SDIRC Leadership

Dulce Garcia, Chair

Dulce Garcia grew up in Logan Heights, a community that is predominantly Mexican and Mexican-American. Dulce is undocumented and found it impossible to find financial aid after high school. So, she attended community college at night, and worked as a paralegal in a law office during the day. Oftentimes, she held other jobs including waitressing, parking cars, tutoring, selling flowers and retail. She paid her way through school, and subsequently transferred to the University of California San Diego where she received her bachelor's degree in Political Science. She attended law school at Cleveland Marshall College of Law where she received her Jurisprudence Doctorate with a concentration in Civil Litigation.

Dulce opened her private practice in 2016 and has provided hundreds of free consultations and dozens of Know Your Rights workshops to inform community members of their rights. She also volunteers to represent low-income clients in court in collaboration with the Mexican Consulate and various nonprofit organizations. In 2017 Dulce and other DACA recipients formed San Diego Border Dreamers to advocate for more humane immigration laws and policies. In September 2017, Dulce also sued Trump and the administration after the termination of DACA. As a result of those efforts in court, hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients are able to renew their DACA status while the case is in litigation. Dulce was in the Supreme Court on November 12, 2019 defending DACA.



Rev. Dr. Beth Johnson, Faith Representative (Unitarian Universalist Refugee and Immigrant Services and Education)

Rev. Dr. Beth Johnson has served as minister of Palomar UU Fellowship in Vista CA since 2004. As a minister, activist and public theologian, Dr. Johnson works on intersectional justice issues, including racial, immigration, and worker justice, as well as reproductive and environmental justice. She has served on the board of UURISE (Unitarian Universalist Refugee and Immigrant Services and Education) since 2011. She currently serves on the Interfaith Justice Coalition of Alliance San Diego, Faith Leaders for Reproductive Justice, and as convener for the Interfaith Coalition for Earth Justice. She also is on the California Coordinating Committee for the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Dr. Johnson is committed to sacred activism - linking spirituality and social change and bringing a moral voice to justice work. She organizes and participates in nonviolent direct action, and provides spiritual guidance for activists along with retreats and workshops called “Nurturing the Activist Spirit.” She received her Master of Divinity and Doctorate degrees from Claremont School of Theology. 


Ian M. Seruelo, Labor Representative (Asia Pacific American Labor Alliance – San Diego)

Ian M. Seruelo is an active member of the Asia Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) – San Diego Chapter, and has represented the Chapter in SDIRC for several years now. APALA, which is under the AFL-CIO, is a national organization of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that works to defend and advocate for the civil and human rights of immigrants and all people of color.

Ian is an activist and community organizer from the Philippines who migrated to the United States in 2005 to join his family in San Diego. Here in the US, he has been active in social and economic justice issues and campaigns. He is an advocate for victims of labor trafficking particularly those trafficked from the Philippines.

As an immigration and employment law attorney, Ian runs his own law firm and also works with different non-profits including the Pilipino Workers Center, the Somali Bantu Association of America, and has volunteered hundreds of hours to the Employee Rights Center, Alliance San Diego, and other organizations.


Maria Chavez, Legal Representative (American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) San Diego)

Maria C. Chavez is a partner at the boutique immigration law firm Jacobs & Schlesinger LLP in San Diego, CA.  She represents clients in a wide range of immigration matters including removal defense in immigration court, family-based petitions, and humanitarian remedies.  She frequently gives presentations in the community and volunteers with immigrant rights organizations throughout San Diego.


Paulina Reyes, Community Representative (Immigrant Defenders Law Center)

Paulina was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States with her parents and sisters at a young age. She was raised in Los Angeles County, where she completed her B.S. in Criminal Justice from Cal State Long Beach. Paulina worked in different nonprofit programs that provided legal services to the immigrant community. She also worked at the Immigration and Refugee Program at Catholic Charities of Los Angeles, where she built community relationships and a stronger interest in immigration law and policy. She then moved to San Diego to pursue a law degree at California Western School of Law.

Paulina is currently a Staff Attorney at Immigrant Defenders Law Center’s Cross-Border Initiative, providing pro bono representation to detained and non-detained adults and families in San Diego and Imperial Counties, as well as Know-Your-Rights presentations and legal consultations to asylum seekers forced to remain in Mexico.


Ismahan Abdullahi/Sagal Abdullahi, Community Representative (Muslim American Society Public Affairs and Civic Engagement)

Ismahan Abdullahi is a human rights advocate and community organizer who is relentless in working for justice. Ismahan has a track record of building power alongside community, engaged in political, civil and human rights advocacy. She currently serves as the Executive Director for the Muslim American Society's Public Affairs and Civic Engagement( (MAS-PACE). She has served as a board member in numerous community organizations and institutions, including the Muslim Leadership Council of San Diego and the United States Council on Muslim Organizations. Ismahan was the former Director of Campaign Strategies and Movement at the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans. She currently serves as a Board Director at the San Diego County Water Authority and Somali Family Services. She continues to be engaged in and work on issues that address racial disparities, immigrant and refugee rights, equity and political inclusion for disenfranchised communities. Ismahan has a passion for uplifting and creating space for youth to lead as grassroots leaders.

Sagal Abdullahi is a community organizer with MAS PACE. She graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor's degree in Social Work and a minor in Counseling and Social Change. Sagal has been an active leader in her community. She leads MAS PACE's Justice League, a team of high school and college youth advocating for change in their communities. She is currently enrolled in the Master’s program at SDSU and pursuing a MSW with a concentration in Direct Practice. Sagal has also been on the frontlines of tackling food insecurity in low-income and immigrant spaces. She is committed to organizing her refugee,immigrant and Muslim communities voices to be heard civically at the ballot box and politically in local government.

Pedro Rios/Adriana Jasso, Southern Border Communities Coalition Representative – Ex Officio (American Friends Service Committee US/Mexico Border Program)

Pedro Rios serves as the director of the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFSC) U.S./Mexico Border Program and has been on staff with AFSC for 14 years. A native San Diegan, Mr. Rios has worked on immigrant rights and border issues for over 20 years. Mr. Rios oversees a program that documents abuses by law enforcement agencies, collaborates with community groups, advocates for policy change, and works with migrant communities. He holds a master's degree in Ethnic Studies.  Pedro has also previously served on the SDIRC Advisory Board as Chair.  

Adriana Jasso is the Program Coordinator of the AFSC’s US-Mexico Border Program.  She has worked at AFSC for over a decade, advocating for the demilitarization of the border region and the humane treatment of all members of our communities.  Adriana holds Bachelor’s Degrees in Latin American Studies and Spanish Literature, and a Master of Education degree from the University of California, San Diego.  In her spare time, you can find Adriana practicing yoga and spending quality time with her family and the world’s most beautiful German Shepherd, Leo.


Lilian Serrano, Former Chair – Ex Officio (Alianza Comunitaria)

Lilian Serrano was born and raised in the Tijuana-San Diego border region. She spent her teens in Oxnard, California, a small agricultural town in Ventura County. After graduating high school, she moved back to San Diego County. As an undergraduate at California State University, San Marcos, Lilian began actively working with grassroots organizations focused on immigrant rights. Her expertise and knowledge have allowed her to build and maintain strong ties in North County San Diego with community members who are impacted by immigration policies and organizations that work closely with farmworker families. Lilian is currently the co-director of Universidad Popular. Universidad Popular (UP) offers programs throughout North County with the intent of capturing community knowledge and fostering an appreciation for traditional know-how while strengthening family and community cohesion.

In addition to her leadership at UP, Lilian is a member of Alianza Comunitaria, a coalition of human rights grassroots organizations that have worked with community members to create an alert system to inform community members about the presence of driver’s license checkpoints and immigration raids in the North San Diego County area. This is her fifth year serving on the SDIRC Advisory Board.