CLINIC’s Years of Service Awards: 2020 Recipients

Each year, CLINIC recognizes dedicated legal immigration professionals at the Years of Service Awards. Typically, the recipients are honored during Convening, which was canceled this year due to COVID-19. Please help us to continue celebrating the following recipients! CLINIC, our network and your community all join together in saying, “Thank you for your hard work and dedication to immigration and advocacy!”.


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    Patty Diaz

    30 Years of Service
    Catholic Charities of Orange County

    Patty has served in the immigration department as an immigration counselor through some of the largest changes to immigration law in the United States. More than anything else, she loves to assist her clients to complete the N400 process and become U.S. citizens.

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    Frank W. Head

    25 Years of Service
    Arkansas Immigrant Defense

    Frank Head worked as the director of the Catholic Charities Immigration Services Springdale office for over two decades. He retired last year and now serves as the board president of Arkansas Immigrant Defense. He was BIA — then DOJ — accredited. He helped grow CIS, and when the Diocese didn't want to represent children in proceedings, he helped AID start so that this unmet need would be addressed.

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    Melisa Arce

    15 Years of Service
    Catholic Charities of Archdiocese of Chicago

    Melisa has extensive knowledge in immigration law and has demonstrated dedication by providing the best services to the clients and their unique immigration needs. She has exhibited leadership skills throughout her work by helping to supervise interns. With her immigration law expertise and dedication, she has also provided training and technical assistance to the new specialists. Melisa constantly attends webinars and trainings to be current with the constant changes in immigration law. She has demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of the U visa, Violence Against Women Act benefits and Family Reunification Immigration Law. Her extensive knowledge gives her the ability to explain this complex process to clients in a simple and straightforward manner. Melisa has collaborated on and given presentations on different immigration issues to different groups, promoting the presence of the Catholic Charities Immigration Program in the community and working with other legal service providers. The Immigration and Naturalization Program appreciates Melisa's 15 years of service, work and dedication.

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    Hassan Al Zuheiri

    10 Years of Service
    Catholic Charities of Dallas

    Hassan has been a case manager with Catholic Charities of Dallas for 10 years. His knowledge on refugee cases, family immigration and consular process has helped their team become stronger. He is always willing to train other team members and mentor students and interns. CC Dalas is very grateful for his contributions to their program.

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    Jessica Bernal

    10 Years of Service
    Catholic Charities of Omaha

    Jessica has been with Catholic Charities of Omaha since 2010. Jessica started as the program outreach manager/administrative assistant and worked her way up to her current position. She currently supervises not only the Immigration Legal Services program, but also the Microbusiness and Emergency Support Services programs. She has been a great asset to Catholic Charities by always implementing new innovative ideas. She had the idea of creating a mobile immigration office and made it a reality. This mobile unit has helped expand immigration services to rural Nebraska, where there is limited access to legal representation. As the daughter of immigrants, she is passionate about educating immigrants on their rights and helping them understand what benefits they are eligible for.

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    Grisell Herrera

    10 Years of Service
    Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors

    Grisell began at Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors as the administrative assistant and office manager in 2009. She kept the office open and functioning for years. In 2016, Iowa JFON finally became a DOJ recognized organization, and Grisell and her colleague Laura Mendoza became our first ever DOJ Accredited Representatives. Currently, Grisell spends the majority of her time coordinating Iowa JFON’s U.S. CIS Naturalization grant project, representing over 100 naturalization clients a year, as well as their DACA renewals and other occasional cases from work permit renewals to complex U-visa adjustments of status. Grisell is hard-working, extremely attentive to detail and passionate about her work at Iowa JFON.

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    Cassy Pierre

    10 Years of Service
    Catholic Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami, Inc.

    Cassy is a motivated immigration professional. He has been with Catholic Legal Services since January 2010. He started as a volunteer by helping mostly with the Temporary Protected Status for Haiti, immediately following the devastating earthquake that occurred in Haiti, and became a staff member on March 1, 2010. He currently serves as a senior paralegal. He is one of the most knowledgeable staff in the office. He is responsible and is committed in providing immigration services to the South Florida refugee and immigrant community.

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    Gloria Renteria

    10 Years of Service
    Catholic Charities of Dallas

    Gloria is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to U Visas, VAWA and family immigration. She started as an immigration assistant and worked her way to program manager. Her kindness, customer service and passion for her work is in everything she does. Catholic Charities of Dallas is grateful for her contribution to their program and preparing DOJ representatives to be the best client advocates.

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    Cassandra Suprin

    10 Years of Service
    Catholic Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami, Inc.

    Cassandra has been a staff attorney at Catholic Legal Services since January 2010. She is currently one of the managing attorneys at CLS. She is committed in providing immigration services to South Florida’s immigrant population. Cassandra’s experience includes: representing foreign nationals in immigration court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, known as BIA, and USCIS. Cassandra received her Juris Doctor from Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H. She is in good standing with the Florida Bar and is fluent in English, French and Haitian Creole.

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    Michael Abdoveis

    5 Years of Service
    Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma

    Michael Abdoveis is deeply committed to his clients. He is a zealous advocate for his asylum, withholding, and unaccompanied minor clients; but what truly makes him excellent is his ever-present patience and kindness. Michael is an example to his colleagues for going the extra mile with the client to ensure a successful outcome.

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    Evelin Chiquin Sosa

    5 Years of Service
    Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma

    Evelin is the person you want on your team. She handles a full caseload while also being ready to help a colleague at the drop of a hat. Evelin is a role model for all at Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma on how to serve clients and each other with a servant's heart.

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    Nonna Coager

    5 Years of Service
    Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma

    Nonna is the most exacting and persistent team member. She thoroughly researches every issue and prepares every client to ensure each immigrant she represents obtains the benefit they are eligible for.

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    Gracia Cuzz

    5 Years of Service
    Catholic Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami, Inc.

    Gracia joined Catholic Legal Services in 2014 to serve their youngest clients and to address the surge of unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern border facing imminent deportation. Her passion for immigrants’ rights stems from various work experiences touching upon culturally sensitive human rights issues, such as monitoring trials for due process violations in Namibia and migrants’ rights work in Mexico. Locally, Gracia helped to represent and organize domestic workers who were victims of human trafficking and other crimes. Gracia earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami and was a member of the Public Interest Leadership Board and the Human Rights Clinic. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the George Washington University in international affairs, with a focus on Latin American studies. Gracia was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2013.

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    Onel Joseph

    5 Years of Service
    Catholic Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami, Inc.

    Onel joined the Catholic Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami, Inc. in 2014 as a paralegal. He assists their clients with a broad range of immigration needs. He is very passionate about helping their clients. He has been providing services both in office locations and during outreach at partnering shelters helping mostly mentally disabled immigrants. Onel also provides interpretation and translation services. His educational background includes a Modern degree from the State University of Haiti, a Bachelor of Arts in finance and a Master of Science in higher education administration from Florida University.

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    Vanessa Joseph

    5 Years of Service
    Catholic Legal Services, Archdiocese of Miami, Inc.

    Vanessa is an immigration attorney who has been with Catholic Legal Services, Inc. since 2015. Initially, Vanessa’s work was primarily based on providing pro se legal assistance to detainees. Through her work in the detention centers, she has provided these services to thousands of men and women through group and individual orientations and self-help workshops. Today, as a supervising attorney, she continues to provide legal services to vulnerable populations. Vanessa’s current focus is assisting eligible lawful permanent residents to become U.S. citizens.

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    Laura Mendoza

    5 Years of Service
    Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors

    Laura has been a DOJ-accredited for about three years and has been providing direct service to victims of crimes in the state of Iowa through Iowa Justice For Our neighbors for five years.

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    Maria Cristine Muratalla

    5 Years of Service
    Catholic Charities of Dallas

    Cristine started as an immigration assistant and has worked her way to an accredited representative. She has great client relations and always helps in anything the Catholic Charities of Dallas needs assistance with. She is a team player and a very strong case manager.

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    Sister Joan Scheller, OSB

    5 Years of Service
    Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana

    Sister Joan has served the immigrants in her area for 10 years! She started with the Catholic Diocese of Evansville in 2009 and began the Immigration Outreach Office at her monastery in 2015. She has been diligent in staying educated in immigration law in order to serve her clients well and has been a dedicated immigration advocate, in particular with the large Latino population of her area.

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    Sister Michelle Sinkhorn, OSB

    5 Years of Service
    Sisters of St. Benedict of Ferdinand, Indiana

    Sister Michelle has volunteered for many years in immigration work as an administrative assistant. When her monastery opened an immigration outreach office, she became accredited with the DOJ to help some of their English-speaking clients with immigration processes. While she has a full time job in technology, Sister Michelle is happy to share her gifts in the office and with the people.