KCDW Hosts Immigration 101: A Path Forward in Illinois, and Why it Matters: Panelists

Dr. Sandy Lopez, Director of the Undocumented Student Resource Ctr., Northern IL University
Moderator, Dr. Sandy López is currently the Director of the Undocumented Student Resource Center at NIU. She has served students, staff, faculty, and school business officials for over 30 years in many roles, including those of academic advisor, teaching consultant, administrator, and most importantly as a mentor and student advocate. Sandy is a board member of the Illinois Latino Council on Higher Education (ILACHE) and an active member of Welcoming Western Counties and the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights. She promotes a welcoming environment for all, providing people in need of assistance with the support and resources they need. Sandy has degrees in deaf education, instructional technology, and educational administration foundations.

Marlén Romero Garcia, Esq., Founder and Lead Attorney, Romero Immigration Law
Marlén Romero Garcia, Esq., is an immigration attorney for the Elgin YMCA. She is a member of the Chicago Chapter of American Immigration Lawyers and volunteers at nonprofit organizations that assist immigrants. Previously, Marlén worked as a community outreach counselor and then as an immigration counselor for Centro de Información in Elgin. During her work as a counselor, she realized her true passion was assisting immigrants as they traverse our complex immigration system. While attending law school at NIU, Marlén interned at the law offices of Shirley Sadjadi, the Chicago Immigration Court, and the Asylum Seeker Advocacy Project. Following graduation, she worked as a staff attorney for the National Immigrant Justice Center before working as an Associate Attorney at the law offices of Shirley Sadjadi.

Dianha Ortega-Ehreth, Executive Director of Centro de Información
Dianha Ortega-Ehreth has been the Executive Director of Centro de Información since August 2022. Centro de Información provides immigration information and community resources to families in need. Dianha has worked in non-profit positions for nearly 30 years, 13 of those years in Elgin, Illinois. Born in Mexico City, Dianha has also lived in North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Chicago before settling in Elgin. She has served on a number of boards and other leadership circles, including the Elgin Public Museum, Elgin Hispanic Network, City of Elgin Human Relations Commission, Concordia College Board of Regents, and the Lutheran World Federation. She is dedicated to lifelong learning and leadership development, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), and building strong teams and community partnerships in order to help Centro deliver excellence in its mission of serving those in need. Dianha graduated from Concordia College in Minnesota and is a 2011 graduate of the Elgin Area Leadership Academy.

Farah Chalisa, Human Rights Attorney and Activist
Farah Chalisa is a practicing attorney in Chicago, IL, who handles cases of employment discrimination and international human rights litigation. She also volunteers as a legal advisor for the nonprofit Empowering Women, where she assists on matters of immigration and domestic violence, and she serves on the boards of the Kisat Diabetes Organization (KDO) and the Human Development Foundation (HDF). Farah has dedicated her career to protecting the human and civil rights of marginalized communities. Farah received her JD from the University of Pennsylvania Law School, along with a Distinguished Pro Bono Service Award. She has graduate certificates in International Studies and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies.

Maya Piña, Director, Casa Michoacán, Elgin
Maya Piña is a cultural promoter, transgender activist, writer, editor, and graphic designer. She cofounded several past and present cultural and literary magazines in Chicago: Fe de erratas, zorros y erizos, Tropel, Contratiempo, and El BeiSmAn. Currently, Maya is the director at Casa Michoacán Elgin, a bi-national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the welfare, progress, and empowerment of the Latinx community. Casa Michoacán opened its fourth office in Elgin in December 2022 to meet the needs of the Latino community in the Cook and Kane counties region. It is an official Illinois Welcoming Center and has contributed to the community’s empowerment through mental health programs, photography workshops for youth, financial literacy information, ESL classes, and cultural events such as La Posada, the commemoration of International Women’s Day, art exhibitions, and a film club. Maya is also the Chair of the Chicago Latino Book Fair, and she propels the work of Xingona Mexican women in art, culture, and politics in the Chicago metro area.