President & General Counsel
"There is an urgent need today … to analyze the intersection of police reforms, changes in the penal system and drug policy in this country. In reality, Latinos are disproportionately and negatively affected by police and criminal system practices that discriminate against them but rarely involve them in forging solutions."
One of the nation’s leading voices on equality and nondiscrimination, Constitutional and Civil Rights Attorney Juan Cartagena inspires change to systems that marginalize communities of color. As a public speaker, El Diario columnist, and Rutgers University lecturer, Juan focuses extensively on Puerto Rican and Latino rights issues, including the community impacts of mass incarceration.
Juan is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia University School of Law and is the recipient of multiple recognitions, including Dartmouth College’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Social Justice Award, and the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute’s Cesar Chavez Community Service Award. Juan lives in and represents the State of New Jersey, having previously served as a Municipal Court Judge in Hoboken and as General Counsel to the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey.
Lissette collaborates with the CFO in securing the accuracy and transparency of all business transactions; ensures the preparation of the draft financial statements; quarterly/annual compliance; and tax filing reports, in adherence of all policy and procedural reporting standards.
After more than 10 years in the banking industry, Lissette is now dedicating her expertise in the nonprofit sector, safeguarding the mission and vision of the organization.
Lissette is a notary public and received academic distinction making the dean’s list in the fall 2015 and fall 2016. Lissette holds a Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in accounting from Lehman College, and is currently pursuing her master’s in Business Administration.
Mike is responsible for our development database management, individual donor stewardship, and development research. Prior to joining LatinoJustice, Mike served as an associate of development and global initiatives at Human Rights Watch.
Mike was born in Tijuana, Mexico, but moved to Naples, Italy at age eleven. Mike holds a B.A in Anthropology and Global Poverty & Practice from UC Berkeley and an M.S in International Development and Humanitarian Assistance from NYU. His graduate research focused on the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ identity, race, and poverty and how service centers in New York City were addressing the needs of LGBTQ+ homeless youth.
He holds a deep interest in promoting social mobility and economic justice in queer communities and communities of color.
David is focused on campaigns around the criminal justice system. David is a native of Brooklyn, NY and was raised by his Spanish-speaking mother. Needing to survive the English-speaking inner city, he became bilingual and bicultural as both Puerto Rican and African American.
David has an Associates of Arts degree in Business Administration from Valencia Community College, en route to his Bachelor of Arts at the University of Central Florida where his focus is non-profit management and business administration.
He is an active member of his church, Rejoice in the Lord Ministries. He is happily married to his wife of eight years, Aramis Ayala, and a proud father to daughters Aliyah and Alanah. While he has a passion to advocate for criminal justice reform what he enjoys during his free time are movies, traveling and simple quality time with his family.
Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan
Natasha’s work focuses on the economic exploitation and discrimination against low-wage Latina/o immigrant workers, as well as legal support in the face of the economic and humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. She works on both domestic litigation and international advocacy before human rights mechanisms concerning issues including: state-sanctioned violence and failure to protect; self-determination and decolonization processes; gender justice; and immigrants’ rights.
Prior to joining LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Natasha worked at the Center for Reproductive Rights and clerked for the Hon. Ronald L. Ellis in the Southern District of New York. Natasha graduated from CUNY School of Law, where she was editor-in-chief of CUNY Law Review and was a fellow at the Center for Latino/a Rights and Equality.
Natasha is president of the National Lawyers Guild, the nation's largest and oldest progressive bar association, and co-chairs its subcommittee on Puerto Rico. She is a board member of the Center for Constitutional Rights and MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization. She is a member of the New York City Bar Association’s Task Force on Puerto Rico and Inter-American Affairs Committee. Natasha is an adjunct faculty member at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Natasha has written several articles, including Puerto Rico's Odious Debt: The Economic Crisis of Colonialism, 19 CUNY L. Rev. 287 (2016), and has been featured in numerous news outlets.
“In tribute to the memory of my Chinese émigré parents, ‘Spread diversity. Adelante siempre!’”
On staff since 2000, Jackson finds opportunity in litigation, advocacy, experiential and community education to redress strife, racial and socioeconomic inequality. His calculus affirms the faith and sacrifice of immigrants, refugees, and minorities to find a safer future.
Jackson has admissions to the NY Bar, federal courts and circuits. He's won and collected $987,000 for low wage workers; and won injunctive relief and impact civil rights victories to improve the lives of Latinos and immigrant families. His educational background includes: Bronx Science, C.C.N.Y., UCSF- Hastings Law. Prior to joining LJP, he was Supervising Attorney at Safe Horizon, Immigration Law Project; Legal Director at Center for Immigrant Rights; Law Guardian at Legal Aid Society NYC. Jackson’s honors include: NYC Bar Association Legal Services Award (2018), Public Justice's "Trial Lawyer of the Year" (2017).
Diana joined LatinoJustice in 2009 to guide the organization’s fund development strategy and informs organizational planning. Before joining the LJP team, Diana served as the national director of affiliate services at Family Promise, where she oversaw and implemented organizational development services, including strategic planning and board training, for more than 100 affiliates.
Throughout her career, Diana has worked with myriad non-profit teams, including the YWCA of Brooklyn and the American Folk Art Museum, to strengthen organizational resources and capacity. A Brooklyn native and New Jersey resident, Diana volunteers with several nonprofit organizations and is an avid baker.
Sarah focuses primarily on the organization’s immigrant justice platform. Sarah earned her B.A. from Allegheny College and her J.D. from The George Washington University Law School. While at GW Law, Sarah served as a student-attorney at the Jacob Burns Community Legal Clinics, Immigration Clinic, representing Latinx individuals and families in removal defense proceedings before the Arlington
Immigration Court and in affirmative proceedings before USCIS. She also served as Managing editor of the International Law in Domestic Courts journal and participated in the GW-Oxford Summer Program in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford.
Lydiette works in collaboration across departments to ensure the delivery of programming and events in addition to providing administrative support to the president and general counsel. Lydiette is instrumental in serving as the liaison between LatinoJustice and the multitude of constituencies the organization serves.
A native of Puerto Rico, Lydiette has always had a profound interest in the Latino community and experience within and beyond the borders of the United States. She received her B.A. from Rutgers University and her M.A. from the John C. Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University.
Lydiette has worked at a private law firm as a paralegal in their toxic tort division; at a higher education institution in their special programs division; and interned at a nonprofit organization advocating for refugees and asylees. These experiences led her to LatinoJustice PRLDEF where she hopes to further the mission of protecting the rights of all Latinos.
Francisca D. Fajana
An ardent advocate for lawyering at the intersection of structural racialization and poverty, Fran is a Senior Counsel with decades experience litigating civil rights, collateral consequences of criminal records, consumer and housing cases.
Fran has successfully pursued cases of import in federal district courts, including holding a housing authority accountable for condoning a racially hostile housing environment, and participating in litigation challenging unconstitutional revocation of driver’s license for nonpayment of court debts. Fran also has successfully advanced policy reform expanding opportunities for people with criminal histories and written extensively about the subject. Fran holds an LL.M. from Boston College Law School, and a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School.
Marisabel assists deputy general counsel and legal division attorneys. She coordinates and handles hundreds of client matters and public inquiries; provides information and referrals on issues of employment, housing, immigration, access to social services; helps to draft documents and outreach materials; provides translations and interprets for legal staff and clients, while fulfilling other administrative duties. Additionally, Marisabel supervises and trains high school volunteers and volunteers for CUNY Citizenship, NY Daily News Citizenship NOW, Election Protection Work, VE y VOTA events.
Since 2006, Marisabel has worked in the nonprofit immigrant services sector including with Catholic Charities of NY (support services supervisor) and Safe Horizon (office manager).
Tiffany focuses on tactical elements of organization value proposition, talent acquisition and organization evolution and design. Prior to joining LatinoJustice, Tiffany worked in the entertainment industry as HR representative for a multi-site employer. She holds a B.A. in Sociology with a concentration in psychology and women’s studies from Stony Brook University. Her research focused on the negative effects of hair expectations on women of color (WOC) and the physiological impacts of birth and post-partum on WOC.
Tiffany is passionate about organization culture, learning, embracing change and positively impacting those around her. A second generation Dominican-American with Puerto Rican roots, she is proudly born and raised in uptown Manhattan and is currently a doula-in-training.
Ricardo joined LatinoJustice's Southeast Office in 2018 to help respond to the legal needs of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Ricardo obtained a Master’s Degree in Education, a Juris Doctor and is a licensed attorney on the Island.
In 2015 he moved to Orlando, FL, where he has worked providing education to the immigrant community in Central Florida and empowering the LGBTQ+ Latinx community after the Pulse Tragedy.
Silvia has over 15 years of extensive human resources, nonprofit management and organizational development experience.
Passionate about clarity and alignment, Silvia is committed to managing relationships, improving organization behavior and driving organization results. She strives for a systematic approach to business development where organization values are core and individual contributions are highlighted. Her purpose is for people to be proud of the organization they contribute their time and talents to. Silvia holds an M.A. in IO Psychology from NYU, is a senior certified professional by SHRM, and sits on the board of the Organization Development Network of NY.
Silvia was born in Ecuador and lived in New York City since 2000. She is fluent in Spanish, English and Portuguese; loves Capoeira Angola, traveling and dancing.
Sonji manages all pre-law and legal pipeline initiatives, including the LSAT Prep Course, LAWbound®, LSAT-to-JD workshop series, Next Generation LIderes (NGL) Mentoring Program, and the organization’s signature event, LatinoJustice’s Annual Law Day. Programs for law students include the “How to Succeed in Law School” orientation workshop, and the Corporate/Law Firm Alliance Summer Program (CLASP).
Ms. Patrick collaborates with external partners, e.g. major law firms, bar associations and Latino law student associations to offer LJP programs. Sonji makes regular presentations on pre-law issues and has published articles in the CLEO Edge magazine and the NYSBA Pro Bono Newsletter.
She is a member of the Northeast Association of Pre-Law Advisors (NAPLA) and serves on the NYS and NYC Bar associations’ diversity committees.
Christiaan works in the intersection of advocacy and technology to help amplify and engage with LatinoJustice’s community partners. He is involved in a broad range of campaigns touching upon all LatinoJustice’s areas of focus. Christiaan works in strategic communications by working with content creators to develop stories, videos or other digital content that can help elevate important issues for the community.
Before working at LatinoJustice, Christiaan was a freelance journalist for Spanish and English radio. Before that, he worked at a radio station in Mexico called Zoom 95.5 and a non-profit in the Netherlands focused on supporting independent media called Free Press Unlimited. Christiaan graduated from Hofstra University with a bachelor’s in Political Science and Global Studies.
Jose Luis Perez
Serving as LatinoJustice PRLDEF’s Legal Director for the past decade, Jose has been the lead lawyer in a number of ground-breaking immigrants’ rights cases including: establishing protections for immigrant tenants in New York City; enjoining private landlord in New Jersey from being required to verify immigration status of prospective tenants; limited local police enforcement of civil immigration warrants; and most recently, securing a precedential court decision in the Cesar Vargas NY Bar admission case, holding that a DACAmented law graduate can fulfill state character and fitness Bar admission licensing requirements, and be found eligible for Bar admission by the Court Character and Fitness Committee even absent any pre-condition state legislative action. He also works very closely with the education division on our many pipeline pre-law programs and has mentored numerous college and law students of color over the years.
Jose is in his 33rd year as a public interest lawyer and is a 1985 graduate of St. John’s University School of Law. He began his legal career as a prosecutor with the Queens County District Attorney’s Office and the NYC Housing Authority’s Anti-Narcotics Strike Force. He also worked at the NYC Legal Aid Society for over ten years, as a staff attorney in the Juvenile Rights Division representing children in Family Court proceedings, and later serving as a supervising attorney in LAS’ Civil Division Brooklyn and Harlem Neighborhood Offices overseeing the housing and family law practices. Prior to that, Jose spent a year at Hofstra Law School supervising student attorneys in the Housing Rights and Disabilities Law Clinics while teaching lawyering and litigation skills.
Jose served as an assistant attorney general, deputy chief, and acting chief of the NYS Attorney General’s Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau.
Christine has 18 years of experience in not-for-profit fundraising. After a decade in several publishing firms, Christine transitioned to not-for-profit development beginning as a grant writer at Harlem United Community Aids Center. As a development associate at Aaron Davis Hall, she managed the annual fund and individual donor cultivation. As senior development associate at Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Center, she managed special events, secured grant funding and produced annual reports and newsletters.
Christine is a Board Member of Stars, Inc., an organization that provides scholarship support for disadvantaged youth to study dance. She is a graduate of New York University with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism.
“Being receptionist at LatinoJustice represents a tremendous responsibility for me, welcoming the staff and visitors with professionalism and courtesy is my goal every day.”
Rhadaisis has been LatinoJustice’s receptionist for 16 years, joining PRLDEF in 2002 and has the responsibility to answer the phone and to assist visitors and clients. As an administrative assistant Rhadaisis has become a valuable support to all LatinoJustice’s staff.
She graduated with honors from the executive secretary program at Universidad Dominicana O&M and has an associate’s in secretarial sciences from Hostos Community College.
Kira focuses on immigrants’ rights, voting rights, economic justice and criminal justice reform. Kira began her legal career as an equal justice works fellow for the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association in Orlando, Florida where she focused on representation of undocumented immigrant children in juvenile and immigration court.
Prior to joining LatinoJustice, she was the program director for the children's legal program at Americans for Immigrant Justice where she led a team of lawyers representing immigrant children in dependency and removal proceedings. Kira is the co-chair of the advocacy committee for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, Central Florida Chapter. She is a graduate of Rollins College and Florida State University, College of Law.
As LatinoJustice’s chief financial officer, Rosanna partners with the president and general counsel safeguarding the integrity and long-term sustainability of the organization’s national strategy by streamlining systems, optimizing revenues, containing costs and managing cash.
Rosanna’s business acumen in the nonprofit sector serves to improve policies, procedures and operational efficiencies. She links strategy, execution, accountability, aligning leaders around shared objectives and enriches professional affiliations. As the liaison to the finance/investment and audit committees, she collaborates in maximizing the utilization of capital, mitigates risks and ensures GAAP compliance.
Rosanna holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Iona’s Hagan School of Business in Management and Finance, and a certificate in International Business. She is currently pursuing certification as a management accountant.
Edison serves LatinoJustice's Southeast Office as Associate Counsel, organizing outreach and assistance to Puerto Rican evacuees of Hurricane Maria who are currently residing in Central Florida.
Edison has a background in technical writing, communications, marketing, and computer science in addition to housing law, the latter of which provides critical expertise in his current role. The bulk of his professional career has been spent in the non-profit sector concentrating on resolving issues of homelessness and providing direct legal services to those who cannot afford an attorney. He has participated in two national service programs through AmeriCorps, Public Allies and Equal Justice Works. He also serves on the Young Friends Leadership Council at WMFE, Central Florida's National Public Radio affiliate.
Jerónimo focuses on building Latinx power to end the criminalization of communities of color. Jerónimo has over a decade of experience working to advance criminal justice and immigration reforms through the use of grassroots and digital strategies. He has honed his skills through his time working in grantmaking philanthropy, organized labor and national legislative advocacy arenas.
Saldaña is also a proud member of Mijente, a new political home for Chicanxs and Latinxs. A skilled digital strategist, Jerónimo volunteers on their communication squad where he was the driving force behind the viral anti-Trump “Make America Mexico Again” hat campaign and continues to pursue cultural shifting dialogues through the use of online spaces.
In 2016 Remezcla included his activism in their list of Latino activists who fought for a better world. He is currently based in Brooklyn and holds a bachelor’s degree in Chicana/o Studies.
Prior to joining LatinoJustice as Senior Counsel in 2018, Esperanza built a successful career as a litigator. She served as a partner at Hinshaw, practicing complex commercial and civil litigation.
Of Esperanza's representative cases, Canpro Investments Ltd. v. US, resulted in more than $4M in damages from the federal government; FDFS v. Allianz Risk Transfer, et al.,resulted in damages of more than $24M; and FDFS v. Poe Financial Group, Inc, et al. was the largest insolvency case in Florida's history and one of the largest in the US. Esperanza previously worked with DCF and Legal Services of Greater Miami, and has provided pro bono services. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law (J.D., 2001) and George Mason University (B.A., 1997); is admitted to practice in New York, Florida and the D.C. and is a proud mother to her son, Alexander.
Nathalia Alejandra Varela
Nathalia focuses on employment issues faced by low-wage Latinx workers in Nassau County, NY. She has filed charges of: discrimination based upon race, gender and pregnancy; retaliation; failure to pay wages; and unfair labor practices with the EEOC, the NYSDHR, the NLRB and the NYSDOL. She also has a special interest in government transparency and challenging the misidentification of Latinx youth as gang-affiliated.
Previously, Nathalia worked as a staff attorney at Bronx Legal Services focusing on eviction defense and affirmative litigation that advanced tenants’ rights. Nathalia graduated from CUNY School of Law in 2015. As a third-year law student she interned with LJP where her research and writing greatly contributed to a precedential decision holding that DACA recipients are eligible for admission to the New York State Bar.
Jorge Luis Vasquez, Jr.
Jorge litigates on a broad range of civil rights matters throughout the United States. In addition, Jorge works on an array of policy matters and campaigns to address local and national social justice disparities.
Jorge is a second-generation Nuyorican and a proud product of Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University at Albany, a Juris Doctorate from Seton Hall University School of Law, and an LL.M. in trial and advocacy from Basely School of Law, Temple University.