Lam Nguyen Ho - Executive Director & Founder

Lam Nguyen Ho is the Executive Director of CALA (Community Activism Law Alliance), which he founded with a Harvard Law School Public Service Venture Fund seed grant.  He is currently an Echoing Green Global Fellow and will serve as a 2016-2017 Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow. 
Prior to founding CALA, he was a staff attorney at Equip for Equality, where he defended the civil rights of people with disabilities. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 2008, Lam joined Chicago’s Legal Assistance Foundation (LAF) through a Skadden Foundation Public Interest Fellowship. During his time at LAF, he established and ran 10 community-based clinics providing free legal services to youth and their families on the west side of Chicago. He experienced firsthand the challenges of community lawyering and civil legal services, and was inspired to innovatively confront these challenges through the creation of CALA. 
Lam has received awards for his public service work including the 13th Annual NALP/PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award; the Gary Bellow Public Service Award; the Maria, Gabriella, & Robert Skirnick Public Interest Fellowship; the HLS Dean’s Award for Community Leadership; the Kaufman Pro Bono Service Award; the Beinecke Scholarship; the Point Foundation Scholarship; the Sonnenschein Scholars Summer Public Interest Fellowship; the Lenn Thrower ’83 Memorial Fellowship for Research in Queer Studies; and the Chicago Volunteer Legal Services Volunteer Award.
At Harvard Law School, he was President of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau—the oldest student-run legal services organization in the country; was an editor for the Harvard Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review; and completed over 3000 hours of pro bono legal services. He also worked as a research and teaching assistant to Professor Lucie White, helping Professor White to create a new, community-lawyering focused curriculum for Harvard's Poverty Law course. He holds additional graduate degrees from Brown University, where he completed its 4-year combined M.A./A.B. program, and the University of Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar and Sub-Dean of Wadham College. He was previously Chairperson of the HIV/AIDS Response Review Panel for the State of Illinois. He serves on the Advisory Committee for the Law Project, which provides pro bono transactional legal services needed to strengthen Chicago communities.


Deanne Medina - Director of Legal Services


Deanne Medina comes to CALA with 16 years of federal and state litigation experience, including jury trials and appeals.
Prior to working for CALA, Deanne worked as a Supervising Attorney at LAF and before that was in private practice.  While at LAF, Deanne ran the William J. Hibbler Pro Se Assistance Program, providing help to hundreds of pro se litigants in the areas of employment, police brutality, foreclosure defense, and contract disputes, among other areas.  She later supervised the newly formed Home and Community Ombudsman Project for suburban Cook and Lake Counties while at LAF.  
In private practice, Deanne and her former law partner were able to obtain a $4.2 million dollar verdict in a single plaintiff national origin and religious discrimination case against a large auto manufacturing company in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District.  She and her former partner also secured a $400,000 verdict in a sexual harassment case, also in the Northern District.  They also hold the first plaintiff’s side victory under the Illinois Victim’s Economic Safety and Security Act (which pertains to victims of domestic violence) which was heard at the Illinois Department of Labor.  Deanne has also settled hundreds of cases to her client’s satisfaction.  
Deanne received her J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in Chicago and her B.A. from Muskingum College in New Concord, OH.  
Deanne is licensed in Illinois, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern and Central Districts of Illinois and in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Deanne is also a member of the Northern District Trial Bar.  She is an active member of both the national and Illinois chapters of the National Employment Lawyers Association, is a former member of the U.S. District Court’s Pro Bono Advisory Committee and has been a mentor attorney with the Chicago Bar Association. 
In her free time, Deanne enjoys advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities as well as musical theater, reading, cooking, hanging out with her family and her dog and walking.  

Antonio Gutierrez- Director of Programs & Operations

Antonio Gutierrez is a queer latinx immigrant from Guadalajara, Mexico. Antonio has lived in Chicago for 16 years after immigrating to the United States to reunite with family members. Antonio is a graduate from the Illinois Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s of Architecture (B.Arch.). 

After graduation in 2012, Antonio joined the immigrant rights movement as an organizer with the Immigrant Youth Justice League (IYJL), an undocumented-led organization formed in 2009. Since 2012 Antonio has collectively organized rallies such as the national coming out of the shadows rally, fundraising events, mass marches, national retreats, and civil disobediences.

Antonio currently volunteers as a tenant organizer with the Autonomous Tenants Union (ATU), as a member of the steering committee of Organized Communities Against Deportation (OCAD), and a board member of the steering committee for the Right to the City National Alliance. 

Perla Tirado - Senior Staff Attorney


A native of Chicago, Perla Tirado is a graduate of Boston College in Massachusetts with a B.A. in Philosophy and Theology and a concentration in Faith, Peace, and Justice Studies. After graduating from College in 1998, Perla decided to volunteer for one year as a teacher for the Archdiocese of Boston. 

Upon her return to Chicago, she began working at Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, a residential facility, as a youth advocate and a case manager with youth who were considered “at risk.” As part of a life-long dream she held, Perla enrolled in law school and went on to graduate from DePaul University College of Law, in Chicago, where she obtained her Juris Doctor and a certificate in International Human Rights Law. While she was in law school, Perla travelled several times to Chiapas, Mexico as a human rights advocate and worked with several NGO’s in the region who serviced the indigenous population of Chiapas. In her second year of law school, Perla was chosen as a Sullivan Fellow for the International Human Rights Law Institute at DePaul. Perla also interned at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica, where she was able to assist lawyers and judges in all aspects of cases pending before the Court. Lastly, Perla interned at the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender where, under a special license, she represented clients charged with felony cases, under the supervision of practicing attorneys. 

Perla was later hired as an Assistant Public Defender in Cook County and worked primarily in the Traffic Unit and Domestic Violence Division. A few years later, Perla would go on to open her own law office and focused her work primarily in Criminal Defense and Traffic Law. Finding that several of her clients were faced with severe immigration consequences as a result of their criminal arrests, Perla began working Immigration Law and now also helps families stay together by filing family-based petitions, Waivers, DACA petitions, VAWA and U Visas, and also represents clients in court facing deportation.

Perla is passionate about advocating for the rights of her clients and serving as their voice in a court system that is very difficult to navigate. She believes that everyone deserves to be treated with fairness and dignity no matter what charges they are facing in court or what their legal status may be. She is passionate about social justice issues and believes that with compassion, hard work, and creativity, it is possible to change the world for the better. Perla Tirado - Staff Attorney

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Bindhu Vijayan - Senior Immigration Attorney


Bindhu joined CALA as Senior Immigration Attorney in November of 2017. Bindhu comes to CALA with over a decade of experience in the area of immigration law.  Bindhu’s experiences span across both the for-profit and non-profit sectors.  After law school, she joined private practices specializing in immigration law.  She gained invaluable experience in family-based immigration matters, citizenship and naturalization, employment matters, as well as defending individuals in removal or deportation proceedings before the Immigration Courts throughout the United States.  During law school, Bindhu was affiliated with her law school’s Poverty Law Clinic and interned with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, New York Legal Assistance Group, and Legal Services of New York  - Legal Support Unit. 

Bindhu obtained a Juris Doctor from New York Law School in 2006 and Bachelor of Science from Loyola University of Chicago in 2003.   She was a NYLS Public Interest Fellow, Joseph Solomon Public Service Fellow, was a recipient of the Dean’s Merit Scholarship and Alumni Association Scholarship, and president of the South Asian Law Students Association at NYLS. 

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Adriana Ballines - Staff Attorney


Adriana Ballines obtained her J.D. from Loyola Chicago School of Law in 2014, where she obtained a certificate in public interest.  At Loyola, she was an articles editor and staff writer for Loyola’s Public Interest Law Reporter, where she wrote about the problematic privatization of immigration detention facilities. She also served as a student attorney with Loyola’s Civitas ChildLaw Clinic, where she represented two unaccompanied children who had fled dangerous conditions in their home countries.  During law school, Adriana also interned with Chicago’s Legal Assistance Foundation, representing domestic violence victims and farm-workers; the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City, providing legal support in federal civil rights lawsuits; and with Loyola’s Health Justice Project, representing low income individuals with health-related legal issues. Before starting at CALA, Adriana represented unaccompanied children in removal proceedings as an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Justice Fellow.  She also represented asylum seekers in immigration detention as a Public Interest Legal Fellow with the National Immigrant Justice Center. Adriana is a native Spanish speaker and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

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Carlos Cisneros Vilchis- Staff Attorney

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Carlos is very excited to be joining CALA! Carlos has recently graduated from Notre Dame Law School in 2017. While in Law School, Carlos interned with the Chicago Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in their Law Project, which sought to incorporate and assist burgeoning community nonprofit and for profit organizations. Additionally, Carlos took part in the Economic Justice Clinic at Notre Dame, where he took several cases related to client's financial health. Lastly, Carlos interned with the National Immigrant Justice Center, where he helped draft and represent a woman and her son fleeing violence from Central America and to seek asylum in the US.

Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, Carlos is a native Spanish speaker, and he has interpreted and translated documents and proceedings in immigration hearings. As an immigrant himself, Carlos is passionate about helping the immigrant community in Chicago and in the US find a voice and to help organize them to avoid falling into any predatory business practice.

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Claudia Benz - Executive Assistant


Claudia is a fourth year at the University of Chicago studying public policy with a specialization in youth policy. She is excited to be working at CALA as Lam's executive assistant after spending the summer as an operations volunteer. Outside of CALA, Claudia is the president of UChicago Women in Law, a Teach for America campus ambassador, a research assistant in the University of Chicago's department of Comparative Human Development, and a teacher of an after school art club at an elementary school in Hyde Park. She is spending also her senior year working on her B.A. thesis, in which she hopes to study the availability of mental health services for girls in Cook County's foster care system. Claudia will be teaching in Chicago-NW Indiana with Teach for America next year, and hopes to one day attend law school. 



Dominique Marbley - Intake Coordinator

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Dominique Marbley was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and raised in Lubbock, Texas.  Dominique moved to Chicago in February 2017 to be a part of the movement to help advance social justice and equity. She joined CALA through an apprenticeship provided by Pubic Allies, an AmeriCorps program. Prior to moving to Chicago, Dominique, completed her undergraduate degree from Wayland Baptist University with a Bachelor of Arts and Science in Human Services.

Dominique's passion to help individuals became prevalent at the age of 10, when she volunteered at an event with her mother to help improve the conditions of an underserved community. She believes in equality for all and is dedicated to serving individuals in neglected communities by helping them gain access to resources that can help them end the cycle of poverty.

Before CALA, Dominique, worked at CRCL, a non-profit in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. The Carole Robertson Learning Center is a multicultural, community-based, family development organization providing quality programs to Chicago’s west side.

For Dominique, helping others is more of a calling and not just a career choice. She has spent time volunteering with the Girl Scouts of America, Space to Grow, Institute of Cultural Affairs, East Side Neighborhood clean-up of Lubbock, The Lauro Cavazos & Ophelia Powell-Malone Mentoring Program of Texas Tech University, U-can Share Food Drive, Family, Career and Community leaders of America and local elementary schools in her home town. She is also a member of the Honor Society.

In her spare time, she enjoys learning about various cultures and embraces multiculturalism. Dominique believes that culture needs to be discussed more often and that diversity & inclusion are dire to keep culture alive. She also enjoys cooking new recipes, reading about systemic racism, gender, pop culture and self-care. She often spends time doing craft activities with her two gifted and talented nieces, Ryann and Maya. 



Eric Frank - Helpline Coordinator

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Eric Frank graduated magna cum laude from Duquesne University School of Law. While Studying at Duquesne he participated in its trial advocacy program, earned distinction for outstanding oral argument, and served as a Senior Staff Member for the Duquesne law Review. Mr. Frank has worked in the field of immigraiton law for over four years and has extensive experience in all aspects of GIA's practice, includin family, business, and global immigration. Since April 2014 he has served in the positions of Director of Legal and Director of Business Operations, where he oversees the day-to-day operation of Global Immigration Associates, P.C. 


Emily Velazquez - Administrative Assistant of Operations

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Originally from the Detroit, Michigan area, Emily Velazquez moved to Chicago to begin her studies for a Master's in Public Policy at Loyola University Chicago in the Fall of 2016. At the same time she started at CALA as a long term volunteer. She helped with development and fundraising tasks for almost a year before transitioning to her current role on staff as the Administrative Assistant of Operations. She now aides in all operational tasks as well as oversees all operational volunteers and interns that come through CALA.

Prior to coming to Chicago, Emily obtained her Bachelors of Arts from Capital University in Political Science with Honors. She then went on to spend a year volunteering in Guatemala City, Guatemala at an orphanage/board school working in the administration office. Currently, she is finishing up her graduate studies and will receive her MPP in the Spring of 2018.


Gregory Wyckoff - General Counsel

Gregory Wyckoff is an attorney providing intellectual property litigation and counseling services for clients in the technology and media industries, with an emphasis on patent and copyright matters. Mr. Wyckoff has represented clients in matters involving a variety of complex technologies, including content delivery networks, telecommunications, consumer electronics and social media systems.  These cases have spanned U.S. District Courts throughout the country, the International Trade Commission and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  Mr. Wyckoff earned a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a M.Sc. with distinction in Economic History from the London School of Economics and Political Science.  He also holds a B.Sc. in Computer Science and B.A. in Economics from Brown University, magna com laude with highest honors.


Hanan Van Dril – Staff Attorney

Hanan comes to CALA after three years in private practice, where she litigated civil rights cases in federal and state court.  Hanan graduated from the Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2014 (J.D., magna cum laude) and from the University of California at Berkeley in 2009 (B.A. in English Literature). Prior to law school, Hanan spent two years as an elementary and language arts teacher in San Jose, CA.  During law school, Hanan served as an Editor of her school’s Law Review and as a Teaching Assistant for Legal Writing and Criminal Law. In the spring of 2013, Hanan served as a legal extern for the Honorable Matthew F. Kennelly, U.S. District Court Judge for the Northern District of Illinois. Hanan received the Justice John Paul Stevens Public Interest Fellowship in summer of 2013 for her work at the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. During law school, Hanan also worked for the Council on American-Islamic Relations and as a 711 clerk for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. As an attorney and a 711 clerk, Hanan has conducted numerous bench and jury trials and appeals.  Hanan is a Palestinian-American First-Generation immigrant and a native Arabic speaker.


Jesse Cordero - Lead Volunteer and Language Coordinator

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Jesse Cordero was born in Poncitlan Jalisco, Mexico and came to Chicago in 1973 when he was 7 years old. He was raised in Little Village, where he graduated from Harrison High School.  He attended the College of Automation, where he studied computer science. After graduation, he worked at Sinai Hospital as a computer operator.  From 1985-1997, he was also enlisted in the United States Air Force Reserves, from which he received an honorable discharge. He and his brother started a well-received Mexican restaurant called El Sombrero in Chicago Heights. In 2004, he obtained his commercial driver’s license and has been driving trucks since. He returned to Little Village in 2010, where he has been an active community member. Since April 2014, Jesse has been an active, invaluable member of CALA’s Enlace Community Activism-Law Clinic team. He is very excited to be a part of CALA to help his community access legal services that otherwise most residents could not afford, and is very appreciative for CALA’s contributions to Little Village. He is very happy to volunteer as much of his time as possible to this great cause.


Jessica Hernandez – Of Counsel

Jessica Hernández was born and raised in the borderland area of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas. As a first-generation American, daughter of Mexican immigrant parents, Jessica has a unique insight in the plight and struggles of the immigrant community. 

With a deep personal commitment to the community, she is dedicated to helping improve the lives of others both through providing legal services and volunteering with charitable organizations.

Before joining CALA, Jessica practiced in private firms based in El Paso, Texas and in Chicago where she practiced heavily in the fields of immigration and family law. Jessica earned her law degree from The Ohio State University and holds a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice from the University of Texas, El Paso. She has lived and traveled abroad extensively, and enjoys working with people of different cultures. As a law student, she studied comparative international law at University of Oxford in Oxford, England as well as human rights in Heredia, Costa Rica.


Karen Schweickart - In-House Counsel

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Karen Schweickart has served as legal advisor to top firms in the private sector for the past fifteen years.  She started her legal career at Kirkland & Ellis where she practiced for five years before moving in-house to Citadel LLC.  She worked at Citadel for nine years, rising to Deputy General Counsel, before leaving to be Senior Vice President and Head of Legal at Outcome Health.  She has a passion for problem-solving and helping organizations address legal issues in an efficient, ethical and practical manner. Karen is also deeply committed to empowering communities and advancing social change.   She serves on the board of Urban Initiatives, a non-profit which serves 17,000 children in Chicago’s low-income public schools. She was also selected to be a 2017 fellow with Leadership Greater Chicago, Chicago’s premier civic leadership organization.   Karen graduated with a B.A. in History from University of California Berkeley, Phi Beta Kappa and received her J.D. from the University of Chicago with honors where she was a Meacham Scholar and served on the Law Review.


Nick Bedenk- Staff Attorney

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Nick joined CALA in 2017 as a Staff Attorney through a public interest fellowship provided by the BOAF Program.  Prior to CALA, Nick started his career at First Defense Legal Aid where he provided free legal representation to persons in custody at Chicago Police stations and advocated for improvements to Chicago Police Department policies. He also helped mobilize volunteer attorneys to assist in this movement.  While attending the University of Notre Dame Law School, Nick spent his time focused on issues related to civil rights and criminal justice.  Nick served as a Research Assistant to the Director of Notre Dame’s Center for Civil and Human Rights and interned at the St. Joseph County Public Defender’s Office. He also served on the board of student chapters of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild.  Nick graduated magna cum laude from DePaul University with a B.A. in Political Science.  


Saul Brand Padilla - Program Administrator

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Saul Brand Padilla was born in Mexico City and came to America when he was ten. He moved to Aurora, Illinois where he has lived until now. Saul is excited to join CALA as the Program Administrator where he is eager to expand his knowledge in legal aid and immigration law. His goal is to get his degree in nonprofit management, so he can continue to assist individuals who are negatively impacted by unjust systems.

In his freetime, Saul is a big fan of Rupaul's Drag Race. Also, Saul is very close with his family and can been seen spending the weekends back at home. Saul loves to travel and looks forward to one day visiting Italy and Spain.



Will Bloom- Staff Attorney

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Originally from Allentown, Pennsylvania, Will graduated from Yale Law School in 2017, and from Northwestern University with a B.A. in American Studies in 2013 (magna cum laude).  While in law school, he worked in the Workers and Immigrants Rights Advocacy Clinic, representing individuals in civil and immigration court and working with workers' centers, unions and immigrants' rights organizations in policy, advocacy, and strategic matters.  He was a cofounder of Yale Law School's chapter of the National Lawyer's Guild and co-president of the Yale Law School Chapter of the American Constitution Society.