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Executive Leadership
 
Steven K. Choi
Executive Director
 

Steve Choi is the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, a coalition of over 200 member groups that represents New York State’s immigrant communities. He has tripled the organizational budget and doubled the size of the organization’s staff since joining in 2013, now overseeing the nation’s largest state immigrant rights coalition and serving as the chief advocate on immigrant rights, education, civic participation, and health care access on the Federal, state and local levels.

 
From 2009 to 2013, Steve was the Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, which represents the Korean and Asian community in New York.  Prior to that, he was Director of the Korean Workers Project at the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund (AALDEF).  His previous experience includes working for the Hale and Dorr Legal Services Center in Boston, Greater Boston Legal Services, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Los Angeles.
 
Steve received a J.D. from Harvard Law School, a M.A. from the University of Hawai’i, and a B.A. from Stanford University in History with Honors.  He is the recipient of the 2013 New York Law Journal’s “Rising Stars” Award, the 2012 NAPABA Best Lawyers Under 40 Award, the Korean American Association’s “Man of the Year” Award, the Skadden Fellowship, the Wasserstein Fellowship, the Skirnick Public Interest Fellowship, and the Harvard Law School Asian Pacific American Alumni Award.  He also currently serves on the New York City Commission on Human Rights.
 
Sara Rakita
Executive Vice President
Sara Rakita is Executive Vice President.  In that role, she supervises the NYIC's membership program, capacity-building efforts for community-based organizations, and support for direct service providers and she also oversees finance and administration.  Sara played a key role in developing the NYIC's 2016-2020 strategic plan and in organizing the 2015 NIIC conference in her earlier role as Managing Director.  Prior to joining the NYIC in 2014, Sara served as Associate Director of the Public Interest Law Center at NYU School of Law.  She also served as a consultant to organizations including the Ford Foundation and Amnesty International USA, and as an Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch - two years of which were based in Kigali, Rwanda. Sara is a dedicated New Yorker and proud Queens resident, where she lives with her husband and two children. She holds a law degree from NYU, a master of international affairs from Columbia University, and BA from the American Universityh and  speaks fluent French, proficient Spanish, and some Russian.


Murad Awawdeh
Vice President of Advocacy
Murad Awawdeh is the Vice President of Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition. Murad leads the Coalition's Community, Political, and Member Engagement departments. Formerly, Murad was the NYIC’s Director of Political Engagement where he led the organization's Federal, State, and Local legislative and policy campaigns to push for a more inclusive New York. Through his work, Murad has been able to secure over $120 million in funding for low-income communities of color. He has been featured in VICE, the Baffler, NY1, NY Daily News, Daily Beast, and Huffington Post. He was honored with the Brooklyn Do Gooder Award, Congressional Recognition, and State Senate and Assembly Achievement and Service Awards.
 
Genevieve (Gigi) Gazón
Chief of Staff
Gigi Gazón is the Chief of Staff.  This is a newly created position at the New York Immigration Coalition created to oversee the day-to-day management of NYIC’s highly talented program, policy and advocacy staff. In this role, she works closely with NYIC staff to assist in maintaining the high quality work across all areas of the organization.  Prior to joining the NYIC, Gigi served as the Deputy Director of the City of Jersey City’s Division of Community Development.  Gigi was born and raised in New York City to Dominican immigrant parents and currently lives in Jersey City with her husband and two children.  She holds a degree in Urban Policy and Advocacy from SUNY Empire State College and speaks Spanish fluently.
 
Elizabeth (Betsy) Plum
Vice President of Policy
Betsy Plum is the Vice President of Policy. She oversees the organization's issue-based policy programs, which seek to influence public policies that expand basic rights for immigrants and ensure immigrants can build truly thriving and fulfilled lives. Since joining the NYIC in 2013, Betsy has led several initiatives and campaigns to empower and integrate immigrant communities including her leadership of the “This is Our New York” campaign in response to the 2016 presidential election, adult education and workforce development policy, and the NYIC's Key to the City Initiative. Prior to joining the NYIC, Betsy was a staff member at Central American Legal Assistance. She speaks Spanish, lives in Brooklyn, and is a graduate of Bard College and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Staff
 
Mayra Aldás-Deckert
Senior Manager of Community Engagement
Mayra Aldás-Deckert is the Senior Manager of Community Engagement Manager at The New York Immigration Coalition where she provides management, logistics, and strategic planning support for a number of NYIC initiatives that support community and family engagement. She develops and implements outreach strategies to engage, educate, and inform NY's diverse communities. Previously she served as the main coordinator of the NYIC’s Key to the City Initiative, which brings foreign consulates alongside social and legal service providers to schools in immigrant neighborhoods for multi-day special events.  A native of Ecuador, Mayra moved to NYC in 2005 with her family. She joined the New York Immigration Coalition in 2014.

Mayra graduated from Brooklyn College earning a B.S. in Business Management and Finance in 2013. In Ambato, she completed three years of Commercial Engineering with a focus in Management and Business Planning at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador.

 
Muzna Ansari
Manager of Policy
Muzna Ansari is the Policy Manager at the New York Immigration Coalition. She previously supported the NYIC's Immigration Advocacy team, working on state and federal policy. She now leads the organization's Blueprint project, a strategic plan for advocacy on state priorities. Before joining the NYIC, Muzna worked with the Immigration and Civil Rights Committees of the New York City Council. Previously, she worked on voting rights and campaign finance reform with the Democracy Fund of the Open Society Foundations.

Muzna received her B.A. with distinction from Barnard College and her Master's in Public Administration from New York University's Wagner School of Public Service.

 
Claudia Calhoon
Director of Health Policy
Claudia Calhoon joined the NYIC in 2014. She leads development and execution of city and state campaigns to improve health access, coverage, and delivery for immigrant communities. Claudia has provided leadership to a diverse array of public health and non-profit settings including the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, the Open Society Foundations and as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cuenca, Ecuador. She is a member of the Executive Committee of the HHC Delivery System Reform Incentive Program (DSRIP) Performing Provider System and the Community Advisory Board of the NYU Center for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities.

Claudia is currently enrolled in the Doctorate of Public Health Program at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. She received a MPH from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and a BA in American History from Earlham College.

 
Claudia Carrera
Immigrant Services Support Associate, Events
Claudia Carrera joined the NYIC in 2014 as a Public Ally Americorps fellow where she worked on the DACA initiative and helped support member organizations with outreach and materials. She later worked on the Mexican Initiative for Deferred Action which helped promote DACA applications among the Mexican community and build capacity among the Mexican-lead community based organizations chosen to participate in this project. She currently works to support the Immigrant Services department with Key to the City events around New York city that offer consular services, free legal consultations and social services for the immigrant community.
 
Makdyanet Cedeno
Manager of Immigrant Services Support, Outreach
Makdy Cedeño is a native New Yorker born to Dominican parents with a strong interest in public service. She attended high school in the Bronx and went on to complete her undergraduate studies at the University of Vermont where she earned a BA in Political Science. Post undergrad, she returned to New York where she attended NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and received her MPA in Public Non Profit Management and Policy. In Makdy's professional career she has worked as a Single Stop Coordinator as part a Robin Hood initiative screening low income residents for city and state benefits they are entitled to, and also as a Performance Improvement Coordinator doing continuous quality improvement work for a mental health service agency composed of 175 programs and approximately 40,000 clients.
 
Siobhan Dingwall
Interim Manager of Communications
 
Meredith Fortin
Director of Immigrant Services Support
Meredith Fortin is the Director of Immigrant Services Support at the New York Immigration Coalition, where she oversees a program dedicated to supporting service providers in the state. This includes coordination of direct service providers in coalition (including rapid response work), management of the NYIC's training institute, and the administration of events like the NYIC's Key to the City initiative. Previously she was the Asylum Program Officer at Physicians for Human Rights, where she oversaw the development, recruitment, and training of the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) Asylum Network. Before that, Meredith served as a staff attorney and then director of the Immigration Legal Program at Lutheran Social Services of New York. Meredith has represented clients before the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service in a broad range of immigration matters, developed and conducted Know Your Rights programs as well as both legal and non-legal trainings for professionals, and managed community-based pro bono immigration clinics. Meredith holds a BA from the College of William and Mary, and a JD from New York University School of Law.
 
Silvia Gonzales
Manager of Administration & Finance
Silvia is the Manager of Administration and Finance. In her current role, she manages the financial health of the organization and oversees state and city contracts from budgeting to reporting. A native Peruvian, Silvia fell in love with nonprofits when she was a teenager. Inspired by a high school program Global Kids at International High School at LaGuardia Community College, Silvia quickly developed a deep passion for nonprofit and charitable work. She joined the New York Immigration Coalition as an intern in 2005 and has provided administrative support to NYIC for over 10 years.

Silvia holds a BA in Political Science and Latin American Studies from Hunter College.

 
Charlotte Gossett
Senior Manager of Member Engagement
 
Kiwi Grady
Senior Manager of Membership & Capacity Building
​Kiwi Grady is the Senior Manager of Member Services and Leadership Development at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). In her role, she runs leadership development and service programs such as the NYIC VISTA program, which places AmeriCorps members in service at nonprofit organizations around New York State, where they build capacity for immigrant-focused anti-poverty programs and services; and the NYIC Volunteer program, which provides opportunities for individuals to support diverse immigration services, advocacy efforts, and fundraising campaigns. She also has a leadership role in the ongoing development of the NYIC's Membership program, which works to support and engage nonprofit organizations in immigration advocacy and service campaigns, and created the New Americans Youth Leadership Corps, a leadership development/service program for 1st and 2nd generation immigrant youth. Prior to coming to the NYIC, Kiwi managed student leadership development programs and organizational chapters at the national Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and peer education-in-residence and social justice programs at New York University’s (NYU) Department of Residential Education.
 
Kiwi earned a bachelor’s degree in Gender and Sexuality Studies and a master’s degree in Higher Education Administration at the NYU Gallatin School of Individualized Study and the NYU Steinhardt School of Education, respectively. In her fairly limited spare time, Kiwi loves to consume speculative fiction, read comic books, obsess over theme parks, and try to understand cats (it is not working).
 
Max Hadler
Senior Manager of Health Policy
Max Hadler is the New York Immigration Coalition's Senior Health Policy Manager. He works on issues and campaigns at the city and state levels to improve health access, coverage, and delivery for immigrant communities. Prior to joining the NYIC team he worked in many capacities related to access to care for immigrants, including project director and research associate at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, researcher at the UCLA North American Integration and Development Center, and Spanish-English medical interpreter at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Max received an MPH from the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health and an MA in Latin American Studies from the UCLA International Institute. He also holds a BA from Wesleyan University.
 
Anu Joshi
Director of Immigration Policy
Anu Joshi is the Immigration Policy Director at the NYIC. She has worked for six years in the immigrant rights movement, including with the Center for New Community in Chicago and the American Immigration Lawyers Association in Washington, D.C.. Previously, Anu organized around issues relating to access to education and foreign policy. She was also a child protective services social worker. She is a native Californian and has her Masters in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley.
 
Mark Libatique
Membership & Capacity Building Associate
Mark has been the NYIC's Membership and Capacity-Building Associate since the beginning of this year. Prior to that, he's been: a museum tour guide, an adult night school French and Mandarin teacher, a news editor, a freelance editorial consultant, a street canvasser, and a cashier at a Times Square watch store (among other things).

Mark received his BA in journalism at Rutgers University and is currently working on getting his Masters degree in Public Administration from NYU.
 

Camille Mackler
Director of Immigration Legal Policy
Camille J. Mackler, Esq. is the Director of Immigration Legal Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition. In that role she works on crafting NYIC policy priorities relating to access to justice and right to counsel for New York's immigrant communities. Prior to joinin the NYIC, Camille was in private practice representing detained and non-detained immigrants facing deportation, in asylum proceedings, or in family-based petitions. She currently serves as the Chair of the Protecting Immigrant New Yorkers Task Force, the Chair of the New York State Bar Association’s Committee on Immigration Representation, and sits on the American Immigration Lawyers Association committees on Consumer Protection and Unauthorized Practice of Law (national) and Media & Advocacy (New York Chapter).
 
Meghan Maloney de Zaldivar
Manager of Member Engagement, Western NY
Meghan Maloney de Zaldivar is a native of Buffalo, New York.  She is the Manager of Member Engagement Western New York at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC).  Meghan coordinates Western New York where she works with NYIC members and partners to understand and advocate for the complex and diverse issues that immigrants face in the Western New York region.  Before coming to NYIC, Meghan worked on Buffalo's West Side for People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo as an organizer and Community Education Specialist.   Prior to her work with PUSH, Meghan worked in El Salvador for the Center for Exchange and Solidarity. In El Salvador, Meghan also contributed in various roles, researching gender inequality in organizing, coordinating international election observation, working with community health organizations, and interpreting and translating for various individuals and professionals. Meghan holds a BA from Hampshire College in Central American Studies and Popular Education.
 
Carlene Pinto
Manager of Member Engagement, NYC
Carlene Pinto is the Manager of Member Engagement, New York City at The New York Immigration Coalition. Carlene coordinates the engagement for over 130 member organizations and partners across the five boroughs. Since joining the NYIC in 2015, Carlene has mobilized thousands to support NYIC's efforts to defend and protect the rights of all immigrant New Yorkers. Before joining the NYIC, Carlene worked with The Justice League NYC - a task force under The Gathering for Justice founded by civil rights pioneer Harry Belafonte. With the Justice League, Carlene helped coordinate logistics for a 250 mile, 9 Day Journey from NYC to Washington DC, The March2Justice (2015). Prior to that, Carlene served The Riverside Church as the Coordinator of Mission and Social Justice Programming, providing program support to seventeen different issue area campaigns, focusing on human rights, equity and equality. Carlene holds a BA from the State University of New York College at New Paltz where she majored in criminal justice, and minored in disaster relief psychology. During her time there, she traveled the country as a first responder to natural disasters.
 
Juan J. Ramírez
Manager of Human Resources
Juan J. Ramirez is the Manager of Human Resources with the NYIC. Juan joined the organization in 2007 as the Executive Assistant, managing the Office of the Executive Director. In his current position, he manages office administration along with the IT infrastructure of the organization. He's involved in the logistics for most organizational events such as: advocacy days of action, the NYIC Gala, and the Annual Meeting - among others. Additionally, he works with core functions relating to human resources and assists in setting and implementing employee policies. In his personal time, he volunteers with nonprofits that focus on education access and served as a mentor through iMentor.
 
Juan holds a Bachelor of Arts in History with a focus on Colonial Latin America from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
 
Christina Samuels
Manager of Development, Individual Giving & Events
Christina Samuels is the Development Manager of Individual Giving & Events. She oversees the organization’s individual fundraising activities along with the annual gala. Previously, Christina was a Development Associate at Facing History and Ourselves and has held positions in the corporate sector and with government contractors. Christina holds an MA in Anthropology/International Development from The George Washington University and graduated summa cum laude from the Robert E. Cook Honors College at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Anthropology.
 
Laurie Smolenski
Senior Manager of Development, Foundations
Laurie has been with the NYIC since 2013. Laurie comes to the Coalition with a broad interest in human rights and a particular focus on immigration, gender, civil society, statistics and independent media. She recently completed a graduate internship at the MacArthur Foundation's Mexico City office, where she supported their human rights portfolio. Her international experience includes working with female human trafficking survivors in Spain and indigenous women in the Solomon Islands. She has collaborated with Democracy Now!, Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department.  At the NYIC, Laurie oversees grant proposals and reports, manages relationships with foundation and corporate funders, and provides some financial management support.

Laurie has a MA in peace and conflict studies from the University of Queensland in Australia, an MA in international relations from the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain, and a BA from Wayne State University. She speaks Spanish and Italian.

 
Kim Sykes
Director of Education Policy
Kim Sykes is the Director of Education Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition. Kim has longstanding ties to the NYIC, first working as a Fellow within the Worker's Rights program in 2008. She then joined the NYIC in September 2010 as a Policy and Program Fellow responsible for special projects such as co-leading the National Immigrant Integration Conference's education track and developing the NYIC's first performance evaluation system. Her current responsibilities include overseeing the NYIC's education policy work to support immigrant students and English language learners. She has run the NYIC's Education Collaborative since 2012, steering its successful campaigns on language access and protecting students from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Previously, she was Account Supervisor at Resnicow + Associates, a leading strategic communications agency for non-profit arts organizations.

Kim holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Spanish from DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana and an MPA from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) with dual concentrations in social policy and nonprofit management.



Lovelie Tejada
Senior Associate of Civic and Political Engagement
Lovelie Tejada is the Senior Associate of Civic and Political Engagement at the New York Immigration Coalition where she supports our outreach with elected officials and their staff to help advance the legislative priorities and goals of the coalition. She also leads the coalition's civic engagement campaign and helps support the advocacy team with city, state, and federal legislative campaigns.

Before joining the NYIC, Lovelie served the State of Connecticut as a Constituency Aide and the Executive Assistant to the Chief of Staff in Governor Dannel P. Malloy’s office. Prior to that, she organized the grassroots efforts in key districts of Connecticut’s capital city of Hartford for the Governor’s reelection in 2014.

During her time as an organizer, she discovered her passion for engaging low-income communities and communities of color in the political process and emphasizing their social and economic contributions. Lovelie attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Film Studies.

 
Samantha Van Doran
Senior Associate of Development & Communications
Samantha Van Doran is the Senior Associate of Development & Communications at the NYIC, where she supports grant writing and reporting, event planning, all fundraising-related communications, and more. She originally joined the NYIC as a development fellow through the federal AmeriCorps VISTA program in August 2015 and joined the Coalition as a full-time staff member in September 2016. Prior to her work at the NYIC, Sam interned with World Relief at their headquarters in Baltimore, MD and the Keeler Tavern Museum in Ridgefield, CT, focusing on fundraising and communications at both.
Samantha graduated summa cum laude from Loyola University Maryland in Baltimore, with a B.A. with honors in History.

Benita Von Lilienfeld-Berry
Executive Associate
Benita von Lilienfeld-Berry is the Executive Associate at the New York Immigration Coalition, where she supports the Executive Leadership Team. Before joining the NYIC, Benita was a financial services paralegal at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, where she wrote a daily newsletter on financial regulatory policy with 20,000 subscribers. Benita received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia in English and Spanish Literature & Culture.  
 
Erica Watson
Immigrant Services Support Associate, Training
Erica Watson is the New York Immigration Coalition’s Training Associate. As part of the Immigrant Support Services team, she coordinates trainings in order to build the capacity of legal service providers and other immigrant-serving organizations. She first joined the NYIC as an Americorps VISTA and worked to connect low-income immigrants to legal services and other critical resources. Prior to joining the NYIC, Erica worked to support migrant farmworkers in New York State at the Cornell Farmworker Program. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish at Cornell University.
 
Karen Yau
Director of Membership & Capacity Building
Karen Kithan Yau, Esq. is the Director of Membership and Capacity Building at NYIC, and is responsible for overseeing membership services and capacity building efforts that strengthen and sustain our member organizations.
 
Karen has over two decades of experience working with immigrants, workers, and other poor and working people. Karen began her career as a community organizer for MFY Legal Services. Karen became a long-time workers’ rights lawyer, serving as an Assistant Attorney General at the Labor Bureau at the State Attorney General. She led investigations into labor violations in the agricultural, greengrocer, moving, restaurant, taxi, and other industries. She was also the recipient of a Skadden Fellowship at the National Employment Law Project and a Robert M. Cover Teaching Fellowship at Yale Law School, and held an assistant professorship at Syracuse University College of Law. In addition, Karen served as the Executive Director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, a pan-Asian advocacy organization. Karen currently mediates disputes, facilitates small group discussions, and teaches as an adjunct college professor. Karen is active in community organizations and bar associations.
 
Karen received a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law, a B.A. from Stony Brook University.
She emigrated from Hong Kong and speaks


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