The Immigration Project

Serving downstate Illinois with immigrant legal services.

Immigration Project Staff

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 Jasmine McGee, Executive Director/Senior Staff Attorney

In July 2014, Jasmine was promoted to Executive Director of the Immigration Project. She joined the agency in October 2011 as a staff attorney. She is a 2011 graduate of the University of New Mexico School of Law (cum laude) and was recognized by the faculty for her dedication to public interest law. While in law school, she interned with the following agencies: the Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services, representing individuals in removal proceedings; with the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, handling a wide array of immigration cases; with the Public Defender’s office, advising on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions; and with the District Attorney’s office, handling the prosecution of domestic violence and DUI cases.

Prior to entering law school, Jasmine worked to promote the rights of indigenous peoples worldwide.   For five years, she worked as the Communications and Development Specialist for Americans for Indian Opportunity, a Native American non-profit based in New Mexico.  She worked to create and promote a network of indigenous leaders, and traveled to Bolivia and New Zealand, to meet with other indigenous groups and leaders.

Jasmine lived for two years in Dublin, Ireland and holds a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin, and graduated from New York University with a Bachelor’s in Playwriting and Philosophy.

 

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Christine Howe, Capacity and Volunteer Development Director

Christine is a graduate of Illinois State University, with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Social Work, but considers her real education as coming from her pre-marriage career with The Navigators and as a missionary to tribal groups. On staff with New Tribes Mission in the 1980’s and 1990’s, she lived four years in the city of Chihuahua, Chihuahua, Mexico, and one year with the Pima Tribe in Maycoba, Sonora, Mexico, in an adobe home without electricity and water, getting to know them and studying their (Uto-Aztecan) language and culture in preparation for church planting.  After returning to the United States to marry and begin a family, she obtained a graduate level Certificate in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.  Once back in Bloomington, Illinois, Christine regularly volunteered with the Hispanic Outreach Program at Western Avenue Community Center while raising and home-schooling her young daughter and son, and became familiar with Immigration Project.

Since joining the staff in early 2008, she has fulfilled many roles, including 4 years as Citizenship Program Director.  In 2014 she was made an Honorary Member of the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society Sigma Delta Pi at Illinois Wesleyan University and was also nominated for the Corporate Law Pro Bono and Volunteer Award with State Farm Insurance Corporate Law Department.  Her current responsibilities are to expand capacity and infrastructure across the 86 counties IP serves and in the home office, primarily by building various teams and levels of volunteer support and agency collaborations.  With her daughter now at University and her son in the Army, Christine’s long-term goal is to return to the mission field.  When she has spare energy, she enjoys exegetical Bible study, tinkering in the garage and fixing things. “Even though immigration in and of itself is not my primary passion or forte, people are, and I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had through my job to help individuals and families advance in their well being.”

 

Rebekah Niblock, Staff Attorney

Staff Attorney Rebekah Niblock worked with immigrants through a variety of volunteer organizations while earning her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Romance Languages from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She taught English as a Second Language to immigrants who recently arrived to the community to help them integrate into society. Through listening to her students’ stories of wage discrimination and domestic abuse Rebekah learned of the many injustices and struggles that immigrants face on a daily basis.

Through her volunteer work, Rebekah saw a need for trustworthy representation in immigration cases and went to George Washington University Law School to become an immigration attorney. While in law school, she served as a student-attorney with her law school’s immigrant clinic where she represented asylum applicants and individuals in deportation and removal proceedings. Rebekah also worked with various immigrant legal services organizations in the D.C. metropolitan area, including the CAIR Coalition, AYUDA, and Catholic Charities. To enhance her international perspective, Rebekah studied abroad in Madrid, Spain with the William & Mary School of Law where she took courses in international human rights. She also interned abroad with a family law judge in Quito, Ecuador where she assisted in cases involving child abuse and neglect.

Rebekah joined the Immigration Project in December 2013. She currently manages the agency’s satellite office in Champaign where she is working to expand the organization’s capacity. Rebekah also supervises law students from the University of Illinois School of Law’s Domestic Violence Clinic on investigating and preparing applications for immigrants survivors of domestic violence.

 

CharlotteCharlotte Alvarez, Staff Attorney

Charlotte joined the Immigration Project in September 2014. Charlotte worked with immigrants through a variety of volunteer organizations while earning a B.A. in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis. She participated in an afterschool mentoring program for Hispanic children, tutored an African refugee in English to prepare her for her citizenship test, volunteered at naturalization clinics, and interned with Jobs with Justice where she helped plan political actions to push Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.

Charlotte saw a need for trustworthy representation in immigration cases and went to Harvard Law School to become an immigration attorney. While in law school Charlotte was a student attorney with the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau for two years where she litigated on behalf of individuals facing eviction and represented clients in social security disability and unemployment benefits appeals. She also interned with Asylum Access Ecuador in Quito, Ecuador and helped start a program with the Harvard Immigration Project that trained students to represent detained individuals in bond hearings and get them released from detention.

After law school Charlotte was the Legal Services Director at the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama for two years where she managed the Immigration & Access to Justice program and represented clients in naturalization, U visas, VAWA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and family-based immigration cases.

 

thaliawebpageThalia Novoa, Volunteer Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA

Thalia graduated from Illinois Weselyan University (cum laude) and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. As an undergraduate she studied abroad in Chile and Argentina where she researched best teaching methods for the Mapuche. Thalia was an intern for the Immigration Project in 2013 and again in 2016. It was this experience that caused her to want to be more involved in immigration as a means of giving back to her community. She is an advanced heritage speaker of Spanish.

Thalia will use her experience as a VISTA to shape her future academic and professional goals. She intends to either become an immigration attorney or pursue a Master of Arts in Immigration and Refugee Studies.

 

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Pete Tkach, Communications and Development AmeriCorps VISTA

Pete completed his Bachelor of Arts at James Madison University in 2015 with a double-major in Global Justice Studies and Political Science. During his time as an undergraduate, he focused heavily on international human rights and conflict resolution, and studied international justice institutions to those ends in Amsterdam and The Hague.

During his final semester as an undergraduate, Pete utilized his background in international human rights and U.S. politics as a Government Affairs intern with the Human Rights Campaign, where he helped lobby Congress for broader protections for the LGBTQ community. During this time, he was exposed to the numerous issues facing the LGBTQ immigrant community, as well as the challenges endured by the broader community of immigrants.

Pete will continue to pursue this passion for the immigrant community through his year of service through the VISTA program. Following his year of service, he plans to attend law school and focus on immigration law.

 

 

 

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