he had the chance to work directly with attorneys, as well as participate in many legal webinars. He
began serving as a case worker. There he noticed it was hard to find affordable legal help for clients. Mohammad engaged in many intensive courses, where he learned about immigration law. He is looking forward to having engaging conversations with a group of passionate colleagues from this fellowship so that they can all fulfill this shared dream to serve immigrant communities and communities of color that remain in critical need of quality legal representation.
Palwasha Sanie
Children’s Legal Center
Full Accreditation Track
Palwasha Sanie is an Afghan Iranian who was born in India and immigrated to the USA about a year ago. Utilizing her language skills, she has been able to assist and advocate for those who may not have the same opportunities to communicate effectively in their new surroundings. Witnessing the impact of her assistance on their lives has been profoundly fulfilling, reinforcing her commitment to working with immigrant communities. In her work field with the Embassies in Iran, she worked with the Immigration department for about 10 years. She currently works
at the Children’s Legal Center as a law clerk.
Rapeepat “Rachel” Kumpichai
Vietnamese Association of Illinois
Full Accreditation Track
Born in Bangkok, Thailand, Rachel’s lifelong passion for justice motivated her to enter the legal profession. She obtained a Master of Law in the United States, as a result of her commitment to excellence and prior legal experience. After graduation, she joined the Vietnamese Association as an Immigration Services Lead, where she utilized her legal proficiency to community needs. By assisting community members with immigration processes, Rachel fosters empowerment while embracing the richness of diverse cultures.
Shamsullah Hamidi
North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic
Partial Accreditation Track
Shamsullah immigrated to the United States after serving as an interpreter for the US Army and International forces in Afghanistan, where he provided critical support and communication services in a complex and challenging environment. After that, he started a business supplying food and essential materials to the US Army and companies affiliated with supporting the US Mission in Afghanistan. In 2017 he immigrated to the US while going back to Afghanistan every couple of months to take care of the business, until 2021 after the fall of the country, he moved permanently to the U.S. He worked with Muslim Women’s Resource Center providing interpretation and translation for Asylum seekers. In January 2023, he joined NSLAC where he is grateful for working in such an environment and learning.
Sohee Kim
HANA Center
Partial Accreditation Track
Sohee Kim is a New Americans Team lead at HANA Center. Sohee was originally from South Korea and moved to the U.S. in 2006. She lived in Texas and Pennsylvania for her studies and currently lives in Chicago. Sohee studied Political Science and earned her Ph.D. in Public Policy and Administration. Her various experiences gave her an opportunity to ponder the key issues of diversity, equity, and justice that immigrant communities face today.
Yudaisy Pascual 
Farmworker Landscaper Advocacy Project (FLAP)
Partial Accreditation Track
Yudaisy Pascual is a Bilingual Paralegal at FLAP. She holds a law degree and master’s degree in Corporate Law in her home country, Venezuela as well as a Business Negotiation Certificate from Harvard University. Before she was forced to move to the US due to the ongoing socioeconomic and political crisis in Venezuela, she gained valuable experience working over 10 years as a Corporate and International attorney at a National Petroleum company. Prior to joining FLAP, she worked as a case manager in a legal office in Chicago, where she connected with low-wage Latinx who needed representation with immigration, criminal defense, traffic, and family law issues. Currently, she lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is planning to return to school to obtain her Juris Doctor degree. In her free time, she supports immigrant professionals in rebuilding their careers in the US.
Zakia Roshan
Indo American Center
Partial Accreditation Track
Prior to leaving her home country and coming to the U.S. (April-May 2022), Zakia had led a career in advocacy for human rights, women, and youth. She lived almost half of his life as a refugee in Pakistan, Iran, and now in the United States, which she comments, is enough time to get familiar with immigrant concerns, life challenges and interests. Empowering herself and others has been part of her mission in her professional career development journey. Zakia’s ambition is to learn and increase her knowledge and utilize it for the benefit of her, her family and community. Since last year she has attended many training programs and courses that have been very helpful in her career development. She wants to continue learning and empowering herself as a way to empower others.

Class of 2023

Aida Estela Pino Quizhpi
HANA Center
Partial Accreditation Track
Ana Cristina Chávez Andonie
Legal Aid Chicago
Full Accreditation Track
Andrea Escobar
Western Illinois DREAMers
Partial Accreditation Track
Ashley Santos
Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors
Partial Accreditation Track
David A. Flores
Spanish Community Center
Partial Accreditation Track
Denisse Adriana Arango Moreno
Jewish Child & Family Services (HIAS)
Partial Accreditation Track
Jaihoon Amiri
Muslim Women Resource Center
Partial Accreditation Track
Jessica Mendez
Binational Institute of Human Development
Partial Accreditation Track
Liza Gutierrez
Partners for Our Communities
Partial Accreditation Track
Lizbet Zavala
Erie Neighborhood House
Full Accreditation Track
Manissan Karamoko
United African Organization
Full Accreditation Track
Maria Del Rosario Salgado Ortiz
Centro Romero
Full Accreditation Track
Marina Maric
North Suburban Legal Aid Clinic
Partial Accreditation Track
Martha M. Armenta-Robles
Enlace Chicago
Partial Accreditation Track
Monica Alvarez
The Resurrection Project
Full Accreditation Track
Ngoc Le
Vietnamese Association of Chicago
Partial Accreditation Track
Olga Patricia Guerrero Gonzalez
National Immigrant Justice Center
Full Accreditation Track
Salek Khalid
Indo-American Center
Partial Accreditation Track
Sergio Casillas Vazquez
The Immigration Project
Partial Accreditation Track
Yessenia Guadalupe Cairo
Chicago Workers Collaborative
Partial Accreditation Track
Zulairam Iracema Toro Rodriguez
Centro Romero
Partial Accreditation Track

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

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

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