Meet our team
Our small team of attorneys has a deep knowledge base and diverse backgrounds in child advocacy, removal defense, immigration, family, and administrative law.
We have worked in small firms, big firms, and non profit organizations and we have been pro bono attorneys and pro bono coordinators. CILA has over 40 years of collective experience that we are pleased to be able to share with the community.
Dalia Castillo-Granados is the director and co-founder of the Children’s Immigration Law Academy (CILA), a project of the American Bar Association (ABA) Commission on Immigration. Dalia is a frequent speaker on Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) and led the effort at the ABA to advocate for deferred action for SIJS youth stuck in the visa backlog. Prior to working at CILA, Dalia was a senior attorney at Kids in Need of Defense, a staff attorney at Tahirih Justice Center, a clinical supervising attorney at the University of Houston’s Immigration Clinic, and a Greenberg Traurig, LLP Equal Justice Works fellow at Catholic Charities’ Cabrini Center. Throughout her career, Dalia has represented hundreds of children in their immigration proceedings and before Texas state courts. Dalia is also active in her community. She is on the advisory board for the National Immigration Litigation Alliance (NILA), a board member of the Galveston-Houston Immigration Representation Project (GHIRP) and the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative (HILSC), and the 2023-2024 president of the Houston Association of Women Attorneys (AWA).
Yasmin YavarDeputy Director
Yasmin Yavar is the Deputy Director with the ABA’s Children’s Immigration Law Academy. She is a 2004 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, where she fell in love with immigration law through Barbara Hines’ immigration clinic and a brief summer internship at ProBAR. She began her legal career as a commercial litigator at the Houston office of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. After three years, Yasmin relocated to Harlingen, Texas for a year to work for the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) and learn the ropes of removal defense for detained adults. She returned to Houston and was the first employee of Kids in Need of Defense’s Houston office, serving as the pro bono coordinator. Immediately prior to working at CILA, Yasmin worked as a consultant for ProBAR’s Children’s Project.
Laura EganManaging Attorney for Pro Bono & Communications
Laura Egan is the Managing Attorney for Pro Bono & Communications with the ABA’s Children’s Immigration Law Academy (CILA). She graduated from The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law in Washington, DC in 2011. She obtained a certificate in Comparative and International Law and participated in the International Business and Trade program in Krakow, Poland and interned in a Human Rights clinic while in Krakow. Laura became passionate about immigration law during law school when she participated in her school’s Columbus Community Legal Services Families and the Law Clinic and worked with refugees and asylees while interning with International Rescue Committee’s immigration program. Laura started her legal career as a disability attorney with Russell & Hill in Everett, Washington representing hundreds of clients in administrative hearings in Washington, Oregon, and California. Prior to joining CILA, Laura worked in removal defense for Carney and Marchi, an immigration law and criminal defense law firm in Seattle, Washington, where she managed the non-detained docket.
Victoria MoraManaging Attorney for Technical Assistance and Training
Victoria Mora is the Managing Attorney for Technical Assistance and Training with the ABA’s Children’s Immigration Law Academy (CILA). She has over 16 years of experience in immigration law and has focused her career on unaccompanied immigrant children matters, including special immigrant juvenile status (SIJS), removal defense, u-visas, adjustment of status, and asylum. Victoria returns to CILA after serving as a Supervising Attorney with the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), where she served as a resource and mentor on unaccompanied children’s and mental health issues. She developed and conducted trainings, and was responsible for the RAICES Released Children’s Program provision of direct legal services to unaccompanied children in Austin, Texas. Before RAICES, Victoria was a Senior Staff Attorney with CILA providing technical assistance and training to practitioners across Texas. Victoria is also a founding partner of the Mora Ortiz Law Firm, where much of her practice was focused on unaccompanied immigrant children, family-based matters and humanitarian relief. Her work in unaccompanied immigrant children matters began when she worked as a Supervising Attorney with Kids in Need of Defense in Houston, Texas where she supervised staff and mentored volunteer attorneys representing immigrant children before the Houston Immigration Courts and Texas state courts. With experience working in both the nonprofit and private sectors, Victoria’s work in the immigration field extends to VAWA petitions for victims of domestic violence, U-visas, citizenship/naturalization, family-based and employment-based immigrant petitions, non-immigrant visa applications, fiancé(e) K-visas, waivers of inadmissibility, consular processing and 245(i) adjustment matters. She holds a J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law and a B.S. from The University of Texas at Austin. While in law school, she was the recipient of the St. Mary’s University Francisco Leos Award for Excellence in Clinical Studies for her work in the Immigration Clinic.
Mireya BeltréManaging Social Worker
Mireya Beltré, LMSW is a social work professional with a passion for social justice and children’s rights. Her approach has consistently been about making a positive difference in the lives of the children and families she has served for over 20 years. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Houston, and her master’s in social work from the University of Washington. Prior to joining CILA, Mireya’s efforts included advocating for women of color and indigenous populations experiencing domestic violence and sexual harassment, child welfare program management and policy analysis, developing curriculum and providing social services training, and most recently as a clinical supervisor and clinician for unaccompanied migrant children. She believes in continuous learning and self-awareness and strives to inform and improve systems to serve our most vulnerable populations more effectively.
Nadia DanilovichStaff Attorney
Nadia Danilovich is a Senior Staff Attorney with the ABA’s Children’s Immigration Law Academy. She has a B.A. from Scripps College in Anthropology and Spanish. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, where she participated in the Immigration Clinic. She began her legal career as a Staff Attorney representing unaccompanied immigrant children in removal proceedings at the Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, California. Nadia relocated back to her hometown of Chicago, Illinois, and began working at the National Immigrant Justice Center on the Immigrant Children’s Protection Project as a Staff Attorney and then as a Supervising Attorney. She has worked on many Asylum, SIJS, and T Visa cases for both detained and released children from all over the world. She is a member of the California Bar.
Sarena BhatiaStaff Attorney
Sarena Bhatia is a Senior Staff Attorney with the ABA’s Children’s Immigration Law Academy (CILA). She previously worked as a Managing Attorney, prior to that as a Staff Attorney, at Immigrant Defenders Law Center in Los Angeles, California, where she represented both detained and released unaccompanied minors in removal proceedings. She has experience in asylum, SIJS, and suppression/termination arguments in immigration court. Sarena began her career as a legal fellow at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), where she drafted Refugee Status Determination Assessments and conducted interviews of applicants seeking refugee status in the Caribbean region. She graduated from The George Washington University Law School in Washington, DC in 2016 and completed a program in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford. Sarena is a member of the D.C. Bar.
Sachika Denham-HandStaff Attorney
Sachika Denham-Hand is a Staff Attorney with the ABA’s Children’s Immigration Law Academy (CILA). She has a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Mississippi, and she received her minor in Spanish. She is a 2021 graduate of the University of Mississippi School of Law. During law school, Sachika completed an international law studies program at Downing College at the University of Cambridge, and she was a legal extern for the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). Following graduation from law school, Sachika began her legal career as a Staff Attorney at RAICES in Dallas, Texas – where she represented released unaccompanied immigrant children in removal proceedings. Sachika has experience mainly with asylum and SIJS, in addition to alternative forms of relief including VAWA and U-Visa. Sachika continues to reside in Dallas, Texas and is a member of the Texas Bar.
Amelia FriedmanStaff Attorney
Amelia Friedman is a Staff Attorney with the ABA’s Children Immigration Law Academy. Her interest in immigration law began with the immigration clinic at the University of Texas School of Law. Since graduating in 2013, she has worked as a litigator in private and public practice on a wide variety of matters. She also clerked for the Honorable Nancy F. Atlas (ret.) of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Her public interest work includes a fellowship with the Texas Title Project assisting homeowners to obtain disaster recovery relief, as well as working on civil rights matters as a Find Justice Fellow with Mehri & Skalet in Washington, D.C. In private practice, she was an associate at Proskauer Rose in Los Angeles and Skadden Arps in Houston. She maintained a robust pro bono practice and worked on asylum and SIJS cases. An avid traveler, she received her undergraduate degree from the University of Auckland in New Zealand. She is a member of the Texas, California, and D.C. Bars.
Marissa BarreraSocial Worker
Marissa Barrera, LCSW is a Social Worker for the ABA’s Children’s Immigration Law Academy (CILA. With over 15 years of social work experience, her education and career have always focused on her passion for working with children and families. She has advocated for children and families in various settings and roles. Marissa has a strong background working with unaccompanied immigrant children and understanding the immigration process through a trauma-informed based lens. Prior to CILA, Marissa served as a mental health provider/clinician in a shelter located in Houston TX for unaccompanied immigrant children. In this role, she was able to provide individual, group and family therapy services centered on healing and strengths. Marissa graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from Texas A&M-Kingsville University and a Master of Science in Social Work with a clinical concentration from the University of Texas Austin.
Brenda Garcia-Carrera Outreach Coordinator
Brenda Garcia-Carrera is a Political Science graduate from the University of Houston-Downtown with minors in Public Policy and Gender Studies. She worked at Chinese Community Center as a Program Coordinator to connect Houstonians with resources to improve their quality of life before working at CILA.
Itxel RamirezProgram Coordinator
Itxel Ramirez is the Program Coordinator for the ABA’s Children’s Immigration Law Academy (CILA) in Houston, Texas. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Energy and Sustainability from the University of Houston. Before working at CILA she was an Administrative Coordinator for the City of Houston’s Department of Neighborhoods, where she coordinated the Mayor’s Youth Council, an organization aimed at getting high school students civically engaged.
Tasha JonesGrant and Operations Manager
Tasha Jones is the Grant and Operations Manager with the ABA’s Children’s Immigration Law Academy. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Communication and a Master of Education in Student Affairs Administration, both from the University of Southern Mississippi. She began her career at Strayer University Corporate Office in Herndon, VA before relocating to Houston, TX where she then began working at the University of Houston-Downtown. Prior to CILA, Tasha served in roles with strong business administration emphasis including operations management, finance, and human resources.
Meredith LinskyDirector of the ABA Commission on Immigration in Washington, DC
Meredith Linsky is the Director of the ABA Commission on Immigration in Washington, DC. She was formerly the Director of ProBAR, the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project, located in Harlingen, Texas, from 2000 to 2014, where she supervised staff and mentored volunteers working on behalf of detained immigrants and asylum-seekers. Previously, she worked as a Research and Writing Attorney at the Office of the Federal Defender in the Eastern District of California. In 2012, the American Immigration Lawyers Association awarded Ms. Linsky with the Arthur C. Helton Human Rights Award for her outstanding service in advancing the cause of human rights. In 2013, the State Bar of Texas honored her with the J. Chrys Dougherty Legal Services Award. Ms. Linsky is a 1998 graduate of the University of California, Davis, School of Law.