SDIRC Leadership

Dulce Garcia, Chair (Border Angels)

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.

Dulce is the Executive Director of Border Angels, a nonprofit organization that conducts humanitarian work along the US-Mexico border. Border Angels promotes a culture of love through advocacy and education, by creating social consciousness, and engaging in direct action to defend human rights.

 

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.

 

Maricela Amezola, Legal Representative (San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association)

Maricela and her colleagues, Gabriel Urias, Maria Chavez and Cassandra Borjon collectively represent the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association (SDLRLA) in its role as the legal representative. SDLRLA was formed in 1979, with a handful of Latino attorneys and it has grown to represent over three hundred Latino and Latina lawyers practicing in San Diego County. SDLRLA’s purpose is to advance the cause of equality, empowerment and justice for Latino attorneys and the Latino community in San Diego County through service and advocacy. They are dedicated to promoting diversity on both the bench and bar. SDLRLA supports law students with mentorship programs and scholarships.  Maricela, Gabriel, Maria and Cassandra have over 25 years of combined immigration law experience and bring those skills to serve our immigrant community. Collectively, they serve as the legal representatives of the SDIRC.

 

Aleena Jun Nawabi, Community Representative (Council on American-Islamic Relations San Diego)

My name is Aleena Jun Nawabi, and I am an Afghan Immigrant. My educational background consists of Nursing, Linguists, Education. I am an active member of AFSCME Local 3930/ AFL-CIO, Assembly District 77 Delegate for the Democratic Party State, National Delegate for Bernie Sanders, Founder-President of the American Muslim Democrat of San Diego Club, Communications Director for the California Arab American Caucus, and a cohort of Emerge CA 2021. As a Union and Community member, I look for opportunities to improve our environment through networking, building bridges, activism, and advocacy. After joining SDIRC I am grateful to work on issues and spaces that overlap areas of concerns.

 

Tania García Barajas, Community Representative (Espacio Migrante)

Tania was born in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, and raised between Tijuana and Ensenada. She studied law at UABC. After working as a private attorney, she became interested in the research field in migration issues so she moved to Puebla, Mexico to study a master's and doctorate in Sociology. The union of these two areas allow her to work with a more social and humanitarian vision in her practice as Coordinator of the Legal Clinic at Espacio Migrante. 

Tania is committed to the defense and access of human rights for individuals, families, children and adolescents in the context of mobility. She has devoted much of her work to the research of the migratory phenomenon and to the direct legal attention to migrants in the city of Tijuana, and contributes to ensure community work, advocacy and accompaniment for migrant communities.

 

Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez, Community Representative (Universidad Popular)

Arcela Nuñez-Alvarez is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Universidad Popular, an on traditional education organization cultivating leadership, freedom, health, wisdom, and dignity. With a team of maestras del pueblo (community educators), she brings to life key principles of democracy, empowering ordinary people to own their voice and use our collective power to shape our community. As a grassroots community representative, she brings a personal commitment, professional expertise, and community-centered approach to participating in the community’s civic and political life.

She is embedded within a community that she has helped educate and mobilize with historic civic and electoral firsts throughout North County. Being part of the movement to build people power has given her first-hand knowledge of privileges and barriers affecting civic participation among immigrants and Latinx communities who are still grossly underrepresented in key positions. She is dedicated to promoting precious ancestral knowledge, community service, and civic participation.

She is a Chicana immigrant who came from Mexico and settled in San Marcos when she was 12 years old with nothing more than the clothes she wore. She was raised by a single mom who worked tirelessly in sewing factories earning minimum wage to afford basic necessities for six daughters. She understands first-hand the struggles immigrant families face in San Diego County and embraces the opportunity to serve and advocate for policies that will increase opportunities for everyone in our community.

 

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 masters 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 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 has 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 a member of Alianza Comunitaria, a coalition of human rights grassroots organizations who 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. Lilian is dedicated to promoting social justice all around her and strongly believes that every person deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. This is her fifth year serving on the SDIRC Advisory Board.