Steven Choi, Esq.
Steve Choi, Esq. is the Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition, an umbrella advocacy and policy coalition of nearly 200 member groups representing New York State’s immigrant communities. From 2009 to 2013, Mr. Choi was the Executive Director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, which organizes, advocates for, educates and serves Korean and Asian community members in New York. Prior to that, Mr. Choi was a Staff Attorney and the founding Director of the Korean Workers Project at the Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund, the only project on the East Coast focused on providing free legal services to low-wage Korean immigrants.
Mr. Choi 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.
Sara Rakita, Esq.
Sara Rakita joined the NYIC as Managing Director in December 2014. Sara has extensive experience in non-profit management and human rights advocacy. She was previously Associate Director of the Public Interest Law Center at New York University School of Law. Prior to that she served as a long-term consultant to the Ford Foundation, where she was responsible for piloting and setting up TrustAfrica, a new African grant-making foundation that is now based in Senegal. Sara spent several years as an Africa Researcher at Human Rights Watch, including two years as the organization's representative in Rwanda. Sara has also consulted for Amnesty International, Global Rights, and the US Agency for International Development.
Sara holds a J.D. from New York University, an M.I.A. from Columbia University, and a B.A. in international studies from The American University. She speaks fluent French, proficient Spanish, and basic Russian.
Director of Political Engagement
Murad Awawdeh is the NYIC's Director of Political Engagement where he leads the Coalition’s civic, electoral, and political engagement. Murad works closely with the NYIC' team and manages the State and City legislative and advocacy campaigns. He collaborates with member agencies and partners to develop transformational civic and community engagement campaigns to meaningfully engage immigrant communities in the electoral process and support capacity and movement building. Murad has created and developed many successful partnership, alliance, and coalition models that have helped uplift low income communities and communities of color. He has extensively organized and led social, environmental, transportation, and climate initiatives. Murad has played a leading role in securing community benefits through multi-year grassroots and political campaigns. Murad's dedication to develop and build leadership across communities has been the backbone of success in his efforts.
Director of Health Advocacy
Claudia Calhoon joined the NYIC in 2014 as Health Advocacy Senior Specialist and became the Director of Health Advocacy in 2015. 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 CUNY Graduate Center. She received a MPH from the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and a BA in American History from Earlham College.
Camille Mackler, Esq.
Director of Legal Initiatives
Camille J. Mackler, Esq. is the Director of Legal Initiatives at the New York Immigration Coalition, where she works with NYIC members and a variety of stakeholders on issues relating to immigration law in New York. Before joining the NYIC in March 2013, Ms. Mackler worked in private practice representing immigrants before US Immigration Courts and Federal Courts of Appeals. She focused primarily on asylum and refugee, deportation proceedings, immigration detention, and family-based immigration issues.
Ms. Mackler is currently the co-chair of the Media and Advocacy committee for the NY Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She has a Juris Doctor. from New York Law School and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. She is also a frequent lecturer on immigration law and advocacy issues surrounding the practice of immigration law.
Director of Special Projects
Elizabeth (Betsy) Plum is the Director of Special Projects at the New York Immigration Coalition where she oversees a number of initiatives to better serve and engage immigrant families and communities in New York. Betsy joined the NYIC in 2013 as the DACA Outreach Coordinator following a tenure in the direct legal services field at Central American Legal Assistance (CALA) in Brooklyn, New York. During her time at CALA, Betsy honed her knowledge of immigration policy, federal programs, and administrative advocacy. She sits on CALA's Junior Board as well as the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center’s Emerging Leaders and Outreach Committees.
Betsy holds a B.A. in Political Studies from Bard College, a Certificate of International Relations and Global Affairs from the Bard Globalization and International Affairs program, and an M.Sc. in Comparative Politics and Conflict Studies from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Karen Kithan Yau, Esq.
Director of Outreach and Capacity Building
Karen Kithan Yau, Esq. is the Director of Outreach and Capacity Building at NYIC, and is responsible for developing and conducting Immigration Navigator trainings in NYS and the Northeast, and overseeing membership services and capacity building efforts that strengthen and empower our member agencies. Ms. Yau brings to NYIC over twenty years of experience in law, teaching, mediation, and community organizing. Ms. Yau was 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. Ms. Yau served as the Executive Director of the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, a pan-Asian advocacy organization. Ms. Yau began her career as an organizer for MFY Legal Services. She was the recipient of a Skadden Fellowship at the National Employment Law Project and a Robert M. Cover Teaching Fellowship at Yale Law School. She also held an assistant professorship at Syracuse University College of Law. Ms. Yau currently teaches law and policy course in the Skadden, Arps Honors Program in Legal Studies at City College. Ms. Yau is active in community organizations and bar associations.
Ms. Yau received a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law, a B.A. from Stony Brook University. She emigrated from Hong Kong and speaks fluent Cantonese Chinese.
Community Engagement Coordinator
Mayra Aldás-Deckert is the Special Projects Associate 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 is 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. She is instrumental in outreach to New York’s Spanish-speaking community and insightful to the immigrant experience. 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.
Immigration Policy Manager
Muzna Ansari is the Immigration Policy Manager at the New York Immigration Coalition. Before joining the NYIC, Muzna worked with the Immigration and Civil Rights Committees of the New York City Council. Prior to that, 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.
Communications and Outreach Associate
Claudia Carrerra initially joined the NYIC as the DACA Outreach Public Ally in September of 2014. In 2013, she served her first Americorps year of service at Pratt Area Community Council where she helped in local business retention and revitalization on Fulton Street as the Economic Development Outreach Coordinator through Public Allies New York. While there, Claudia was responsible for aiding in organizing two Merchants Associations on Washington Avenue and Flatbush Avenue.
Claudia received her Bachelors of Arts from Grand Valley State University in International Relations and put it to good practice by studying abroad in Turkey, Spain, and Thailand.
Max W. Hadler
Health Advocacy Specialist
Max Hadler is the New York Immigration Coalition's Health Advocacy Specialist. He works on a range of 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.
A native Peruvian, Silvia fell in love with nonprofits when she was only 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 charitable work. Silvia has provided administrative support to The New York Immigration Coalition for over 8 years.
Silvia holds a BA in Political Science and Latin American Studies from Hunter College.
Charlotte Gossett Navarro
Regional Outreach Manager
Charlotte is the Regional Outreach Manager for the New York Immigration Coalition. She coordinates NYIC services, programs and advocacy with immigrant communities in Westchester County and the Hudson Valley. Charlotte is a social worker with over fifteen years of personal and professional experience in program development, social justice advocacy and organizing with young people and families from immigrant communities in both New York and the Washington, DC metro area.
Charlotte received a Masters of Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work, a Masters in Public Administration from Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, and a Bachelors of Arts in Spanish, Latin American Studies and Justice from American University.
New Americans Volunteer Coordinator
As the New Americans Volunteer Coordinator, Kiwi Grady works to engage highly skilled immigrant volunteers in Sandy Recovery efforts in New York City, in addition to supporting general volunteer and community partner engagement in the work of the NYIC. Prior to coming to the NYIC, Kiwi managed student leadership development programs and organizational chapters at GLSEN, and peer education-in-residence and social justice programs at NYU’s 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.
Deferred Action Coordinator
Adriana Lovera is the Deferred Action Coordinator at the New York Immigration Coalition where she manages the NYIC’s participation in the Mexican Initiative for Deferred Action, a statewide project that promotes DACA applications and positive integration of New York’s rapidly growing Mexican community. She works as a part of the NYIC’s Special Projects team to help member agencies expand their capacity to work on immigration services and relief work. Prior to joining the NYIC, Adriana worked with Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow coordinating the Anchoring Achievement in Mexican Communities Initiative which supported Mexican youth and families in Bushwick, Brooklyn through education, job training and youth development programs as well as community workshops and events.
Adriana holds a M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University in International and Comparative Education with a concentration in Policy and Planning and B.A. degrees in International Relations and French from the University of Southern California.
Regional Outreach Associate
Francis Madi is the Regional Outreach Associate on Long Island for the New York Immigration Coalition. She coordinates immigration services and advocates for immigrant communities in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. Prior to working with the Coalition, she organized around Immigration issues for the Arab American Association of NY and La Fuente Inc. in Brooklyn and Long Island. Inspired by the DREAM movement, she also became a speaker and a writer of the undocumented community on campus. She is the 2014 Recipient of the Uncommon Courage award given by the Center for Ethnic Racial and Religious Understanding at Queens College and has participated on numerous panels and theatre productions involving immigration and the arts. Born in Venezuela, she has been a Long Island resident for 8 years.
She holds a B.A from Queens College-CUNY where she also organized around immigration, LGBTQ and educational issues.
Immigration Campaign Manager
Carlene Pinto is the Immigration Campaign Manager at the New York Immigration Coalition. Before joining the NYIC, Carlene worked with The Gathering for Justice a 501C3 founded by Civil Rights leader Harry Belafonte. Prior to that, she worked with The Riverside Church as the Coordinator of Mission and Social Justice Programming, providing program support to seventeen different issue areas focusing on Human Rights, Equity and Equality.
Carlene received her B.A from The State University of New York at New Paltz. She majored in Sociology & Criminal Justice with a minor in Disaster Relief Psychology. She is a distinguished member of Mu Sigma Upsilon Sorority Incorporated, a nationally recognized multicultural sorority focused on diversity, service and women empowerment.
Juan J. Ramírez
Senior Administrative and Operations Associate
Juan J. Ramirez is the Senior Adminstrative and Operations Associate 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 internal projects 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 supports functions relating to human resources and assists in setting and implementing employee policies. In his personal time, he volunteers with iMentor, an organization working towards empowering students from low-income communities and increasing college readiness, and has volunteered with nonprofits that focus on education.
Juan holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.
Gillian Rowland-Kain initially joined the New York Immigration Coalition in September 2013 as a Membership and Communications Fellow through the AmeriCorps program, Public Allies New York. Previously, Gillian worked as a Program Coordinator with buildOn, a youth development organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations through service and education by serving with NYC Civic Corps, an NYC Service AmeriCorps program.
Gillian holds a M.Sc. in Human Rights and International Politics from the University of Glasgow in Scotland and a B.A. in International Relations from Connecticut College.
Senior Manager of Education Advocacy
Kim Sykes is the Manager of Education Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition. Kim joined the NYIC in September 2010 as a Policy and Program Fellow responsible for special projects ranging from research to organizational management initiatives. Her current responsibilities include coordinating the NYIC’s Education Collaborative and overseeing State and City advocacy to related to English language learners, immigrant students and their families. Previously, she was Account Supervisor at Resnicow Schroeder Associates, a leading strategic communications agency for non-profit organizations. In her 7 years there, she led development and implementation of strategic communications campaigns for art museums across the country, evaluated sponsorship opportunities for Ford Motor Company Fund and managed the implementation of sponsored projects.
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 non-profit management.
Legal Initiative Associate
Senior Communications Manager
Thanu Yakupitiyage is the Communications Manager at the New York Immigration Coalition. She has worked at the NYIC since 2010 and heads the Coalition's communications and media relations strategy. Thanu liaisons on the daily with local, state, and national press around issues pertaining to immigrant communities, works with the Coalition's broad programs to get our work and message out, and oversees our social media strategy. She has previously worked for the Applied Research Center, Global Action Project, and the Andrus Family Fund, and has international communications experience in Thailand and Sri Lanka. Thanu has a MA in communications from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a BA in critical media studies and international development from Hampshire College.
Samantha Van Doran
Development and Communications Associate
Samantha Van Doran is the Development and Communications Associate at the New York Immigration Coalition, where she supports grant writing and reporting, event planning, and all fundraising-related communications. She originally joined the NYIC as an development fellow through the AmeriCorps VISTA program in August 2015. Prior to joining the NYIC, Sam interned with the World Relief in Baltimore, MD and the Keeler Tavern Museum in Ridgefield, CT, focusing on fundraising and communications at both.
Sam graduated with honors from Loyola University Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts in history .
Health Program Public Ally
In college as SOMS (Science Organization of Minority Students) president, Mamadou was highly involved in providing information to science students of color about opportunities and resources to help them succeed academically. He has also helped research connections between food access and MTA subway food advertisements in the Bronx as a clinical research intern in the ARCHES Program at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Mamadou received his B.A. in Anthropology from CUNY Queens College.
AmeriCorps VISTA - Development
Civic Engagement Fellow
AmeriCorps VISTA Leader
Voting Rights Campaign Organizer
Before joining IVote, Ms. Tejada 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 people of color in the political process and emphasizing the importance of their vote. Ms. Tejada attended Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Film Studies.
AmeriCorps VISTA Special Projects
AmeriCorps VISTA - Communications