Executive Director Anne Pilsbury, Esq.
Anne Pilsbury founded Central American Legal Assistance in 1986 in response to the Salvadoran Civil War refugee crisis. Before CALA, she worked for the Center for Immigrants Rights and as a solo practitioner. She was the lead attorney on Hobson v. Wilson, a major civil rights Bivens action against the FBI and D.C. police "red squad" for COINTELPRO - aimed at preventing anti-war protests and black-white unity in D.C. during the 1960s and '70s. She has represented thousands of immigrants over her career as Executive Director.
Anne graduated with a J.D. from Antioch School of Law; holds an M.A. in Political Science from American University, and a B.A. from Penn State University. She sits on the Board of Directors of Brooklyn Legal Services, Corp. A, and is a cooperating attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights. She is admitted to the D.C. Bar and the Bar of the State of Maine. She is also currently a member of the Bar of US Courts of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Brian Mulligan - BIA Accredited Representative
Brian has worked at CALA since 1996. First as a paralegal and then as an Accredited Representative. He has been accredited by the BIA to represent in Immigration Court and before the Service since 2000. Before CALA, he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Zaire (now Congo) and taught high school social studies for four years. Brian holds a B.A. in English from SUNY New Paltz and an M.A. in Secondary Education from Adelphi University.
Heather Axford, Esq. - Senior Staff Attorney
Heather Axford has been representing asylum applicants at Central American Legal Assistance since 2008 and is currently a senior staff attorney. She represents primarily Central American trauma survivors facing deportation as well as victims of egregious constitutional violations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and indigent immigrants eligible for other humanitarian immigration relief. She practices regularly before the Immigration Court, Board of Immigration Appeals, and Federal Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. She is an Adjunct Professor of Refugee & Asylum Law at New York Law School. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law.
Hernan Posada is a Legal Assistant at CALA. He has worked at CALA since 1999. Hernan handles most of our adjustment filings. Before CALA, he was a Union Leader and lawyer specializing in labor law in Colombia. He is a graduate of Universid Libre, Colombia. He has three daughters and two grandchildren.
Carlos has greeted all who enter our doors since June 2000 as CALA's front desk receptionist and intake coordinator. Originally from El Salvador, Carlos lived there during the Civil War and came to the US after the Peace Accords in 1992. He became a US citizen in 2001. He is the father of two kids.
Rebecca Brown - BIA Accredited Representative
Rebecca Brown is a BIA Accredited Representative at CALA. In addition to her relatively small Asylum caseload, she is the DACA Program Director (composed of over 900 clients) and the Development Director. Rebecca began working at CALA is 2012. Prior to CALA, she worked at DLA Piper on the Review of Sexual Abuse in the Australian Defence Forces. She has lived for extended periods in Nicaragua, Switzerland, and Australia. She holds a B.A. in International Relations from Franklin University, Switzerland, and a Certificate of International Relations and Global Affairs from the Bard College Globalization and International Affairs program.
Shouan Riahi, Esq. - Staff Attorney
As the child of refugees from the Islamic Republic of Iran, Shouan has been fighting for asylum since the day he was born. Shouan received his B.A. in Economics from Bentley College in 2008 and his J.D. from New York University School of Law in 2012. Shouan began working at CALA in 2013 and has been here ever since. In his free time Shouan enjoys playing soccer, exploring NYC on his bike, cooking, and exercising. Shouan is fluent in English, Spanish, and Farsi.
Rebecca Press, Esq. - Senior Staff Attorney
Rebecca Press is a senior staff attorney at Central American Legal Assistance. As such, she represents undocumented immigrants of all ages in removal proceedings, with a particular focus in Asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Rebecca has worked at The Legal Aid Society’s Immigrant Youth Representation Project and The Door’s Legal Services Center. In addition, Rebecca clerked at the New York Immigration Court through the Attorney General’s Department of Justice Honors Program, where she was responsible for writing judicial decisions and legal memoranda of law. She graduated from Oberlin College and New York University School of Law. Rebecca has two joyful and rambunctious little boys.
David Wilkins, Esq. - Staff Attorney
Dave has been exposed to multiple perspectives within the immigration system. He has represented detained immigrants in the Washington D.C. area while working in the Center for Applied Legal Studies clinic at Georgetown Law and at the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, and has interned with the Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review. Dave recognizes the vulnerability and extreme challenges that immigrants in our legal system can face, and is committed to dedicating his life to working on their behalf. He is a graduate of Georgetown University Law.
Paola Uriarte, Esq. - Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow
Paola Uriarte is an Immigrant Justice Corps fellow at CALA. She has been practicing since 2015 representing asylum seekers and survivors of trauma in removal proceedings. Before joining CALA, Paola was a law clerk to the Honorable Stuart Peim, J.S.C. in the Superior Court of New Jersey. Paola received a Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School in 2014 where she was committed to the pro bono representation of immigrants while interning at the Immigrant Defense Project, Brooklyn Defender Services, the Legal Aid Society. Her passion for immigrant rights began with her own experiences as a Peruvian immigrant in New York and Montreal. She is fluent in Spanish and French.
Michelle Martinez, Esq. - Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow
Michelle Martinez is an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow at CALA. She was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her passion for advocating for immigrants and improving access to quality representation grew out of her experience assisting victims of immigration service scams. Michelle worked as a student attorney with BU Law’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and participated in a pro bono trip to Harlingen, Texas, where she worked on unaccompanied minors’ cases with ProBAR. Following her graduation in May 2014, she completed a year-long fellowship with the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic, where she represented immigrants from a myriad of backgrounds in their pursuit of relief from removal. Between 2015-2017, she worked as an Attorney Advisor for the New York Immigration Court through the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General’s Honors Program.
Michelle graduated magna cum laude from Boston College with a B.A. in Political Science with
minors in French and International Studies. She graduated cum laude from Boston University
School of Law. She is admitted to practice in New York and Massachusetts.
Cristian Vasquez - Part-time Staff Receptionist
Cristian Vasquez is a part-time front desk receptionist at CALA. He is a Junior at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, majoring in Sociology. Cristian is a Salvadoran national and was awarded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. He is a strong advocate of immigrants' rights and hopes to pursue a rich career in non-profit work.
Miwako Dai, Esq. - Part-time Paralegal
Ever since Miwako Dai began volunteering in 2003, Central American Legal Assistance has held a special place in her heart. Currently, Miwako assists her colleagues in preparing asylum applications and exhibits on a part-time basis.
Oscar Gerardi Caceres the Cat
Oscar enjoys greeting clients, inspecting files, and prowling the office as our security guard.
Sister Kathryn (Peggy) Walsh - Chair & President
Sister Peggy has been serving Brooklyn's immigrant community for over fifty years. In the 1970s she founded Southside Community Mission. Through Southside, she met CALA's founder Anne Pilsbury, and encouraged the office's development.
Lisa Reiner - Esq., Secretary
Lisa Reiner is the Associate Director of the Community Legal Resource Network at CUNY Law School. She holds a J.D. from CUNY Law and a B.A. from Reed College. A former CALA staff attorney, she has served on CALA's board since 2006.
Anne Isaak - Treasurer
Anne Isaak is the owner of Elio's restaurant in Manhattan. Ms. Isaak was a former sous-chef at Chez Panisse. She has served on the Board since 2008.
Jose Luis Rosa
Mr. Rosa is a Special Education teacher in Brooklyn. He has served as a member of the Board since 2001.
Mr. Ramos works for the YMCA in their Finances Department. He has served on the Board since 2008.
Zachary Sanders, Esq.
From Portland, Oregon, Zach worked at CALA during law school and for a few years after as a staff attorney. He has been working as immigration lawyer for 15 years. Zach is a solo practitioner with a focus on removal defense and asylum. He is a member of National Lawyers Guild, AILA. He graduated from Cardozo Law School and University of Oregon.