We have a great team serving as our Board of Directors, including seasoned immigration advocates and others with extensive experience assisting detained and released individuals, including asylum seekers, as well as in-depth work protecting and promoting human rights. Board members are listed in the order in which they joined the Board of Directors.
Jennifer Leidich has over 20 years of operating and growing small- to medium-sized companies in an international environment. She has supported diverse social enterprise initiatives and is proficient in change management, team building and effective internal communication structures. She is Co-founder and Director of Mercury Data, a records management company based in Mexico City. In the non-profit arena, Jennifer served as a Senior Advisor to Indigenous Interpreting+®, leading a diverse team in the publication of a first-of-its-kind Training Manual and Curriculum for indigenous language interpreting in Mexico and the U.S. She has volunteered with Caritas of Austin in the Workforce Development Program, assisting refugees in preparing for job interviews, finding employment opportunities, and transitioning successfully into their new work lives. Most recently, Jennifer collaborates with Partners in Agriculture on a Food Security initiative to provide economic development opportunities in agriculture and livestock management to a rural community in Haiti. Currently in year 4 of the program, there has been 85% reduction of extreme poverty for the 73 participating families and a surge of economic activities and services in the community, including access to clean drinking water and the area’s first health care clinic.
Jennifer is also working toward her Leadership and Performance Certification through the International Coaching Federation, after completing a 6-month course through ACT and the Brown University of Professional Studies. She has been humbled and challenged to put into practice a curious and question-based approach to helping individuals and teams find the best solutions to the challenges they face.
Bilingual in Spanish and English, Jennifer supports the mission of The Migrant Center for Human Rights because fair treatment and equal access to understanding of the law are basic human rights. In her volunteer work, she has seen firsthand the overwhelming challenges and obstacles that even approved asylum-seekers face when they come to the US. Jennifer is also committed to equal language access: in her own community, she has served as an informal interpreter and translator for immigrant friends and acquaintances, and has seen the fear, disinformation and confusion that they experience in their daily lives. Jennifer welcomes the opportunity to be a part of a The Migrant Center’s greater initiative to support immigrants and educate the public on legal rights and fair and equal treatment in the US.
Mary P. Gilroy
After retirement from working in Austin as a high school science teacher, and later as an environmental scientist, Mary joined Wimberley groups providing basic assistance and legal information (“Know Your Rights” packets and wallet cards) to immigrants afraid to leave their homes due to 2017’s increased ICE threats. This emergency work transitioned into longer-term efforts, including helping establish and maintain En Confianza, a bilingual phone line connecting Spanish speakers with local resources.
As families with little legal recourse were increasingly traumatized by ICE detention of loved ones, she and two dedicated friends stepped up to help. They worked with The Migrant Center for Human Rights, gathering documents for bond packages, attending ICE hearings, setting up detainee phone and financial contacts and helping fight deportation orders. While financial assistance was a great challenge, the emotional work was the hardest. But these families and their community showed her what generosity and compassion truly look like, and why this work, while often heartbreaking, is absolutely necessary: because any injustice hurts us all, and those affected are part of our community, often the best among us. And this work could not happen without the Migrant Center providing a critical lifeline for those families and detainees with few other options.
Fabia Mirick Yazaki
Being a migrant herself and having witnessed the struggles of economic and political turmoil in many countries through her work with the United Nations, Fabia is excited to become the President of the Board of Directors of the Migrant Center for Human Rights.
Fabia’s experience working with governments, civil society, private sector and international organizations informs her current activities, with a focus on human rights and migration. She hopes to be able to incorporate her programme evaluation, project management and best practices skills into her new role.
Fabia first joined the Migrant Center for Human Rights as a volunteer interpreter and translator. “The more I heard about the forced family separations on the U.S. border, the less I could bear to be a silent spectator. Through my volunteer work, I learned to appreciate how effective and impactful the work is at the Migrant Center for Human Rights.”
Her work for almost two decades with the United Nations took her to several countries in Africa, the Middle-East, Southeast Asia and South America. She is also passionate about her experience in the areas of human rights, gender mainstreaming, human trafficking, development and statistics. Fabia has a degree in Statistics and an MBA. In addition to her philanthropic work, she spends her time raising her young children in their new home in Massachusetts.
FORMER BOARD MEMBERS
Before moving to San Antonio in 2014, Jo Pendleton worked for 35 years as a librarian, 8 years as Executive Director of Waco Habitat for Humanity, and one year working with street children in Nicaragua. Since then Jo has been working with asylum seekers through the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, first as a shelter volunteer and clothing coordinator, then volunteering at the bus station and airport, and then coordinating overnight hospitality for families that are stranded in San Antonio. Her work has included being the house mother at La Casa de Maria y Marta overnight shelter and helping start up the Migrant Overnight Shelter downtown in response to a significant increase in immigration in the spring/summer of 2019. Jo serves on the Board of Directors of the Interfaith Welcome Coalition and is also part of the formation team for the Texas Border Collaboration Network.
She is inspired and encouraged by the tireless efforts of the Migrant Center for Human Rights, the kind of work that helps all of us to hold fast to the hope that “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.) An ordained elder at Madison Square Presbyterian Church, Jo credits her faith as the first and last reason for the work she has been given to do. Do justice, love mercy … And be thankful.
Paul worked with the Interfaith Welcome Coalition for two years, where he coordinated visits to detention centers in Karnes City, Dilley and Pearsall. Additionally, he initiated a worship program at the Karnes Family Residential Center and collaborated with the Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services to lead prayer vigils and present educational booths at various events. He also served as the immigration liaison for Southwestern Texas Synod, ELCA. Since last year Paul has participated in the Christ Lutheran Church Immigration Group, that holds monthly meetings educating members on immigration laws, impacts to the immigrant community, and activism. He also is a research/action member on the San Antonio Sponsoring Committee on Immigration.
He believes that the work and mission of Migrant Center for Human Rights are important as our federal law continues to malign and exclude immigrants that have notoriously made our country stronger and better. Through this work, immigrants who are unable to obtain legal help can actually get a fighting chance to immigrate. This is a goal worth fighting for.
Garry D. Bruton
Garry is a Professor of Management at the Neeley School of Business, Texas Christian University. His research interests are at the intersection of entrepreneurship, international business, and strategy. He has published over 100 articles in leading journals such as the Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Business Venturing, Journal of International Business Studies, and Entrepreneurship Theory & Practice. In addition, he has co-authored three textbooks. He is currently an Associate Editor of the Strategic Entrepreneurship Journal. Previously he was also President of the Asia Academy of Management and former General Editor of the Academy of Management Perspectives and Journal of Management Studies. He is the only person to hold the Hall Fulbright Chair in Entrepreneurship twice. In 2018, Clarivate Analytics identified Professor Bruton as one of the 96 most cited faculty in the world in all Business & Economic disciplines for research published 2006-2016. In 2019 he was identified using Web of Science data as among the 0.1% of the world’s faculty for citations of his research in all disciplines in all universities in the world for research published 2008-2018. He is very honored to serve on the Board of Directors of the Migrant Center because he is concerned about the plight of immigrants in detention centers and strongly supports social justice.
Dec 2020 – June 2021
Anthony J. Blasi
April 2020 – September 2020
Anthony Blasi retired from Tennessee State University, in Nashville, in 2012, where he taught sociology in the historically Black institution. He moved to San Antonio that same year and has taught courses in retirement at the University of Texas San Antonio and St. Mary’s University. Dr. Blasi graduated in history from St. Edward’s University, Austin, taught a variety of subjects at the secondary level, and then earned the M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology and anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. He interrupted his university teaching career to earn a second M.A., in New Testament, at the University of St. Michael’s College (Toronto), the S.T.L. at Regis College (Toronto), and a Th.D. in religious ethics conferred conjointly by Regis College and the University of Toronto. He served a term as president of the Association for the Sociology of Religion, editor of the Review of Religious Research, and president of the Tennessee Conference of the American Association of University Professors. He has authored, co-authored, and edited a shelf of sociological books as well as a list of scholarly articles. Most recent works are the Sage Encyclopedia of the Sociology of Religion (co-edited and contributed, Sage Publishing, 2020) and The Abuse of Minors in the Catholic Church: Dismantling the Culture of Cover Ups (co-edited and contributed, Routledge, 2020). In San Antonio, Tony edits a weekly journal, Testimony, for Pax Christi Texas.
Cathy Potter, Esq.
Ms. Potter has been practicing immigration law since 2008. She has been assisting people in detention for over seven years, and has helped many others with their immigration cases. Not afraid of taking on difficult cases, Ms. Potter has filed appeals with the Board of Immigration Appeals, and petitions for review with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, as well as litigating citizenship and nationality cases at the federal district court and appeals court levels.
Ms. Potter is dedicated to helping immigrants regardless of income, doing her best to take pro bono and low-paying cases where needed. Her goal is to provide excellent and zealous representation for each of her clients. She worked with the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Project (ProBAR) and looks forward to serving on the Board of Directors at the Migrant Center for Human Rights.
Jodi Goodwin, Esq.
Jodi Goodwin practices immigration law in the trenches on the border in Harlingen, Texas. Since 1995, she has represented thousands of asylum seekers, economic migrants, long-term permanent residents, businesses, families, and United States citizens in removal proceedings. She also represents immigrants in federal court in both criminal and civil proceedings. She has several published decisions from both the Federal Courts of Appeals and the Board of Immigration Appeals.
She believes the foundation of a justice system is all individuals having equal access. Providing competent representation is a duty all lawyers should have with a commitment to pro bono representation and support of legal service providers to low income immigrants, especially those seeking refuge in the United States.
With a commitment to quality, honest and compassionate representation of her clients, Ms. Goodwin focuses her practice in all areas and aspects of immigration with a particular emphasis in complex litigation and waivers. She is the founding member of her law office and worked with the U.S. Department of Justice as an attorney for the Immigration Court prior to going into private practice.
She is listed in The Best Lawyers in America for immigration law and Texas Superlawyers as one of the top 5% in immigration law. Ms. Goodwin has the highest “AV” rating in the Martindale-Hubbel legal directory and is listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. In 2007 Ms. Goodwin was honored with the Arthur C. Helton Award for Advancement of Human Rights by the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She also speaks on multiple panels each year and has spearheaded and coordinated an ongoing effort to provide daily “Know-Your-Rights” presentations to Central American families being released from ICE custody in the Rio Grande Valley.
In addition to practicing law, Ms. Goodwin shares a deep-rooted belief in volunteerism. She is involved in several organizations designed to teach and train young lawyers and frequently teaches throughout the United States. Ms. Goodwin also holds several positions with the American Immigration Lawyers Association including Past Chair of the Texas Chapter of AILA, national and local liaison committees with Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Apart from her professional volunteerism, Ms. Goodwin also devotes much of her time to the Girl Scouts of America serving as a Troop Leader. She is a graduate of the University of Texas and St. Mary’s University. Ms. Goodwin is fluent in Spanish. Please see here for an interview with Ms. Goodwin: https://www.americanbar.org/
Sister Denise LaRock
Sister Denise LaRock moved to San Antonio in January of 2016 to assist families seeking asylum. Since 1992, Sister Denise has been a member of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, a religious community of consecrated women “nuns” dedicated to serving those living in poverty and marginalized. She serves on the leadership team of the Interfaith Welcome Coalition – a group dedicated to the welcoming asylum seekers — and as Coordinator of their services assisting families released from detention at the Greyhound bus station and San Antonio airport.
Twice a week, Sister Denise volunteers at the chapel at the Dilley Family Detention Center, where up to 2300 mothers and children are detained by private prison operator CoreCivic on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She also volunteers once a week at St. PJ Home, a shelter operated by Catholic Charities, and previously served at Casa RAICES, a former shelter in San Antonio for recently released asylum seeking families.
Sister Denise has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Education for At-Risk Students. She taught at-risk students for many years, including at a school for the children of migrant farmworkers in Florida.
Sara Sluszka, Esq.
Sara Sluszka is the Immigration Resource Attorney at the Washington Defender Association’s Immigration Project (WDAIP), which provides individual case assistance and educational resources on the immigration consequences of crimes, and engages in state and national policy advocacy to defend and advance the rights of noncitizens accused of crimes.
Prior to joining WDAIP, Ms. Sluszka was a detention staff attorney at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Tacoma, Washington, where she provided pro se legal assistance and direct representation to immigrants facing deportation while detained at the Northwest Detention Center. Sara began her immigration law career on the U.S.- Mexico border as the sole attorney at Casa de Proyecto Libertad, a community-based immigration legal services organization in Harlingen, Texas.
Ms. Sluszka supports the mission of the Migrant Center for Human Rights because it works to close the gaps in resources for indigent detained immigrants and ensure equal access to justice. As she witnessed in the Northwest Detention Center, the barriers created by a lack of resources often means the difference between a person being granted the chance to live in peace and without fear, and being deported to a place they fled in terror.
She is especially passionate about challenging the systemic discrimination and abuses of power that immigrants, people of color, and people with criminal records face in the U.S. She is a member of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and is a part of local immigrant rights advocacy coalitions. She previously served on the board of directors of Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest. Ms. Sluszka earned her JD from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, and is admitted to practice in Washington and New York.