Immigrant justice fund Senior leadership

Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director

Marielena Hincapié is the executive director of the NILC Immigrant Justice Fund. She is highly respected for her legal and political strategies and is seen as a bridge builder within the immigrants’ rights field as well as across broader social justice sectors.

Fully bilingual and bicultural, Ms. Hincapié serves as a resource and is often interviewed by media outlets such as Univisión, Telemundo, CNN en Español, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. She also is a frequent lecturer at national and international conferences, addressing issues of migration, and she works closely with emerging leaders in the social justice movement.

Ms. Hincapié previously worked for the Legal Aid Society of San Francisco’s Employment Law Center, where she founded the center’s Immigrant Workers’ Rights Project. She holds a juris doctor degree from Northeastern University School of Law, served on the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration, and is currently a member of the Jobs with Justice and Welcome.US boards of directors.

Among the awards Ms. Hincapié has received are Univision’s Corazón Award for 2013, in honor of her commitment to the Latino community. The media company, which honors one organization and one individual each year, cited her leadership at the National Immigration Law Center as a key reason she received the award. In 2014, she received the Latina of Influence award from Hispanic Lifestyle, the National Public Service Award from Stanford Law School, and was selected as a Prime Mover Fellow by the Hunt Alternatives Fund. She also recently served as the Northeastern University School of Law Daynard Distinguished Visiting Fellow and the Practitioner-in-Residence at the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

Ms. Hincapié immigrated as a child from Medellín, Colombia, to Central Falls, Rhode Island. She is the youngest of 10 children. 

Follow Marielena on Twitter: @MarielenaNILC 

Marisa Aguayo, Senior Officer, Institutional Giving 

Marisa Aguayo has lead responsibility for developing and implementing institutional fundraising strategies, which involves securing support from foundations, law firms, unions, corporations, and other associations. She also plays a leadership role in crafting annual fundraising plans that ensure NILC IJF’s long-term sustainability. Prior to joining NILC in 2004, Marisa worked as a program director for the MultiCultural Collaborative, a social justice organization created after Los Angeles’ 1992 civil unrest. Prior to that, she was a development associate for El Rescate, a legal and social services agency serving immigrants in Los Angeles.

Nikki Alston, Director of Talent Management and Human Resources 

Nikki Alston oversees both NILC IJF’s talent management and HR functions. Nikki previously served as a Director of Talent Management and Director of Recruitment, supporting public schools in Washington, DC, and Baltimore, MD. During this time, she led initiatives to significantly increase staff retention over a three-year period and pioneered an “HR-for-All” program, in addition to developing a recruitment pipeline for aspiring school leaders. She is an HR professional and is certified by the Society for Human Resource Management. Prior to embarking on a career in human resources, Nikki served as an elementary school teacher. Nikki completed her undergraduate studies at Hampton University and Strayer University. She holds a master’s degree in Urban Education & Administration from Johns Hopkins University.

Jill Corral, Director of Finance & Administration 

Jill Corral is responsible for the fiscal management and administration of NILC IJF’s infrastructure, to ensure long-term sustainability, enhance quality programming, and build capacity. Ms. Corral has over fifteen years’ experience in business and financial planning leadership roles, specializing in business process improvement, financial governance and oversight, and operational efficiency. She holds an MBA from the University of San Diego.

Adela de la Torre, Communications Director

Adela de la Torre directs communication and media outreach efforts for NILC IJF. In this role, she works with others to conduct communications research and helps shape messaging for major legal and policy campaigns. Under her leadership, NILC IJF’s media presence has grown, and NILC IJF experts are now sought-after thought leaders who help shape the news. Adela joined NILC in 2009 as a communications specialist. Prior to joining NILC, she served as a media relations specialist for the George Washington University, where she earned her B.A. in International Affairs and her M.A. in Latin American Hemispheric Studies.

Belinda Escobosa Helzer, Interim Legal Director

Kamal Essaheb, Director of Policy & Advocacy

Kamal Essaheb directs NILC IJF’s federal, state, and local policy and advocacy work. He also engages in advocacy relating to access to legal status for immigrants, including implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Mr. Essaheb previously was a practicing immigration attorney at CUNY Citizenship Now, a nonprofit immigration legal services provider in New York City. He is a graduate of Fordham Law School, where he was a Stein Scholar in Public Interest Law and Ethics. He is an immigrant from Morocco and is fluent in Arabic.

Linton Joaquin, General Counsel

NILC IJF’s general counsel, Linton Joaquin, became NILC’s first general counsel in September 2008 after having served as NILC executive director since 2004. Prior to that, he was NILC’s legal director. In his 35-plus years of legal practice, Mr. Joaquin has gained national recognition for his expertise in immigration law and in litigation to preserve and promote immigrants’ legal rights. He has served as lead or principal counsel in numerous class action lawsuits, such as Walters v. Reno, requiring the Immigration and Naturalization Service to comply with due process in charging immigrants with civil document fraud; Orantes-Hernandez v. Meese, prohibiting the INS from coercing a nationwide class of Salvadoran refugees into abandoning their right to seek asylum, and requiring the agency to allow detained class members access to counsel and legal rights materials; and Perez-Funez v. District Director, enjoining the INS from having detained children waive their right to a hearing without first having access to legal advice. Prior to joining NILC in 1990, Mr. Joaquin served as executive director and director of litigation for the Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) in Los Angeles and staff attorney for the United Farm Workers of America, AFL-CIO. He also has taught immigration law on an adjunct basis at the University of Southern California Law School (1997) and Southwestern University School of Law (1991-1996). Mr. Joaquin holds a juris doctor degree from the University of California (Boalt Hall).

Tom Kam, Deputy Director, Development and Operations

Tom Kam oversees NILC IJF’s internal operations and special projects, and he helps lead strategic fundraising efforts. He also serves as a key member of NILC’s Senior Leadership Team. More than half of Tom’s career has been dedicated to serving immigrant and refugee communities. From 1997 to 2006, he had a leadership role in directing the Washington Area Partnership for Immigrants, a funder’s collaborative that served, and advocated on behalf of, immigrant communities across the Washington, DC, metropolitan region. As Vice President, Social Justice Programs, at the Arcus Foundation, and as Vice President, Strategy and External Affairs, at Asian Americans Advancing Justice - AAJC, he was responsible for strategic planning and the evaluation of critical initiatives. Tom is proud to be the son of an immigrant family from Panama. He was born in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and raised on more military bases than he cares to remember. He holds master’s degrees in Divinity and in Social Work.