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At Immigration Equality, we are only as strong as the dedicated team that drives our organization forward every day. In the past 20 years, our team has helped thousands of LGBT and HIV-positive immigrants and their families make a permanent home in the United States, and along the way, we secured safe haven for more than 600 asylum seekers. This month, we began a new phase in our organization’s future by introducing our new Executive Director, Caroline Dessert. We are all very excited to have such a dynamic and passionate leader. Along with our new ED, we also want to welcome five new staff members who will each play an important role in the present and future success of the organization. Our new staff represent a myriad of experience, backgrounds, and skills. Please take a few minutes to get to know them.

Miriam Cortes

miriamMiriam is our Office and Executive Assistant. Originally from Mexico, she has lived in New York for the last 15 years. She has provided a variety of administrative support to jewelry designers, as well as managing large-scale wholesale trade shows in New York City for the past four years. As a DREAMer with an interest in social justice, Miriam comes to Immigration Equality with a passion to help LGBT immigrants secure the freedom to be who they are.

Miriam is proud to be part of Immigration Equality and is committed to supporting not only the Operations department but the entire organization.

Nicholas Sakover

nicholasNicholas joins our legal team as an Asylum Paralegal. Fluent in Spanish and holding a Masters of Arts in International Law and Human Rights from the United Nations Mandated University for Peace, he comes to us with extensive experience working with vulnerable communities in Central America. Much of this experience came while attending UCR, when he volunteered with Global Brigades, working to provide free medical services to numerous communities with little or no access to health care. After finishing his undergraduate work, Nicholas attended the University for Peace in Costa Rica to study International Law & Human Rights. Simultaneously, he interned with the Durable Solutions Unit at the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). With a well-rounded set of skills and experiences, Nicholas is thrilled to join the legal department at Immigration Equality.

Melissa Foerster

melissaMelissa supports our national pro bono network as a Paralegal for Pro Bono Programs.

Melissa holds a BA in International Relations and Chinese from Colgate University. Her active participation in a student-led refugee tutoring program sparked her interest in Human Rights, which she pursued with an internship at the UNHCR in Geneva. After graduating, Melissa moved to Guatemala where she worked as a translator for a non-profit in indigenous communities of the highlands. Before joining the team at Immigration Equality, she supported asylum seekers in the UK in various stages of their claims and integration. Proficient in Spanish, French, Chinese, German and English, Melissa is passionate about advocating for universal LGBT immigration rights and is eager to contribute to the work of Immigration Equality.

Scott Coomes

scottScott is an  Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow. He provides direct representation for LGBT and HIV-positive immigrants in the contexts of both removal defense and affirmative application cases.

Prior to joining Immigration Equality, Scott received his J.D. from Harvard Law School, where his immigration clinical and internship experience included asylum, juvenile, removal defense and detention cases. He has worked at Catholic Charities New York, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic, Greater Boston Legal Services, and Volunteers of Legal Service, as well as the Legal Services Center, where he participated in the post-foreclosure eviction defense housing law clinic. He received his B.A. and M.A. from Stanford University.

Palmer Lawrence

palmerPalmer is an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow. She provides direct representation to LGBT and HIV-positive clients in immigration proceedings and in filing affirmative applications for immigration status.

Palmer received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and her undergraduate degree from Emory University. During the last year, Palmer worked as a fellow with the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program where she contributed to Deborah Anker’s Law of Asylum in the United States and provided representation to immigrant clients at Greater Boston Legal Services. During law school, Palmer served as a Contributing Editor to the Michigan Journal of Race & Law and interned for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, Human Rights Watch, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Regional Bureau for Africa, Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Aid, and Legal Aid of Cambodia. She received the Michigan Program in Refugee and Asylum Law Fellowship and participated in the drafting of The Michigan Guidelines on the Exclusion of International Criminals.