Nov. 2, 2019

Real Life Asylum Stories

Ventura College of Law campus:
4475 Market Street,

Ventura, CA 93003


On Saturday, November 2, 2019, over 100 high school, college, and law students gathered with retirees, lawyers, architects, clergy, and other community leaders and advocates to learn more about current issues affecting asylum-seekers and migrants and how people on the Central Coast could be involved. Trainings and discussions centered on experiences of asylum-seekers and the advocates who seek justice and to reduce suffering. It was a day of joy, sorrow, and inspiration and all those who participated demonstrated that the Central Coast is committed to working for a better world. 

Some of the press covering the event

  • Foothill Dragon Press - The student press out of Foothill Technology High School, spotlighting our own Michelle Carballo


To play, press and hold the enter key. To stop, release the enter key.


  • Moderator: Vanessa Frank
  • Panelist: Bruce Einhorn

  • Panelist: Judy London

  • Panelist: Mariana Marroquin


Powerhouse speakers are at the center of this landmark event, organized by the Law Office of Vanessa Frank and co-sponsored by the Santa Barbara and Ventura Colleges of Law, the Ventura County Bar Association, and the Immigrant Legal Defense Center. Attorneys and other interested community members from high school to retirement age will find meaningful opportunities to make a difference.

Event Day Schedule

10 - 10:30 a.m.


10:30 a.m. - Noon

Nuts & Bolts for attorneys: Pro Bono Asylum Work (1.5 hours Ethics CLE credit)

Nuts & Bolts for Advocates and Volunteers: How to support and develop the movement for immigrant rights along the Central Coast

Noon - 1 p.m.

Fresh Lunch during Local Organization and Activist Fair

1 - 2:30 p.m.

Real Life Asylum Stories, our keynote panel featuring Immigration Judge Bruce Einhorn (ret.), Mariana Marroquin of the Trans Wellness Center and Judy London of Public Counsel.

2:30 - 2:45 p.m.


2:45 - 5:30 p.m.

Screening of new biopic, Saint Judy, starring Michelle Monaghan as the real-life Judy Wood, in her first victory in the 9th Circuit gaining asylum for an Afghan woman persecuted for educating girls. Also featuring Common, Alfre Woodard and Alfred Molina. To be followed by a Meet the Advocate, with Judy Wood herself taking questions and answers from the audience.



Parallel “Nuts and Bolts” morning sessions will empower both attorneys and community activists to assist asylum seekers here on the Central Coast and beyond.   Non-attorneys from high school to retirement age will learn about meaningful volunteer opportunities suited to many interests, skills, and abilities.  Meanwhile attorneys earn 1.5 hours of CLE credit for Legal Ethics in their session, which focuses on practical support for pro bono asylum work.

Lunch is provided, and local organizations will be tabling at lunchtime to showcase the broader movement for migrant justice in Ventura County.

After lunch, a keynote panel open to all attendees will share “Real Life Asylum Stories” and provide attorneys with 1.5 hours of CLE credit for Elimination of Bias.  This panel features a retired Immigration Judge who wrote the U.S. asylum law, one of the foremost immigration litigators in Southern California, and a Guatemalan asylee who enriches her new homeland as an artist and community leader.


The keynote panel will be followed by a screening of the recent biopic “Saint Judy” and Q&A afterward with the subject of that film, noted LA asylum attorney Judith Wood.  The film tells the story of one of her earliest Ninth Circuit cases, on behalf of a young Afghan woman persecuted by the Taliban because she started a school for girls.



  • VCBA Attorneys $65.00 (includes lunch and 3 hours CLE credit)
  • All other attorneys: $75.00 (includes lunch and 3 hours CLE credit)

  • General Public: $25.00 (includes lunch)

  • Students with ID: $5 (includes lunch)


4475 Market Street
Ventura, CA 93003

TEL. (805) 650-7599 (ext. 210)




Honorable Bruce J. Einhorn, immigration

Honorable Bruce J. Einhorn

Immigration judge

Bruce J. Einhorn is an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University School of Law and a visiting professor of Public Law and Policy at the University of Oxford in England. He is also a regular contributor to The Washington Post, The Hill, and National Public Radio.

As a young lawyer in the U.S. Department of Justice, Judge Einhorn served as the primary drafter of the U.S. Refugee Act of 1980—the modern American law of asylum. He then went on to work as a special prosecutor and chief of litigation in the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), the federal agency assigned to identify and prosecute fugitive Nazi war criminals.


As an Immigration Judge in Los Angeles from 1990 to 2007, Judge Einhorn adjudicated thousands of asylum cases brought under the very law he had drafted. For his pioneering work in protecting women and girls, political, ethnic, religious, and racial minorities, and people facing persecution on account of their sexual orientation, Judge Einhorn has received awards of appreciation from Jewish, Christian, Muslim, women’s and children’s rights, and LGBTQ organizations, as well as from Jewish, Mexican, Cuban, Arab, and Iranian American Bar Associations. 


Since retiring from the bench, Judge Einhorn has served as founding chair and president of the Coalition for the Advocacy of the Persecuted and Enslaved (CAPE), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to provide free legal, therapeutic, educational, and employment assistance to indigent individuals seeking asylum and refugee status in the U.S.


Judge Einhorn is a life national commissioner of the Anti-Defamation League and has served as a member of the American Bar Association’s National Commission on Immigration.

Judy London, directing attorney, public

Judy London

Directing attorney, Public Counsel

Judy London is the directing attorney of Public Counsel’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. From 1996 to 2000, she was the legal director of the Central American Resource Center (CARECEN) in Los Angeles and focused her work on securing enactment of the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA). She joined Public Counsel in 2002, where she has expanded the agency’s impact litigation, SIJS and detention work, and launched the agency’s unaccompanied minors representation program. From 2007 to 2018, London was a lecturer at the UCLA School of Law where she co-taught a clinical course on asylum law.  In 2015, London was recognized with the Robert W. Kenny Award by the Los Angeles Chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild.  

Mariana Marroquin, asylee and activist.p

Mariana Marroquin

Director of the Trans Wellness Center

Mariana Marroquin is a Guatemalan asylee transgender woman, actress, comedian and community leader. Marroquin started volunteering at Bienestar Human Services in 2001. Three months later she was hired as a health educator, conducting outreach and facilitating groups under the Transgeneros Unidas Program. She also works under different contracts, including working with youth, homeless people, women at risk, HIV positive folks, injected drug users and the prison re-entry population.


Working at Los Angeles LGBT Center since 2011, Marroquin began as a client advocate for the Transgender Economic Empowerment Project and then worked with the Anti-Violence Project providing a wide range of resources such as employment, immigration services, supporting victims of domestic violence and hate crimes. In 2016, she was appointed by California Senator Kamala D. Harris to the Advisory Board for The Racial and Identity Profiling Act. In 2015, she became manager of the Anti-Violence Program, becoming one of the few trans women leading an Anti-Violence program in the entire nation. The same year, Marroquin was nominated to be part of the Governance Committee of the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. In April 2018, Marroquin went became program manager of the Trans Wellness Center, funded by the Department of Health, Division of HIV and STD Programs with a $1 million dollar annual budget distributed among five agency leaders in Los Angeles. Marroquin is currently filming Season 3 of "Undocumented Tales" and writing and producing "Conversations With Silvia", a celebration of Silvia Rivera’s legacy.

Vanessa Frank, immigration attorney, mod

Vanessa Frank

Immigration attorney, moderator

Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA, Vanessa earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Stanford University in Public Policy and returned, after two years working in immigrant-serving Bay Area public schools through AmeriCorps, for her law degree there. Vanessa focused her legal studies on immigration law and international human rights and development.

Following two years as a litigator with a major international law firm in the Bay Area, Vanessa joined California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), a legendary civil rights firm, in their Oxnard Migrant Office. In 2009, Vanessa opened her own law firm, The Law Office of Vanessa Frank, dedicated to providing high quality legal services to immigrants and their families and also to engage immigrants and US citizens in the struggle for humane and sensible immigration policies at the local, state and national level.  In the fall of 2014, Vanessa was honored with Holly G. Spevak Public Service Award by the Women Lawyers of Ventura County and in 2018 was awarded the Ventura County Legal Aid Verna Rose Kagan Award for Public Service.




Meredith Brown, immigration attorney.png

Meredith Brown

Immigration attorney

Meredith Brown practices in virtually all areas of immigration law and is a member of the Executive Committee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Immigration Section. She is also an active member of the National Immigration Project, and the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA) since 1997. 

Brown is a graduate of Occidental College and Loyola Law School, and prides herself on her more than 30 years working in various nonprofit organizations in the Los Angeles area. She has traveled extensively to El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and other Latin American countries, and has done coursework at Sussex and Cambridge Universities in England. Brown participates with a variety of television and radio news broadcasts in the Los Angeles area. She also gives weekly commentary with Central American TV, analyzing different cases and helping to clarify what is one of the most complex areas of law: immigration.


Claribel P. Madueña

Immigration attorney

Claribel P. Madueña is a skilled immigration litigator with extensive experience in a wide range of immigration matters, including complex cases with criminal issues. Her immigration practice focuses on removal defense and family-based immigration. Madueña has successfully argued for the release of clients in immigration detention, and has obtained Adjustment of Status, Asylum, and Cancellation of Removal for her clients against the government in immigration court. She has also obtained Lawful Permanent Residency, Naturalization, NACARA, and Waivers before the immigration office. Notably, when she was a first-year associate, Madueña presented a complex criminal and immigration oral argument to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and received a published decision in that case: Gil v. Holder, 651 F.3d 1000 (9th Cir. 2011).

Madueña generously donates her time to immigration legal clinics held by various nonprofit organizations all over the San Francisco Bay Area and is a mentor attorney to pro-bono counsel handling immigration matters. In addition, she provides continuing education opportunities for the immigrant community, and conducts seminars/workshops for potential clients, employers, and third-party administrators on a regular basis.

Brad Marcus.png

Brad Marcus

Attorney (retired)

Retired Ventura County attorney Brad Marcus was engaged in an active civil and criminal trial practice since his admission to the bar in 1962.  He attended public schools in Los Angeles, received a BA from UCLA in Political Science and a LLB from Southwestern University Law School. After his law practice, he formed two partnerships developing affordable housing projects. He has been a court appointed Arbitrator since the program began in the mid 1970s and has served many years as a Judge Pro Tem.  He was a volunteer attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance, and subsequently with the Ventura County Bar Association Legal Aid. Two years ago Brad undertook representing an unaccompanied minor from El Salvador seeking and gaining asylum status.

Lorella Thomas Hess, moderator.jpg

Lorella Thomas Hess

Immigration attorney, moderator

Lorella practices immigration law to help keep families together, to help the United States embrace its diversity, and to affirm the interconnectedness of the world. She is a 2015 graduate of Pepperdine University School of Law and serves on the board of the Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry of California.

Before joining the Law Office of Vanessa Frank last year, Lorella worked at a large, full-service immigration firm in Pasadena and at a small Los Angeles firm specializing in difficult asylum cases. She also completed a post-bar fellowship with the Ventura County Public Defender in Veterans Court. As a law student, Lorella served internships with the High Court of Uganda and with a chambers of family law barristers in London.




David Gonzalez Pic_edited.jpg

David Gonzalez

Activist and Moderator

David Gonzalez was born and raised in Mexico City, and he came to the Oxnard, California at the age of 9. He started his journey in the legal field as a paralegal with the Law Office of Vanessa Frank, managing all aspects of client communication, office management and attorney support. He then worked as a legal clerk at Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), and he attends CAL State University Northridge (CSUN) where he is studying Economics and Chicano Studies. David is very passionate about immigration, being a DACA recipient and his life constantly revolving around immigration. He hopes to become an immigration attorney in the future to help his community. He recently moved back to Oxnard and now works with Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project (MICOP), where he works as an Immigration Outreach Specialist. 

Julie Diaz Martinez Pic_edited.jpg

Julie Diaz Martinez

Activist and Moderator

Julie has a Masters of Architecture and Urban Planning from the University of California, Los Angeles UCLA and Professional Construction Project Management Certification from Cal State San Diego College of Extended Studies. She has worked at the non-profit Affordable Housing Industry as a Construction Manager combining Architecture, Construction, and Urban Planning strategies for several non-profit Housing Development companies. She did local community colunteer work at the Commissioner Area Housing Authority of Ventura County AHA representing the city of Moorpark for six years, Habitat for Humanity for 8 years, Court Appointed Special Advocate for Foster Youth in Ventura CASA for seven years, and at the Habitat for Humanity as a Certified Construction Crew Leader. She is currently the Immigrants' Rights Team Leader of Indivisible Conejo and is advocating for the establishment of a Ventura Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission. In addition, she is a member of ICE out of California and Justicia Tianguera, both groups work to protect and preserve Immigrants’ rights. Please find Julie's slideshow regarding her observations made in Tijuana, Mexico here:

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Jorge Perez


My name is Jorge Perez, I was born in El Salvador and I have been living in the United States for more than six years. Since I had been in El Salvador, I have assisted support groups in the community and I feel represented by the immigrant community. This is why I help as a volunteer at Pueblo Sin Fronteras. I currently work in fields where I pick lemons and prune the tree, and on my free time I like to support the community.

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Jose Bladimir


My name is Jose Bladimir and I am 27 years old. I am Salvadorian and I came with the first caravan in 2017 where I was detained by immigration for six months and eight days with a bond of $30,000. Thanks to Pueblos Sin Fronteras, they helped me economically, emotionally, and provided two attorneys that assisted my release from the detention center. When I was released, they found a church where I could live temporarily, since I have no family in this country. This Is why I help and support all the people who are detained because I have been there and know how difficult it is to be detained especially when they have no family in this country.


Kathilee Welsh

Attorney, veteran pro bono asylum litigator

I am fairly recent admitted to the California Bar. My husband is an attorney practicing bankruptcy and I was his paralegal/ office manager for most of our 42 year marriage. In my last year of law school I decided that I wanted to practice immigration law, but I had no experience— not even a law school class on the subject.  


I heard about Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project and their pro bono program from an acquaintance and thought it would be a great way to learn and do some good at the same time. I took 6 cases from them within a matter of months; a family asylum case (mother and two sons), four SIJS/TVPRA cases and a detainee asylum case out of Adelanto.  


It has been a wonderful and rewarding experience.  Telling my detainee that he was granted asylum was one of the most wonderful and emotional moments of my life.  I am still in regular contact with him as we are getting ready to apply for his green card in December.  Last time I met with him, he had a job, was living with some friends from church and saving up to buy a car. 


I stepped into pro bono immigration work with no experience. My first appearance before any judge, in any courtroom, was before an immigration judge in downtown LA. If I could do it, and have success, an experienced attorney (in any area of the law) can do it.  And I wish more would.  Having representation makes such a difference in the immigration arena and so many just can’t afford it. 


I have now opened my own immigration practice in Bakersfield doing “low bono and pro bono cases”. 


Michelle Carballo

Activist and Moderator

I am a 20-year-old college student at the California State University of Northridge. I have a passion for helping the immigrant community and have been a paralegal at The Law Office of Vanessa Frank for more than a year where I help undocumented immigrants gain legal status in this country. In the near future, I hope to become an immigration attorney who works at the grassroot level to help working class families stay together and spread awareness about the hardships being faced in different countries. I want to use my voice to serve the incarcerated and immigrant communities.



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Judith L. Wood, Esq., immigration attorn

Judith L. Wood, Esq.

Immigration attorney

Following the screening of “Saint Judy,” which is based on the inspiring true story of Los Angeles immigration attorney Judith Wood, we will present a Q&A with Wood. She continues to be known for her tireless advocacy and aggressive legal strategies. Wood has championed persecuted individuals from all over the world. She has also been a generous mentor to her fellow immigration attorneys in Los Angeles County and beyond, and is an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the Federal Bar Association, and the International Bar Association. Wood is a graduate of Pepperdine University School of Law and has taught at the People’s College of Law in Los Angeles.