Our Legal Team
Director Of Legal Services
Jonah specializes in refugee and asylum law and is the Nationalities Service Center's Philadelphia Partnership for Resilience (PPR) staff attorney, providing pro bono legal representation for victims of torture. In addition to his PPR work, Jonah represents immigrants in a wide range of legal issues before USCIS, Immigration Court, and U.S. District Court and Court of Appeals.
Jonah co-teaches the Refugee Law and Policy class at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Prior to joining NSC, he was a Bates Fellow at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Bureau for Europe in Brussels, Belgium, where he worked on impact litigation before the European Court of Justice and litigation involving refugee rights in the European Union. Jonah is a graduate of Swarthmore College and the University of Michigan Law School.
Senior Staff Attorney
Lilah Thompson is a Senior Staff Attorney at Nationalities Service Center (NSC) in Philadelphia with the Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project (PAIFUP), Pennsylvania’s first publicly-funded defense counsel project for detained noncitizens. Lilah represents clients pro bono in removal and bond proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review and the Board of Immigration Appeals. Lilah also works closely with community partners and attorneys throughout the United States towards the mission of providing universal representation to all noncitizens who are unable to afford counsel, and in support of a just immigration system that reflects the needs and lived experiences of those experiencing deportation and detention. Prior to joining NSC, Lilah worked for the U.S. Department of Justice as an Attorney Advisor at the New York and Philadelphia Immigration Courts. Lilah is a graduate of Temple University Beasley School of Law and of Franklin & Marshall College. She is a member of the Pennsylvania bar and is Chair of the AILA Philadelphia Chapter EOIR Liaison committee. She is fluent in Spanish.
Whitney Viets joined the Nationalities Service Center in March 2021. Prior to coming to NSC, she served as an immigration attorney at the Bronx Defenders, where she advised defendants on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions, represented non-citizens in immigration court, and completed affirmative and defensive applications for immigration relief. She has also worked as a tenants' rights attorney at Bronx Legal Services and a legal fellow in asylum law at Human Rights First. In addition to her role at NSC, Whitney serves as the sole immigration counsel at the Defender Association of Philadelphia, where she advises criminal attorneys and clients about the immigration consequences of criminal charges, assists in negotiating immigration-safe case outcomes, and is responsible for maintaining a statewide chart detailing the immigration consequences of Pennsylvania criminal convictions. Whitney graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 2015, where she was a Toll Public Interest Scholar. Before law school, she worked as a community organizer in San Jose, California and a volunteer teacher in Lima, Peru. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania and speaks Spanish.
Maggie joined NSC in September 2022 as a Fellow with the Independence Foundation. Maggie is working with the Pennsylvania Immigrant Family Unity Project (PAIFUP) to provide federal court representation to individuals experiencing immigration detention in Pennsylvania. She is committed to decarceration and to the rights of all immigrants to live freely and with dignity.
Maggie attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School. She clerked for Judge Gerald McHugh on the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and for Chief Judge Michael Chagares on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Before clerking, Maggie was at NSC working with the PAIFUP program. She is thrilled to be back! Maggie speaks fluent Spanish.
Som-Mai Nguyen joined Nationalities Service Center (NSC) in September 2022. She holds a B.S. from Stanford University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, where she assisted clients in asylum and dependency matters through the Transnational and Child Advocacy Clinics and served as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Law and Social Change. During law school, Som-Mai also interned with Advocates for Children of New York, the ACLU of Louisiana, the ACLU of Texas, and the Educational Opportunities Section of DOJ's Civil Rights Division.
Ryan is Managing Attorney for Removal Defense Programs at the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center (PIRC). He oversees PIRC’s detention work including, the Legal Orientation Program (LOP), direct representation of vulnerable persons, representation through the National Qualified Representative Program (NQRP) for individuals deemed not competent to represent themselves before the immigration court, and PAIFUP representation.
Ryan joined PIRC as a staff attorney in 2015, and graduated, cum laude, from Pepperdine University School of Law in May of 2014. Ryan obtained a BA in Economics and Religious Studies at the University of Virginia in 2008 and remains an avid Wahoo fan.
Ben joined the Removal Defense Programs at the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center (PIRC) in January 2018. As a legal aid attorney and manager since 1999, Ben’s advocacy work has included federally subsidized housing, mortgage foreclosure, domestic violence and immigration. Immediately prior to joining PIRC, Ben worked at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence where he coordinated the Civil Legal Representation Initiative, providing legal service to victims of domestic violence in twenty-two counties across Pennsylvania. Ben earned his J.D. degree from Northeastern University, and a B.A. in Political Science at Binghamton University.
Melissa Vega joined the Removal Defense Programs at PIRC in April 2019. After graduating with honors from Widener University Commonwealth Law School, Melissa clerked for three years for The Honorable Mary Hannah Leavitt of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania (one of PA’s two intermediate appellate courts over state administrative agency law, which also has trial court jurisdiction over certain cases where the state is a party). Upon completing her clerkship, Melissa set up her practice as a sole practitioner for the next nine years, representing clients in family-based petitions, naturalization, TPS/DACA, non-immigrant visa applications and removal defense. Immediately prior to joining PIRC, she practiced immigration & naturalization law in the
Houston, Texas, area. Melissa is fluent in Spanish.
Yarima González Crespo
Yarima González Crespo joined the Removal Defense Program at PIRC in September 2022. She earned her J.D. from the Interamerican University of Puerto Rico, School of Law in 2019 and is admitted to practice law in Puerto Rico. As part of her J.D., she took courses in Immigration Law, Therapeutic Justice, Appellate Practice and Human Rights Advocacy and Humanitarian Issues. She also worked with the Juvenile Drug Court Program and volunteered with Amnesty International with the “Know Your Rights” campaign. As an attorney, she has done mostly criminal defense work, emphasizing in the appellate practice. Yarima has worked for various nonprofit organizations, mostly in the Human Rights field. She is a member of the Puerto Rico’s Lawyer’s Guild and candidate for the Federal Bar Exam for the San Juan, PR District. Yarima is a native Spanish speaker.
Yomayra is PAIFUP Coordinator for Removal Defense Programs at the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center (PIRC). Yomayra Burgos joined PIRC in March 2022. Yomayra holds a Bachelor of Arts in Geography, Global Studies with minors in Latin@ Studies and Government and Political Affairs from Millersville University. She previously served as an intern for Community Outreach on the Jess King for Congress campaign where she worked primarily with Spanish-speaking constituents. For years, she volunteered with the Latin American Alliance by mentoring young women pursuing their higher educational goals through the Miss Hispanidad Scholarship Program. She is committed to serving the immigrant and refugee community. Yomayra is fluent in Spanish.
Matthew P. Egler DiFerdinando
Matthew P. Egler DiFerdinando, Esq. is a Staff Attorney at HIAS Pennsylvania. Matt joined HIAS PA as an Independence Foundation Public Interest Law Fellow in 2020. In his current position, he provides direct representation to individuals detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement throughout removal proceedings and before the Board of Immigration Appeals. Matt is a graduate of Boston College Law School and Loyola University Maryland. Matt is fluent in Spanish.
Program Manager Attorney
Chris Setz-Kelly joined HIAS Pennsylvania as the Asylum and Removal Defense Program Manager Attorney in 2022 after years of representing immigrant clients in the Philadelphia region. Chris regularly represents individuals in Immigration Court and has extensive experience in asylum law, motions to reopen, and minimizing the immigration
consequences of criminal convictions. Previously, he was an associate at the law firm Gian-Grasso, Tomczak & Hufe, P.C., where his practice focused on representing non-citizens in removal proceedings as well as in appeals before the Board of Immigration Appeals and federal courts. Before that, Chris was a staff attorney at Nationalities
Andrew Baranoski: Exective Director, Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center
Andy Kang: Executive Director, Pennsylvania Immigration & Citizenship Coalition
Steven Larín: Deputy Director, Nationalities Service Center
Cathryn Miller-Wilson: Executive Director, HIAS Pennsylvania
Laura Perkins: Emergency Response Organizer, Casa San Jose
Emiliano Rodriguez: Regional Director, Unite Here!
Vanessa Stine: Immigrants' Right Attorney, ACLU of Pennsylvania