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.
Rohmah Javed, Immigration Supervising 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.
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 Supervising 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.
Laura Rion, Immigration Staff Attorney was born and raised in Trinity, North Carolina. In 2014, she received her Bachelor's of Arts in Political Science from Campbell University before moving to New York City to attend law school. Laura graduated from New York Law School in 2017. During law school she focused on immigration work and spent her final working with the Safe Passage Project immigration clinic representing juveniles in their immigration proceedings. After law school, Laura clerked with the New York Immigration Court through the Department of Justice Honors Program. She also worked with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services as an asylum officer at the New York asylum office prior to joining PLS in May 2020. Laura was admitted to the New York State Bar in March 2018.
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.
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, Accredited Representative. 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.
John Peng, Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow. John joined the Immigration Unit in August 2019 as an Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow. He received his J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. There, John was an active participant in the Transnational Legal Clinic and focused his coursework on immigration and international human rights law. John was admitted to practice law by the New York State Bar in January 2020.
Alex McGriff, Immigrant Justice Corps Fellow. Alex grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. In 2013, he graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee with a B.A. in Political Science. After graduation, he worked in Memphis as an immigration paralegal, primarily serving clients affirmatively applying for asylum and defending against deportation. Alex graduated from Harvard Law School in May 2020. During law school, he focused on the intersection of immigration law and public defense. Alex represented clients as a clinical student attorney at the Greater Boston Legal Services asylum clinic and in public defense in the Roxbury and Dorchester District Courts through the Criminal Justice Institute. He spent summers interning at Orleans Public Defenders in Louisiana and in the Bronx Defenders Immigration Practice.
Shantalee Martinez, Immigration Paralegal
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.
Jahaira Roldan, Immigration Paralegal/Administrative Assistant. Jahaira was born in Queens, New York and then moved to the South End of Albany where she grew up. She is currently pursuing her BA in Sociology with a minor in Political Science at the University at Albany. Through her BA program, Jahaira is also conducting research on immigration policy’s inherent impacts on second and third generation children of migrant parents. She intends on continuing her education in pursuit of a law degree to one day practice immigration law. Jahaira is also the director of Project T.R.Y., a local grassroots organization set to repairing property damages and community engagement post-COVID and recent events in historically marginalized districts of Albany.
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.