Mission & History
Founded in 1969 by Latino law students from Boalt Hall at UC Berkeley, Centro Legal de la Raza is a comprehensive legal services agency protecting and advancing the rights of immigrant, low-income and Latino communities through bilingual legal representation, education, and advocacy.
By combining quality legal services with know-your-rights education and youth development, we promote access to justice for thousands of individuals and families each year throughout the East Bay region of Northern California.
Please note, Bianca Sierra Wolff will be on maternity leave from April through October 2013. Jesse Newmark will be the Interim Executive Director during this time.
Bianca has worked at Centro Legal de la Raza since 2008 and was named Executive Director in April of 2009. Bianca holds a law degree from Stanford Law School and a BA in International Relations from Stanford University. In law school, Bianca participated in the education, immigration, and civil rights legal clinics and interned at two Bay Area legal service non-profit agencies, Public Advocates and La Raza Centro Legal. In addition, she served as co-chair of the Stanford Latino Law Students Association. Prior to joining Centro Legal de la Raza, Bianca worked as a corporate associate, first at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP and then at Cooley Godward Kronish LLP. Although her practice focused on mergers and acquisitions and venture capital financings, Bianca remained committed to social justice issues. Her pro bono work included obtaining asylum in the United States for a Tibetan monk and advising a non-profit organization that provides micro-enterprise grants to women in Africa. Bianca is a member of the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Northern California.
Sylvia grew up in the Imperial Valley in Calipatria, California. She is the daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico, and a first generation college student. She is attending Berkeley City College working on her undergraduate courses. She was a care provider for her grandparents and is interested in medical school. Sylvia enjoys working for Centro Legal because she loves to help people.
Philip Frickey Public Interest Immigration Fellow
Magdalena works in Centro Legal’s Immigration Program, working on issues of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, prosecutorial discretion, detention, and relief for victims of violent crimes. She is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law with a passion for immigrants’ and workers’ rights. She represented clients at unemployment hearings and settlement conferences with the East Bay Workers’ Rights Clinic, and has also worked with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, The Legal Aid Society – Employment Law Center, and the East Bay Community Law Center. Magdalena is originally from Southern California where she worked as a paralegal at MALDEF after earning her undergraduate degree from Stanford University in Political Science and Spanish Literature.
The Philip Frickey Public Interest Fellowship was created in honor of the late UC
Berkeley School of Law Professor Philip Frickey. The fellowship is part of a partnership between UC Berkeley School of Law and Centro Legal.
Information & Resource Specialist
Esmeralda was born and grew up in Lima, Peru. She was always interested in working with people, especially people who need help. In college, she studied Humanities and Social Sciences and got her degree in Sociology. She was also a volunteer for several years with a Catholic organization in Peru that helps infants and children who are orphans and who are infected with HIV. Being a Peruvian immigrant, Esmeralda has felt proud and happy to work at Centro Legal de la Raza since 2003. Esmeralda believes that this job helps her to better understand and appreciate who she is as a person and what she really wants to do in the United States. She is encouraged to continue her education and continue helping our community. Indeed, from working at Centro Legal de la Raza, she has learned that “in this country we have the freedom to exercise our rights in spite of the fact that many of us may come from a country in which often there is a lack of ability to exercise or enforce your rights.”
Kyra oversees Centro Legal’s immigration program and provides direct representation to individuals and families. Prior to joining Centro Legal, Kyra worked at the law firm of Kirkland & Ellis in San Francisco. Although her practice focused on transactional law, she devoted a large portion of her time to pro bono cases and received the Kirkland & Ellis Pro Bono Service Award in 2009. Kyra graduated from Boalt Hall School of Law in 2006. Prior to and during law school Kyra remained committed to social justice issues, particularly refugee rights. She has worked as research fellow at the International Criminal Court and a court monitor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Martina I. Cucullu Lim
Martina coordinates Centro Legal’s Healing with Justice Program, aimed at providing legal assistance to survivors of sexual assault, and works with the housing team to provide legal advice and representation on housing related matters. Martina graduated from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, during which time she interned at the Bronx Defenders, focusing on the effects of criminal convictions on immigration status. After law school, Martina worked in New York City defending clients in death-penalty-eligible cases as well as assisting clients in immigration-related matters. More recently, Martina worked at a general civil litigation defense firm in California. Prior to entering law school, she worked as a paralegal at Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett in New York City, during which time she assisted in a political asylum application and provided assistance to abused women, enabling them to obtain divorces from their spouses.
Nadia Macias works in Centro legal’s immigration program, providing services in naturalization, deportation, detention, and relief for victims of violent crimes. Nadia was born and raised in Oakland, California. She obtained her BA from UC Berkeley, where she majored in Political Economy of Industrial Societies and minored in Spanish. As an undergraduate, she volunteered at Centro Legal’s immigration clinic. Before attending law school, Nadia worked at what was formerly the Alameda County Public Defender’s Dependency Division as a legal assistant for attorneys representing foster children. As a law student at UC Berkeley School of Law, Nadia participated in asylum and international human rights clinics. She also volunteered at Centro Legal’s workers’ rights clinic and was involved in the La Raza Law Students Association.
Development & Communications Coordinator
Jennifer is thrilled to be part of Centro Legal, and working for justice with an amazing group of staff and volunteers. Jennifer has done grassroots fundraising for California Peace Action, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), San Francisco Women Against Rape, and in support of the legal team defending the rights of families impacted by the femicides in Chihuahua, Mexico. As an Americorps volunteer, she led environmental education projects for youth and volunteers in Fruitvale, and at St. Elizabeth Elementary School. She became involved in the immigrant and day labor communities in Oakland while co-teaching ecological landscaping classes to day laborers, and co-organizing a worker owned cooperative for former day laborers.
Jesse M. Newmark
Interim Executive Director & Staff Attorney
Jesse is incredibly happy to be back helping at Centro Legal. Jesse first worked at Centro as a Skadden Fellow and Interim Legal Services Director, from 2007 to 2009. As a Centro Legal attorney, Jesse practiced in the areas of housing, immigration, and employment law. Jesse also taught an introductory law class and ran a site-based legal clinic at Melrose Leadership Academy, a public junior high school in East Oakland. Since graduating from Harvard Law School in 2006, Jesse has completed federal trial and appellate court clerkships on the Ninth Circuit, for Judges Dean D. Pregerson and Richard A. Paez. Jesse also worked as a Neighborhood Law Attorney for the City of Oakland, bringing lawsuits on behalf of tenants living in substandard housing and immigrant victims of fraud. Prior to law school, Jesse worked as a teacher, social worker, and factory worker in Oakland, Fremont, and his hometown of Tucson, Arizona.
Legal Services Director
Patricia joined Centro Legal’s staff in 2008. A daughter of Mexican immigrants, Patricia has worked extensively with underrepresented communities throughout her academic and professional careers. As a law student from 2003 to 2005, she was a volunteer for Centro Legal’s Workers’ Rights Clinic. Patricia previously worked at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., DLA Piper US LLP, and the Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County. Patricia oversees Centro Legal’s housing and employment practices. She earned her JD from UC Berkeley School of Law and her Masters degree in Public Policy from UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.
Derek is an attorney working with Centro Legal’s housing practice. He is a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law, where he worked with the East Bay Community Law Center and the International Human Rights Clinic. Prior to joining Centro Legal, Derek served as a fellow with Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection Program in Washington, D.C., and completed a clerkship with the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Program Director, Youth Law Academy
Juan oversees and coordinates all aspects of the Youth Law Academy, which now has 39 high school and 25 college student participants. His previous experience includes working as a counselor at Castlemont High School in Oakland and the Assistant Director of Enrollment Development at Cal State East Bay. Juan received a Masters in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State in May 2010 and a BA in Ethnic Studies from UC Riverside in 2001.
Alan has broad legal and management experience spanning over 20 years, as a partner in a law firm, federal government attorney, and company executive responsible for legal and regulatory affairs. He formerly served as Legal Advisor to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. Alan joined Centro in 2006 as an attorney volunteer and started our consumer protection clinic. In 2008 he became Of Counsel to Centro while continuing to run the consumer protection clinic. Alan earned his law degree from the University of California, Hastings College of Law, and his undergraduate degrees from the University of California, Berkeley. He is a recipient of the Legal Aid Association of California 2007 Award of Merit for his work in consumer protection.
Board of Directors
Alexis Amezcua, Morrison & Foerster LLP
Paul Chavez, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights
Lupe De Los Santos, The Clorox Company
Juan Galvan, Chapman & Cutler LLP
Arnoldo Garcia, United for Success Academy
Sonia Gonzales, California Bar Foundation
Timothy Griffiths, Legal Services of Northern California
Frank Martin, Standard Pacific Capital, LLC
Albert Moreno, Levi Strauss & Co.
Rosanna M. Neagle, Dreyer’s Grand Ice Cream, Inc.
Maria Sager, Boxer & Gerson, LLP
Stephen Taylor, Taylor & Company Law Offices, LLP
Youth Law Academy Advisory Board
Jose Arredondo, Educator
Hon. Jacob Blea III
Hon. Cecilia Castellanos
Lucia Corral Peña, Corral & Associates
Hon. Leo Dorado
Frank Fernandez, Kazan, McClain, Abrams, Fernandez, Lyons, Greenwood, Harley & Oberman
Felix Galaviz, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Noel Gallo, Oakland Unified School District
Romeo Garcia, Peralta Colleges Foundation
Arturo Gonzalez, Morrison & Foerster
Hon. Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers
Congresswoman Barbara Lee
Imelda Lopez , Youth Law Academy Graduate
Leo P. Martinez, UC Hastings College of Law
Beatriz Mejia, Cooley LLP
Hon. Cruz Reynoso
Hon. Frank Roesch
David Silver, College Track
Rodrigo Sandoval, Youth Law Academy Graduate
Delia Trevino, District Attorney Office of Alameda County
Hon. Carlos Ynostroza
Maya Ynostroza, District Attorney Office of Alameda County