2017 SDIRC Advisory Board

Laura Moreno, Chair (UNITE HERE, Local 30)

Laura Moreno was born and raised in Santa Ana, California, and moved to San Diego in 2007 to study at San Diego State University.  While in college, she was involved in MEChA and Union del Barrio, and has continued her activism after college in her community.  As a child, Laura witnessed firsthand her family being separated and saw how her community was affected by unjust immigration laws.  Now as an adult, she is committed to motivating her community to be engaged, get informed, and make the best decisions for their future regarding immigration.  Community and family are what move Laura, and that is why she is proud to be this year’s SDIRC Chair.  Laura currently works as an Immigration Coordinator at UNITE HERE Local 30.

Leah Chavarria, Legal Representative (AILA San Diego)

Mrs. Chavarria’s passion for immigration law began when she volunteered to assist refugees in Kansas City, Missouri, starting in 2003.  Her work with immigrant survivors of domestic violence became the backdrop for the Academic Achievement Award she earned for her scholarly writing on the reauthorization of VAWA in March 2013.  While in law school, she worked with nonprofit organizations all over San Diego County assisting victims of domestic violence, refugees, and asylees to seek assistance and immigration relief.  She is now the Senior Associate at Hurwitz Holt, APLC, where she has worked since 2014 assisting clients with family-based petitions and removal defense in San Diego, California.

Imam Taha Hassane, Faith Representative (Interfaith Center for Worker Justice)

Imam Taha Hassane is currently serving as the Imam/Director of the Islamic Center of San Diego. He joined ICSD in September 2004 from the Colorado Muslim Youth Foundation where he served as a youth instructor. Imam Taha graduated from Institute of Islamic Sciences at the University of Algiers, Algeria, and served as a high school teacher and Imam in Tenes, Algeria for ten years before coming to the United States. Imam Taha also holds a Master degree of theology in Islamic studies from the Graduate Theological Foundation in South Bend, Indiana. In addition to his regular duties at ICSD, Imam Taha is a: religious adviser of the Muslim Students Association at UCSD, board member of Interfaith Worker Justice, member of the west coast Muslim-Catholic dialogue, member of the advisory board of the San Diego Police Department and the Interfaith Advisory Board of the San Diego District Attorney, Volunteer Chaplain at San Diego prisons and hospitals.

Fernanda Flores, Labor Representative (San Diego-Imperial Labor Council)

Fernanda Flores was born and raised in our beautiful San Diego-Tijuana binational region. She is a proud resident of Southeast San Diego and first- generation graduate. She holds bachelor degrees from San Diego State University in Social Work and Sociology. She is the fruit of immigrant parents and it is through her life experiences and ability to see the intersectionality of her work that she is committed to uplifting the voices of our immigrant community as the Labor Representative. She humbly serves as an organizer with the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.

Lauren Cusitello, Community Representative (Crossroads Justice Center of San Diego)

Lauren Cusitello is the founder of CJC San Diego. She started working as a public defender in Miami, Florida, in 2005. Lauren was an Assistant Federal Defender in the Eastern District of California, where she co-founded the Federal Defender Clinic at McGeorge School of Law, and where she led district-wide litigation challenging the racial profiling of Latino drivers on the I-5 freeway. Before founding CJC San Diego, Lauren also worked as a Trial Attorney at Federal Defenders of San Diego, where she won important victories for people accused of reentering the United States after deportation and of drug trafficking offenses.

Esmeralda Flores, Community Representative (ACLU San Diego-Imperial)

For the past four years, she worked as a Staff Attorney with the Binational Defense and Advocacy Program (PDIB), housed at the Casa del Migrante, in Tijuana, Mexico. Her focus was on the documentation of human and civil rights violations, and family separation issues due to deportations. In 2013, presented an amicus curiae brief before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Esmeralda is a native of Tijuana and has an acute and multi-faceted understanding of US-Mexico border issues as a result of personal and professional experiences and a complete overview of the needs and injustices that impact migrants at an individual and policy level. Esmeralda is a graduate from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, School of Law (UABC). In 2014 she completed a post-graduate International Migration program at the prestigious Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF) in Tijuana, Mexico.

Lilian Serrano, Community Representative (Alianza Comunitaria)

Lilian Serrano was born and raised in the Tijuana-San Diego border region. She spent her teens in Oxnard, California, a small agricultural town in Ventura County. After graduating high school, she moved back to San Diego County. As an undergraduate at California State University, San Marcos, Lilian began actively working with grassroots organizations focused on immigrant rights. Her expertise and knowledge has allowed her to build and maintain strong ties in North County San Diego with community members who are impacted by immigration policies and organizations that work closely with farmworker families. Lilian is a member of Alianza Comunitaria, a coalition of human rights grassroots organizations who have worked with community members to create an alert system to inform community members about the presence of driver’s license checkpoints and immigration raids in the North San Diego County area. Lilian is dedicated to promoting social justice all around her and strongly believes that every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Pedro Rios, SBCC Representative Ex Officio (American Friends Service Committee U.S./Mexico Program)

Pedro Rios serves as the director of the American Friends Service Committee’s U.S./Mexico Border Program and has been on staff with AFSC for 14 years. He is also on the Advisory Board for the San Diego Immigrant Rights Consortium, a coalition of over 40 organizations in San Diego working to support the rights of immigrant and refugee communities.

A native San Diegan, Mr. Rios has worked on immigrant rights and border issues for over 20 years. Mr. Rios oversees a program that documents abuses by law enforcement agencies, collaborates with community groups, advocates for policy change, and works with migrant communities. He holds a masters degree in Ethnic Studies.

Ginger Jacobs, Former Chair — Ex Officio (Immigration Lawyers Acting in the Community)

Ginger Jacobs is the founder and managing partner of Jacobs & Schlesinger LLP, an immigration and appellate boutique firm in San Diego. Ms. Jacobs practices in all areas of immigration law, but is perhaps best known for her work with vulnerable populations, including asylum-seekers, refugees, victims of violent crimes, and survivors of domestic violence.