Michele Jenness, Executive Director
Michele Jenness is the Executive Director at Vermont Immigration and Asylum Advocates. She works with asylum seekers, detained immigrants in removal proceedings and noncitizens facing criminal charges that may have immigration consequences, as well as providing general immigration legal assistance. She is a fully accredited representative under the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Erin Jacobsen, Lead Staff Attorney
Erin Jacobsen is the lead staff attorney at Vermont Immigration and Asylum Advocates. Erin graduated cum laude from Vermont Law School in May of 2011. Prior to her work at VIAA, Erin worked with criminal defendants and with women transitioning from prison. Erin lives in Norwich, Vermont with her husband and two young children.
Board of Directors:
Larry Mires, President
Larry is the Administrative Officer at the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, overseeing the agency’s grants program, personnel and daily operations. He is a founding incorporator and former board member of the Vermont Community Loan Fund and Central Vermont Community Land Trust. Previously he served as manager and then board member of the Hunger Mountain Coop. Larry graduated from UCLA with a BA in Zoology, and went directly into environmental and nonprofit work, focusing on administration and financial management.
Rick Woods, Treasurer
Rick taught geography, history, law and current affairs at Mt. Abraham and Vergennes Union High Schools and the Chittenden County Correctional Center. He also spent 14 years working at Seven Days Newspaper as Sales & Circulation Manager and General Manager. Before joining the Board of Directors in 2003, Rick was an active VIAA volunteer for five years.
Art is one of four experienced attorneys who supervise the South Royalton Legal Clinic’s student clinicians. He specializes in immigration law, domestic violence law, family law, landlord-tenant law, and poverty law. He teaches the immigration law course at Vermont Law School. He is the Project Coordinator for Vermont Immigrant Assistance (VIA) which was established in 2003 to protect the rights of immigrants in domestic violence, human rights, and general civil rights in critical immigration procedures. VIA provides pro bono legal services in behalf of low-income immigrants and refugees.
Judy is a nurse, mostly retired but still involved with refugee families through the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle County. She is also active in the United Methodist Church Board of Global Ministries as refugee information advocate and serves on the Interpreter Task Force of Chittenden County.
Cassandra LaRae-Perez is an attorney at Primmer Piper Eggleston & Cramer PC, and concentrates her practice in the areas of litigation, telecommunications regulation, insurance, and government relations. In addition to her regular practice, Cassandra represents asylum seekers on a low fee or pro bono basis. Cassandra graduated magna cum laude from U.C. San Diego in 1991 and cum laude from Boston University School of Law in 2002, where she served as an editor of the Boston University International Law Journal, worked as a research assistant to refugee and asylum law scholar Associate Professor Susan Akram, and represented asylum seekers under the auspices of the Boston University Civil Litigation Clinic. She was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 2002, the Vermont Bar in 2003, and the New Hampshire Bar in 2009. In 2010, Boston University School of Law recognized Cassandra's commitment to pro bono legal services by honoring her with the Victor J. Caro Public Service Award.
Deb is a family nurse practitioner with a Master’s degree in International Public Health from Harvard. Her experience includes providing medical care for urban immigrants and refugees in Seattle and Boston from 1986 to 1994 and, since 1994, working with refugees and internally displaced persons in countries in conflict and post-conflict. She now works with Doctors Without Borders in medical humanitarian relief, and is currently launching an organization, Global Health Media Project, that aims to produce clinical videos for health workers in developing countries.
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