Co-Founders/Executive Directors

 
 
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Christina fialho

CFialho@freedomforimmigrants.org

Christina is an attorney, human rights activist and immigration detention expert. She is a 2016 Ashoka Fellow, a 2012 Echoing Green Global Fellow, and a recipient of the 2018 James Irvine Leadership Award. She comes from three generations of immigrants.

Read Christina Fialho’s full bio here.

 

 

christina mansfield

CMansfield@freedomforimmigrants.org

Christina is a cultural anthropologist, scholar, and activist for social justice. She is a 2012 Echoing Green Fellow and a recipient of the 2018 James Irvine Leadership Award. She is the granddaughter of immigrants.

Read Christina Mansfield’s full bio here.

 

 

 

Staff

 
 

liz martinez

Director of Advocacy AND Strategic Communications

LMartinez@freedomforimmigrants.org

Liz develops and amplifies Freedom for Immigrants' mission and message to help end immigration detention. Through policy campaigns and other initiatives, she helps to tell the stories of those affected by this profit-driven system.

Prior to joining Freedom for Immigrants, Liz was the digital strategy director for Brian Forde, a former Obama Senior Advisor running for Congress in Orange County, California. Before her brief stint in politics, she was a producer with the Huffington Post in New York. There she helped launch the award-winning online streaming network HuffPost Live. As a video producer, Liz focused on issues related to social justice, identity, and culture.

Liz also covered the 2016 presidential election and President Obama’s historic trip to Cuba. Before working for HuffPost, she was an assistant producer for Al Jazeera English’s daily talk show “The Stream” in Washington, D.C. She is a graduate of Lehigh University, where she majored in Journalism and French. She is fluent in French, Spanish, and English.
 
For the first 18 years of her life, Liz grew up along the U.S.-Mexico border. Like many others in the area, she would make the daily trip across the Rio Grande from her home in Matamoros, Mexico, to go to school in Brownsville, Texas, where she was born. Since then, she’s been acutely aware of her privilege as a U.S. citizen and has become deeply interested in understanding the U.S. immigration system and advocating for immigrants.

 

 
 

Cynthia Galaz

Program Coordinator, National Immigration Detention Hotline

CGalaz@freedomforimmigrants.org

Cynthia is an activist and advocate for the immigrant community. She has focused her time and energy on organizing students, empowering immigrants and connecting oppressed communities to services.

Before joining the team, Cynthia was a Legal Assistant at the Alliance for Children’s Rights, a non-profit that serves Foster Care families. While in college, she was a Project Director at UCLA’s Proyecto de Jornaleros, a project that works with Los Angeles’ day labor population by providing services while using a popular education approach.

Cynthia also was a tutor at BruinCorps, where she worked against the systematic oppression of low-income communities of color by providing academic support and college preparedness workshops in Los Angeles. Cynthia also interned with the American Bar Association, Commission on Immigration in Washington, DC. While at the ABA, Cynthia helped people in immigration detention to obtain services, supporting documents for their immigration cases and assisted in the process of filing complaints against detention facilities. After her internship at the ABA, Cynthia decided that she wanted to dedicate her life to serving the immigrant community, starting by the eradication of the immigration detention system.

In addition to her work with Freedom for Immigrants, Cynthia is a General Assembly member of the Instituto de Educacion Popular del Sur de California (IDEPSCA), a Young People For (YP4) Fellow and a Young Center volunteer. Cynthia graduated with honors from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a BA in Global Studies and a minor in Public Affairs. She immigrated to the United States from Mexico as a teenager.

 
 
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Rebecca Merton

DIRECTOR OF VISITATION AND INDEPENDENT MONITORING

RMerton@freedomforimmigrants.org

Rebecca is committed to advancing immigrants’ rights and ending the immigration detention system as well as all other forms of mass incarceration and institutionalization.

Her work with Freedom for Immigrants is primarily focused on monitoring and reporting on conditions in detention facilities and supporting volunteers in addressing structural racism in their direct service and advocacy work.

Before joining the team, Rebecca worked as a volunteer legal assistant and interpreter for the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project at the country’s largest immigrant detention center located in Dilley, Texas. In 2013, Rebecca was awarded a Frederick Sheldon Fellowship for a year of purposeful travel. While living in Argentina, Rebecca became inspired by the country’s groundbreaking immigration law, which establishes the right to migrate as essential and inalienable.

As a research assistant for the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales in Buenos Aires, Rebecca visited psychiatric institutions and group homes to report on the barriers that people with psychosocial disabilities face in exercising their rights to health care, legal capacity, access to justice, housing, employment, and social security; the findings were published in the 2015 book Cruzar el Muro.

Rebecca’s other experiences in anti-eviction and public benefits assistance, positive youth development, and disability rights impact litigation have helped her develop the intersectional lens through which she approaches her advocacy work. Rebecca graduated from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in social studies and completed a postgraduate program in mental health and human rights at the Universidad de Buenos Aires.

 
 

DANIA DARWISH

NORTHEAST REGIONAL COORDINATOR

DDarwish@freedomforimmigrants.org

Before joining Freedom for Immigrants, Dania served as the founder and Executive Director of the Asiyah Women's Center, which is the first emergency temporary housing facility in New York City that shelters Muslim domestic violence survivors and/or victims of eviction. Under her leadership, Dania managed all operations at the center including, but not limited to, fundraising, grant writing, partnership and strategic planning, outreach and volunteer development, and case intake.

Dania has held roles and leadership positions at Saving Syria, Amnesty International, UN Women, the Muslim American Society, the Office of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, and the New York Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Dania completed missions in Greece, Turkey and Lebanon to expand medical and dental care to over 10,000 refugees in over 35 refugee camps. In addition, within her previous role, Dania conducted extensive research on the economic, social and political barriers that stunt the actualization of mental health rights for Syrian refugees. Dania holds a degree from the University College London.

 
 
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Liz Wilson

Program Manager, Alternatives to Detention

LWilson@freedomforimmigrants.org

Liz is from the United Kingdom originally where she completed a BSc in Psychology and a Masters in Social Work.

Liz worked in child protection and with people experiencing homelessness in the U.K. before succumbing to wanderlust and heading for South America. Between 2008 and 2017, Liz served as the executive director of a non-profit in Peru providing education and support for 150 families living in poverty. During this time, Liz gave a TEDx Talk called “Do Stuff you Love and Make a Difference”speaking about her own personal experiences and how they have shaped her career and passion for working in international development.  

Following marriage, Liz moved to the United States in 2017 and began working at The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles as a social worker, supporting asylum seekers in a Torture Survivors Project. This experience provided her with a foundation for understanding the U.S. immigration system and the challenges faced by asylum seekers and other immigrants.

 
 

ELIZABETH TORRES CARPIO

BOND FUND COORDINATOR

etorres@freedomforimmigrants.org

Elizabeth emigrated from Colombia at a young age, and she became keenly aware of the vulnerability and predatory practices that immigrants are exposed to in the United States and the systemic violations of human rights that disenfranchised individuals face on a day to day basis.

These experiences ignited her passion for social justice and led her toward a career initially aimed at monitoring and systematically improving labor conditions in the United States and around the world. At the University of California, Los Angeles, Elizabeth worked with the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor participating in grassroots initiatives and labor rights activism. When attaining a master in international development from the Graduate School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego, Elizabeth focused her studies in understanding how to build relationships with various stakeholders in order to align and leverage their spheres of influence to effect positive change and how to design programs to allow for accurate monitoring and evaluation.

Through her work as a Human Rights Investigators for the Fair Food Standards Council and a Certification Program Manager at Fair Trade USA, Elizabeth gathered unique insight and valuable expertise on accurate data gathering and analysis, how to properly monitor and present findings on human rights violations, how to develop programs that disrupt and provide alternatives to established and unjust systems, and the importance of listening to the populations that an organization serves.

The current political climate encouraged Elizabeth to reevaluate her career path and look towards working with immigrants that have been disproportionately and unjustly targeted by this administration. She joins Freedom for Immigrants with the passion to support immigrants in detention centers and ensure that they have the opportunity to be released, but also to work together towards the larger goal of abolishing the immigration detention system.

 
 
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Gene Lockett

Information Technology Associate

GLockett@freedomforimmigrants.org

Gene is a “software guy” who is deeply offended by his country’s policy on for-profit immigration detention and mass incarceration, and is grateful that organizations like Freedom for Immigrants exist to provide opposition to these powerful structures that operate in secret, perpetuate suffering, and profit from oppression.

He graduated from San Diego State University in 2005 with a MS in Computer Science, and he has since worked as a software engineer for various companies, picking up practical experience for developing database applications – primarily client/server browser-based software – as well as server administration skills.

While it was interesting and challenging to solve technical problems and to be constantly learning in order to stay involved with the evolution of technology, the career was proving to be unfulfilling, as ultimately his years of labor were going to things he either did not care about or things he eventually realized he flat-out opposed. The realization came around the time he started volunteering to visit immigrants in detention with the Freedom for Immigrants-affiliated SOLACE Visitation Program in San Diego around 2013. The experience opened his eyes causing a metaphorical bubble to pop, allowing deeper realities to sink in, and allowing him to develop deeper connections to fellow humans who are discarded by society.

As it turns out, there is quite a large community of people standing up for and with humans in immigration detention, and Gene may very well have found his dream job at Freedom for Immigrants being able to support the organization’s mission by employing his technical skill-set and experience.

 
 

Sierra Kraft

Director of Finance & Donor Stewardship

skraft@freedomforimmigrants.org

Sierra believes that social and economic transformation begins at a grassroots level where individuals can act as agents of change in their communities. She is committed to working alongside immigrants to abolish the immigration detention system in the U.S. and create meaningful change that future generations can be proud of.

Her work with Freedom for Immigrants focuses on ensuring financial transparency and accountability to stakeholders and expanding the passionate network of supporters at Freedom for Immigrants. She brings dedication and experience in nonprofit management, and holds an M.A. in Nonprofit Management from the College of Notre Dame, an M.A. in Human Rights from Columbia University and a B.A. in Nonprofit Leadership and Philosophy from the University of North Dakota.

Before joining the team, Sierra worked as the Operations Manager with Refugee Solidarity Network, strengthening administrative practices, financial protocols, and grants compliance. Previously, she worked in domestic refugee resettlement with Church World Service in NYC, providing monitoring and evaluation (M&E) to resettlement programs across the country. In her tenure at Lutheran Social Services in DC and ND, she assisted refugees with case management and employment services, allowing refugees to make positive contributions to their communities. During her time at the Council on Accreditation in NYC, she ensured human service organizations were implementing best practices for nonprofits.

National Volunteer Leaders

 
 

CINDY KNOEBEL

EDITOR, IMMPRINT

CKnoebel@freedomforimmigrants.org

Cindy Knoebel is a communications professional who is proud to bring her writing and editing skills to Freedom for Immigrants' online storytelling platform. Cindy first began working with Freedom for Immigrants in December 2016 as a hotline volunteer, becoming a contributing writer and editor of IMM Print in early 2017. In May of this year she assumed the role of Editor, following the departure of IMM Print founder and Soros Justice Fellow, Kristina Shull.

Cindy's corporate career included 19 years as the head of investor and corporate communications for VF Corporation, a FORTUNE 500 apparel company. Two years before retiring in 2015 she assumed responsibility for designing and launching the company's first-ever global environmental sustainability program spanning all brands, operations, factories and geographies.

An editor and published author, Cindy's short stories and essays have appeared in The Big JewelThe Literary HatchetAnchor MagazineThe Stray BranchWink Magazine, and Apeiron Review, among others. She is the founder and facilitator of The Sausalito Writers Circle, a writers' critique group. She also volunteers for Sausalito-based The Marine Mammal Center and The Redwoods, an assisted living facility in Mill Valley.

A Chartered Financial Analyst, during her career Cindy was regularly ranked among the top investor relations executives in the country. She earned her BA from Westminster College.

 
 

Jan Meslin

Director of Social Change Development

JMeslin@freedomforimmigrants.org

As a granddaughter of immigrants, Jan is passionate about advocating for individuals and families separated by our immigration system

Jan is a founder of Friends of Orange County Detainees, which has grown since 2012 to become one of the largest immigration detention visitation programs in the country, helping to end isolation at the three public jails in Orange County, California, that house approximately 1,000 immigrants.

For Freedom for Immigrants, Jan is focused on helping communities across the United States start immigration detention visitation programs. She also runs Freedom of Immigrant's Direct Support Fund, providing people in detention and their families with direct financial support.

Jan is a board member for OCCCO, Orange County’s PICO affiliate, an interfaith community organizing group working for a compassionate and fair immigration system among other related issues. She also is on the immigrant justice team for the Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry based in Sacramento.

Jan received the 2016 Unsung Hero Award from Orange County Human Relations for her work with Freedom for Immigrants. Jan recently retired from teaching, and lives in Southern California with her husband Pete. They have two wonderful adult children, Scott and Erica.

 
 

ELDAAH ARANGO

PROGRAM ASSOCIATE, NATIONAL HOTLINE

Eldaah@new-voice.org

Eldaah Arango has extensive experience working with immigrants both in and out of detention, and she has served as a visitor volunteer with Freedom for Immigrants.

Currently, Eldaah is helping to run the National Immigration Detention Hotline and pilot an exciting BIA Detention Pro Bono Project to expand direct legal support to people in immigration detention. Eldaah is a Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Accredited Representative through her church, Ministerios Nuevo Amanecer.

Eldaah has worked for Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project with the Legal Orientation Program at the Adelanto Detention Facility. There, she helped people in detention with information on relief, such as DACA, U visas and asylum. She also has assisted people with the U visa application and law enforcement certification.

Eldaah holds a BA in Sociology from the University of California, Riverside, and an Associate’s Degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from East Los Angeles College.

Eldaah got involved with this work after her father was detained and deported.