PLS IMMIGRATION UNIT
James Milstein, Managing Attorney. Jim Milstein graduated from the University of Vermont in 1980 and Albany Law School in 1983. He was an Assistant Public Defender for Albany County and a partner in the law firm of Milstein & Milstein from 1984 to 2011. Jim was the Albany County Public Defender from 2011 -2016. From 2016 through 2018, Jim was the Director of the Regional Immigration Assistance Center for the Capital District and Northern New York. In this capacity Jim provided assistance and training to attorneys in fourteen counties in Upstate New York who were representing noncitizen clients in criminal proceedings. As Public Defender Jim was recognized for his commitment to provide alternative treatment programs for clients and was proud to work with other community leaders to develop the Law Enforcement Assistance Diversion (LEAD) Program which has received national recognition. As the Director of the Regional Immigration Assistance Center, Jim would assist attorneys to insure that the attorneys were properly counseling noncitizen clients of the immigration consequences of their cases as constitutionally required by Padilla v. Kentucky. Most importantly, Jim guided attorneys to achieve the most advantageous plea bargains that would minimize or eliminate the potential disastrous effects of deportation. He also provided direct representation for cases in which post-conviction relief proceedings[JM1] . The Regional Immigration Assistance Center also provided legal assistance to individuals who had been arrested by local ICE officers.
Nicholas Phillips, Supervising Attorney. Before joining PLS, Nick worked as an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow at Pace Community Law Practice in White Plains, NY, where he provided free legal representation to prisoners in deportation proceedings and to unaccompanied children in Immigration Court and Family Court proceedings. A 2014 graduate of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Nick worked in law school at the Immigration Justice Clinic, where he represented immigrants in deportation proceedings because of criminal convictions, and at the Civil Rights Clinic, where he represented incarcerated clients in federal civil rights lawsuits. After graduation, Nick served as a judicial clerk to the Honorable Frederic Block of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
Rohmah Javed, Immigration Staff Attorney. Rohmah was born in Southampton, England and then moved to Toronto, Canada where she grew up. In 2014, Rohmah received her Bachelors of Science in Life Sciences at McMaster University before moving to Cleveland, Ohio for law school. Rohmah graduated from Case Western Reserve University School of law where she spent her final year working in the Milton. A Kramer Civil Rights, Human Rights and Immigration Law Clinic. She became interested in immigration law because of her own family’s unique immigration story and after working on asylum cases and other affirmative immigration applications at the Clinic. Rohmah was admitted to practice law by the New York State Bar in January 2017.
Joseph Moravec, Immigration Staff Attorney. Joseph Moravec has been with the PLSNY Immigration Unit since November 2017, and holds degrees from Washington & Lee University (2013 – B.A. – Political Science) and Pace University School of Law (2017 – J.D. /LL.M. – Environmental Law). He is admitted to practice law in the State of New Jersey as well as the U.S. District Courts for New Jersey, the Northern District of New York, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Before joining PLSNY, he completed legal externships at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, the U.S. Department of Justice, and St. Andrew’s Refugee Legal Services in Cairo, Egypt. In 2016, he also served as a delegate to the World Conservation Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. He is based out of PLSNY’s Albany office.
Christine McClellan, Immigration Staff Attorney. Christine was born in Binghamton, New York, and grew up in the neighboring suburb of Vestal. She completed her undergraduate studies at Binghamton University, where she graduated with dual degrees in Arabic Studies and Political Science. In 2014, Christine moved to Buffalo, New York to attend law school at the University at Buffalo School of Law. In her third year of law school, Christine was selected as a Pro Bono Scholar, and took the bar exam in February 2017. She then spent the remainder of her final semester as a full-time fellow at ECBA Volunteer Lawyers Project, where she worked with attorneys across the organization’s many practice areas, including immigration. Christine graduated and was admitted to the New York State Bar in June 2017. Prior to her employment with PLS, Christine worked as a staff attorney for Safe Horizon Domestic Violence Law Project in Brooklyn.
Jillian Nowak, Immigration Staff Attorney was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. Jillian received her B.A. in Sociology from Hofstra University and her J.D. from the University at Buffalo with a concentration in International Law. In 2014, as the recipient of the Buffalo Human Rights Center Fellowship, Jillian conducted research on reparations for victims of the Khmer Rouge genocide through the Documentation Center of Cambodia (DC-Cam) at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). Jillian was selected for the inaugural class of New York Pro Bono Scholars and was admitted to the New York State Bar in June 2015. Before joining PLS, Jillian worked at Journey’s End Refugee Services, one of Buffalo’s refugee resettlement agencies, providing free and low cost legal representation to immigrants, including refugees and asylum seekers.
Kunal Sharma, Immigration Staff Attorney. Sharma graduated from the City University of New York School of Law in May 2013. In law school, he interned for the Rikers Island Law Library Unit, United States Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis of the Southern District of New York, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the New York Civil Liberties Union. After graduation, Kunal worked as a case manager at a CAMBA organization that administered shelters for homeless families with children in Brooklyn. After receiving his license to practice law in 2014, Kunal created and managed CLASP, a nonprofit project that focused on prisoners’ rights litigation and advocacy in New Jersey. Kunal joined PLSNY’s Albany office in February 2019.
Aisatou Diallo, Immigration Staff Attorney. Aisatou was born in the Bronx, New York. She holds a BS in Law and Society from Sage College of Albany, with minors in Psychology and Business, a Master’s degree in Environmental Law and Policy, and a Juris Doctorate from Vermont Law School. Aisatou’s motivation to attend law school came from her experience working directly with immigrants. Working with incoming families, she provided assistance with government benefit forms on areas such as food stamps, driver licenses, and Medicare. Her volunteer work has also included working remotely to help build an online Immigration Center for a refugee support organization based in Canada, and visiting detention centers in Texas to provide assistance to asylum seekers. In her second year of law school, Aisatou was a Human Rights Fellow at Vermont Law School, where she worked with the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions researching the risks of life faced by women and girl refugees and asylum seekers. Aisatou also spent her last year of law school interning with the Bloomington Immigration Court and the Executive Office of Immigration.
Molly M. Deacon, Immigration Staff Attorney. Molly joined Prisoners’ Legal Services as an Immigration Staff Attorney in January 2019. Molly began practicing immigration law in the private sector in 2015, where she primarily handled employment- and family-based visa petitions. Prior to joining PLS, Molly was employed with the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Project, where she represented respondents in removal proceedings before the Batavia and Buffalo Immigration Courts, mentored pro bono attorneys handling immigration matters for the first time, and served as a Qualified Representative for respondents who were found incompetent to represent themselves. Molly remains particularly interested in matters concerning the rights of non-citizens with disabilities who are in removal proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review. Molly is a graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School and Wells College.
Mary Slattery, Immigration Staff Attorney. Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow. Mary joined the Immigration Unit in September 2018 with a fellowship from the Immigrant Justice Corps. She graduated from Northeastern University School of Law in May 2018, where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar. She has completed internships with PLSNY's Immigration Unit, the San Francisco court of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, Legal Centre Lesbos in Greece, Northwest Workers’ Justice Project in Oregon, and the Mekong Migration Network in Thailand. Prior to law school, she spent 4 years as an Immigration Paralegal, first with the Immigrant Worker Project in Canton, OH and later at the Legal Aid Society of NYC where she practiced as an Accredited Representative before the Board of Immigration Appeals. Mary received her B.A. from Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH in Political Science and Latin American Studies. Mary was admitted to practice law by the New York State Bar in January 2019.
Halinka Zolcik, Immigration Justice Corps Fellow. Halinka joined the Albany office of PLS as an immigration law graduate/immigrant justice corps fellow in September 2017. Halinka received her JD from the University of Wyoming College of Law in May 2017. Before attending law school, she worked for a criminal law district court judge for two years where she realized the injustice that incarcerated immigrants face. She has participated in a wide-variety of internships in the area of criminal law, including internships with the: Colorado Public Defenders Office, Colorado Adult Probation, United States Attorney’s Office in Colorado, Wyoming Guardian Ad Litem’s Office and the Wyoming Public Defender’s Office. She was an intern at the International Human Rights Clinic in Laramie, Wyoming in her second year of law school and the student director of the clinic in her final year of law school. In January 2017, Ms. Zolcik was offered a position as an Immigrant Justice Corps fellow and was subsequently placed with Prisoners Legal Services.
Melissa Jeffers Von Dollen, Immigration Paralegal. Melissa Jeffers Von Dollen was born and raised in Colonie, New York just outside of Albany. She holds a dual B.A. in International Studies and French from Elmira College, where she had the unique opportunity to study abroad at the Institut d’Études Politiques in Strasbourg, France while completing an internship at the European Parliament. She then received her M.A. in French Studies from SUNY Albany, and a Certificate in Paralegal Studies from Tompkins Cortland Community College. Before joining Prisoners’ Legal Services, she worked as a paralegal in the Albany County Alternate Public Defender’s Office as well as the Albany County Regional Immigration Assistance Center where she developed a unique perspective on the intersection of criminal and immigration law. Throughout the course of her studies and work experience, she has developed a passion for foreign languages, cultures, and human rights. She joined Prisoners’ Legal Services in January 2019 as an immigration paralegal.
Paula Cano, Immigration Administrative Asst./Paralegal. Paula was born in Bogota, Colombia. Because of the political instability in Colombia, her family decided to move to Houston, Texas when she was ten years old. She obtained her Bachelors in Political Science and a double minor in History and International Politics from the University of Houston-Downtown. In college, she was a Texas A&M Bush School fellow and studied abroad in Cuba. Living in Houston and being exposed to a multicultural environment sparked her interest in immigration policy. She is currently looking forward to finish her masters in Latin American Studies at SUNY Albany. Her research interests involve post-conflict Colombia, Latino studies in the U.S, and feminism in Latin America.
Briana E. Dominguez, Immigration Administrative Asst./Paralegal. Briana received her B.A. at the University at Albany where she majored in Latin American, Caribbean, and U.S. Latino Studies (“LACS”) with a minor in Sociology. She conducted a research that delves into how undocumented, unaccompanied children from Mexico and Central America are being treated by the United States immigration officials. Briana has volunteered at Project Totem. She began as a translator during her sophomore year in college, and later went on to become a Board Member and Student Coordinator to the University at Albany during her senior year. She has also worked at the Pro-Bono Department at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, helping non-for-profit organizations like Catholic Charities Immigration Services and Catholic Migration Services. Briana has the desire to pursue a law degree and one day represent those in search of a better life.
PLS would like to thank The New York Bar Foundation (NYBF) for awarding PLS a grant to hire law students as Immigration Fellows to work in our Immigration Unit. The project have funded law students to work at PLS to provide representation to detained immigrants in removal proceedings. These fellowships have provided students with on-the-job training in analyzing the immigration consequences of criminal convictions and representing immigrants in removal proceedings.