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From five high-need locations across the United States, our staff provide holistic services to courageous immigrant women and girls fleeing violence. Located in Greater DC, our executive and national teams support the needs of our local offices and our policy advocacy. Our staff exhibit a high level of cultural competency, speak multiple languages, and, above all, are committed to the protection of our clients.

Layli Miller-Muro

Chief Executive Officer and Founder

Layli Miller-Muro is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the the Tahirih Justice Center. She established Tahirih in 1997 following her involvement in a high-profile case that set national precedent and revolutionized asylum law in the United States. Fauziya Kassindja, a 17-year-old girl who had fled Togo in fear of a forced polygamous marriage and female genital mutilation, was granted asylum in 1996 by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals. This decision opened the door to gender-based persecution as grounds for asylum. Using her portion of the proceeds from a book she and Ms. Kassindja co-authored about the case, “Do They Hear You When You Cry?,” Layli established Tahirih.

Since 2001, Layli has led Tahirih in its service to more than 22,000 women and children, growing the non-profit from a staff of six to over 70, and expanding its offices from Greater DC to Houston, Baltimore, and the San Francisco Bay Area. In recognition of its sound management and innovative programs, under Layli’s leadership, Tahirih won the Washington Post Award for Management Excellence and gained recognition for its innovative use of pro bono services in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Prior to joining Tahirih as Chief Executive Officer, Layli was an attorney at the law firm of Arnold & Porter, where she practiced international litigation and maintained a substantial pro bono practice. Prior to joining Arnold & Porter, Layli was an attorney-advisor at the U.S. Department of Justice, Board of Immigration Appeals.

Layli is a frequent lecturer and has appeared in numerous news outlets including  CNN, Fox News, The New York Times, NPR, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. She lives in the Washington, DC area with her husband and three children.

“We are making progress. Women and girls are standing up for justice. They are refusing the violence they’ve suffered. We are making a significant impact, not only in the lives of our clients, but on the legal system and, in turn, on the planet with regard to the status of women.”


Layli received her JD and MA in International Relations from American University and B.A. from Agnes Scott College.

Awards and Recognition

Layli has been honored with many awards and accolades throughout her career, including:

In the Media

Barfonce Baldwin

Executive Director, Greater DC

As Greater DC Director, Barfonce brings to bear fifteen years of executive level experience in the non-profit sector. At Tahirih, she leads the development and execution of strategy and implementation of Tahirih’s immigration, family law, and social services in the Greater DC Region. Barfonce ensures the delivery of high-quality legal and social services case management by engaging regional stakeholders, and overseeing the local office’s financial and operational integrity by nurturing and leading exceptional teams. From her previous roles in leading Tahirih’s development and fundraising across the region, she has built collaborative relationships with donors and funders to accomplish the critical work locally.

Prior to joining Tahirih, Barfonce served as Executive Director of the Capitol Hill Group Ministry (CHGM), a nonprofit that provides holistic support to individuals and families facing homelessness in Washington, DC. Prior to CHGM, she served as Senior Director and Chief Administration Officer of Central Union Mission, the oldest non-profit organization in Washington that provides safe shelter and transformative, compassionate care to individuals and families who live on the margin. Barfonce has a demonstrated passion and commitment for the work of Tahirih, having been one of Tahirih’s first supporters from its inception.  Her strategic vision, strong leadership and exceptional management, and commitment to Tahirih’s work will allow the Greater DC office to improve efficiencies and increase its response to the urgent needs of immigrant women and girls in the region.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s unique and unmatched ability to elevate, enable and empower immigrant women and girls press toward transformation and a higher quality of life with dignity and in safety.”

Education: Central Michigan University, MSA

Hometown: Alexandria, VA

Rena E. Cutlip-Mason

Chief of Programs

Rena originally joined Tahirih in 2004 and has rejoined again in 2017. As the Chief of Programs, Rena is accountable for the quality of Tahirih’s programs nationwide. She directly manages local office Executive Directors and Legal & Social Service Directors, supports legal staff nationwide and supports the Chief of Policy in advocacy efforts. Prior to joining Tahirih, Rena served as Counsel to the Director of the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) at the Department of Justice and she served as the Chief of Casework and a Senior Advisor at the Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman at the Department of Homeland Security. She has lived and studied in the Dominican Republic and Chile.

“I am excited to return to Tahirih to once again support its vision and mission of a gender-equal society. I am inspired by the passion my colleagues tirelessly bring to their work every day and the courageous immigrant women and girls Tahirih serves.”

Education: Northeastern University School of Law, JD; Bucknell University, BA; Georgetown University, Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Salem, West Virginia

Awards and Recognition:

Secretary’s Award for Excellence 2016 – Recipient of the Secretary’s Award for Excellence for her work in the Department of Homeland Security.

Christine D’Amato

Director of Finance

Christine D’Amato joined Tahirih in 2017. As Director of Finance, she is responsible for accounting operations, internal controls and financial reporting. Prior to Tahirih, Christine worked as a controller for the Children’s Defense Fund and as a Senior Associate for CohnReznick. She lived in Jesus Maria, Argentina for ten months, living with Argentinian families and learning Spanish.

“We are a resource for the most vulnerable people who don’t have anywhere else to turn. The US justice system can be intimidating, even for people with the means and skills to navigate it. Without the services and support that Tahirih provides, many of these women would continue to suffer through violence and abuse”

Education: University of Delaware, BS
Hometown: Pitman, NJ

Paul Glist

General Counsel

Paul Glist serves as General Counsel for Tahirih, supporting the management and legal teams and Tahirih’s strategic initiatives. Paul served as a member of Tahirih’s Board of Directors from 2008-2017, and chaired the Board for most of that decade.

Until his retirement in 2018, Paul was a partner at Davis, Wright Tremaine specializing in cable, Internet, and telecommunications law and policy. He also serves as Chairman of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Alexandria, Virginia; is a former board member of the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington; former co-chair of the Alexandria Interfaith Association; and former Secretary for the City of Alexandria Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Planning Committee.

Paul has lived in Johannesburg, South Africa and London, England.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s unwavering commitment to fight for equality between women and men and to obtain justice for immigrant survivors of gender-based violence.”


Paul received his J.D. from Stanford Law School and his B.A. from Cornell University.

Awards and Recognition

  • Washington D.C. Super Lawyers in Communications and Information Technology/Outsourcing by Thomson Reuters, 2010, 2013-2018
  • America’s Leading Lawyers for Business in Telecom – Broadcast & Satellite: Regulatory (District of Columbia) by Chambers
  • Vanguard Award from NCTA – the Internet and Television Association (formerly National Cable & Telecommunications Association)
  • Cable Pioneer
  • Selected for Cable Center Oral and Video history collection
  • Phi Beta Kappa

Christine Hakizimana

Director of Organizational Development

Christine joined Tahirih in 2017 as the Director of Organizational Development. As Director, Christine is responsible for human resources functions and executing recruitment and retention programs that make Tahirih the first choice for job seekers committed to justice for women and girls. Prior to joining Tahirih, Christine served as the Director of Human Resources at Kids in Need of Defense in Washington, D.C. and as the Director of Human Resources and Administration at Big Brothers Big Sisters Independence Region in Philadelphia. Christine is a former member of the Keystone Alliance for Performance Excellence Board of Examiners and holds her PHR and SHRM-CP certifications

“I am inspired by the courageous women and girls that Tahirih supports and enjoy supporting our team in the important work they do.”

Education: University of Delaware, BS in Human Services; Bryn Mawr College, Master in Social Service and Masters in Law and Social Policy (MSS/MLSP)

Hometown: Virginia

Elaine de Leon

Director of Communications

Elaine de Leon joined Tahirih in 2019. As Director of Communications, Elaine leads the organization’s efforts to leverage the power of storytelling, public relations, and marketing to support and advocate for immigrant survivors of gender-based violence. Prior to joining Tahirih, Elaine served as Communications Director at various nonprofit policy and advocacy organizations including Young Invincibles, the Institute for Policy Studies, and the Death Penalty Information Center. She has also served as an Account Manager at Vanguard Communications in Washington, D.C., where she helped build, launch, and manage multifaceted national public education and awareness campaigns. Elaine serves on the Board of Directors of Share, a national organization that serves families who have experienced pregnancy or infant loss and has been featured in publications about pregnancy and infant loss. Elaine has lived in Cairo, Egypt where she worked with a local organization providing a broad range of services to refugees from Africa.

I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of an organization that takes a holistic approach to serving immigrant survivors of gender-based violence – an organization that recognizes that wider, systemic change is needed while it is actively working to meet the needs of each person who comes through our doors. As a Filipino immigrant, I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to center the voices of immigrant survivors, and I am committed to letting that guide the work I do as a communicator for the organization.

Education: M.A. in Strategic Communications, American University; Masters in Theological Studies, Wesley Theological Seminary

Hometown: Vienna, VA

Maeve O’Higgins

Special Advisor to the Chief Executive Officer

Maeve O’Higgins joined Tahirih in 2007. As Special Advisor to the Chief Executive Officer, she supports Layli Miller-Muro and Tahirih’s executive team in addressing complex human resource, budgetary, and development issues. Maeve also leads strategic projects for the organization. Prior to assuming her role as special advisor, Maeve served Tahirih as Deputy Director. Prior to that, she was the Director of Customer Experience Management at Nextel Communications. Maeve is originally from Ireland and has spent time working in Germany and Switzerland.

“I am inspired by the commitment of everyone at Tahirih to empower immigrant women and girls to reach their full potential.”

Education: University of Michigan, MBA; Trinity College in Dublin, BA

Languages: French and German

Hometown: Dublin, Ireland

Michele Perez

Chief Operations Officer

Michele Perez joined Tahirih as the Chief Operations Officer in 2019. With over 22 years at the field and headquarters levels of service-driven agencies, Michele has led programs and strategically managed operations across government, non-profit and philanthropic organizations. In her role as Chief Operating Officer, she oversees the execution of strategies that enable Tahirih to deliver on our core values and mission of advancing equity and social justice. She is responsible to lead local and national efforts in support of talent management, organizational development, finance, operations and risk management, and information technology.

Michele joined Tahirih from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the US government’s development finance institution, where she served as Vice President of Management and Administration, as well as a Senior Advisor to the President and CEO for Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement. Her leadership enabled OPIC to partner with developing economies worldwide, encourage more open, democratic and stable societies and improve the quality of life for those in most need. Prior to OPIC, Michele worked at the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), where she served as a key advisor and consultant to the VA Chief of Staff on human resources, strategic planning and financial management. She was also charged with execution and coordination of workforce enterprise strategies for the Veterans Health Administration, the nation’s largest integrated healthcare system. Michele launched her civil service with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development as a Community Builder in the Office of the Midwest Regional Director.

Tahirih is a force for good in honoring the indomitable dignity of women and girls. We recognize the resolute strength and power of the incredibly courageous women we serve, and we are guided by an enduring commitment to a basic human right that we are all called upon to protect- the absolute right to live free from violence. I am honored to be a part of this phenomenal team.


Michele holds a BS in Human Services from Cornell University and an MS in Management from the Catholic University of America. She attended a fellowship program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and completed an executive education program with the Brookings Institution focused on business and innovation.


Spanish, French and Kreyol


Michele grew up in a Haitian and El Salvadoran household of immigrants in Miami, FL.

Archi Pyati

Chief of Policy and Communications

Archi Pyati has worked with the Tahirih Justice Center since February 2014. In her position as Chief of Policy, she oversees the organization’s work to improve the laws that impact Tahirih’s clients and immigrant survivors of violence like them around the country. Archi manages a growing policy team based at Tahirih’s headquarters in the Washington DC area, including seasoned advocates, litigators, and communications professionals. Archi also oversees the organization’s media outreach and publications. She coordinates and provides advocacy support to Tahirih’s committed service professionals in its five local offices.

Archi is a dedicated advocate for immigrant women and girls with more than fifteen years of experience in immigration law practice, women’s rights, and public policy advocacy. She is an alumna of the NoVo Foundation’s “Move to End Violence” initiative, a two-year highly competitive leadership training and movement building experience for leaders in women’s rights.

Prior to joining Tahirih, Archi was the Deputy Director of the Immigration Intervention Project at Sanctuary for Families in New York, where she served hundreds of women and girls fleeing gender-based violence, directed an attorney volunteer program, and worked with survivors to stop female genital mutilation/cutting in the United States.

Before joining Sanctuary, from 2004 to 2007, Archi was a senior associate with the Human Rights Defenders Program of Human Rights First where she contributed to the development of a project focusing on the rights safety of women human rights defenders. She joined Human Rights First in 2002 as an Equal Justice Works Fellow with the Asylum Program, counseling detained immigrants and advocating for changes in national detention practices in the post-9/11 era.

Archi is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Michigan Law School, where she received two competitive human rights fellowships to work overseas and was named Outstanding Woman Law Student of the Year by the Michigan Women Lawyers’ Association.


In the Media

Quote: “Judge halts Trump policy requiring asylum seekers stay in Mexico”, The Hill, https://thehill.com/regulation/court-battles/437919-federal-judge-issues-injunction-over-policy-requiring-asylum-seekers

Live video: “Advocate Archi Pyati calls for reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act,” The Hill, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpoJLR6U20U

Op/Ed: “The arduous, traumatizing path at the border,” Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-arduous-traumatizing-path-at-the-border/2018/11/01/c5ced52c-d932-11e8-8384-bcc5492fef49_story.html?utm_term=.279b048c9413

Live video: Analysis of Asylum Decision, Tahirih Justice Center, https://www.facebook.com/TahirihJusticeCenter/videos/analysis-of-yesterdays-asylum-decision/10160644033485232/

Liz Shields

Deputy Director, Houston

Liz Shields joined Tahirih in 2017 as the Deputy Director of the Houston office. As Deputy Director, she supervises programmatic and operational staff, supports strategic growth, oversees grant management and ensures programmatic management embodies Tahirih’s overarching values.

Prior to joining Tahirih, Liz served as the Houston Managing Attorney at Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) from 2015-2017 after serving the same role in KIND’s Baltimore office from 2009-2015. Liz joined KIND at the birth of the organization. In addition to overseeing daily management of the office and maintaining a caseload, she substantially grew both the Baltimore and Houston offices, focusing on identifying key partners, collaborating with stakeholders, developing pro bono networks and creating collaborations.

Liz has a long history of pro bono legal representation pre-dating her time with Tahirih and KIND. She also worked within the Community Services Team of Holland & Knight LLP in Washington, D.C., where she worked collaboratively to provide pro bono immigration representation, focusing mainly on refugee resettlement and complex asylum claims.

“I am inspired and humbled by Tahirih’s clients. The women and children we serve each have their own voice and story, but possess a shared strength to become their own advocates. Being a part of an organization that not only supports and nurtures women fleeing violence, but also recognizes the importance of personal empowerment, is an honor.”

Liz graduated with honors from Rice University where she majored in the study of women and gender. She then attended the University of Houston School of Law, where she spent two semesters working in the Immigration Law Clinic.

Renée Stikes

Chief Development Officer

Renée Stikes joins Tahirih Justice Center as the Chief Development Officer. In this role, she provides overall direction for Tahirih’s development initiatives working with development staff in the national and local offices on institutional fundraising, major giving, fundraising events, organization campaigns and fundraising technology. Renée has worked as a nonprofit professional for more than twenty years. Most recently, she served as Executive Director of Horizons Greater Washington, where she was responsible for developing relationships with key external stakeholders, providing leadership and collective buy-in for organizational strategies, and working closely with the Board to increase the organization’s capacity. Previous experiences include development roles at KaBOOM!, CentroNia, Council on Foundations, Children’s Defense Fund, National Minority AIDS Council, and Building Futures. Renee also proudly serves on the board of the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, a DC-based nonprofit that partners with transitional housing and emergency shelters across the city to cultivate resilience in children experiencing family homelessness by providing and expanding access to transformative play experiences.

Education: Master of Public Administration with Nonprofit Management Concentration, American University; a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics, University of Louisville.

Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky

Morgan Weibel

Executive Director, San Francisco Bay Area

Morgan Weibel joined Tahirih in 2010. As Executive Director of Tahirih’s San Francisco Bay Area Office, she ensures the delivery of high-quality legal and social services case management, engages regional stakeholders, and oversees the local office’s financial and operational integrity. Morgan previously served as Tahirih’s Director of the Baltimore office, and as a Supervising Immigration Attorney. She also worked for three years as a paralegal at the Law Offices of Robert B. Jobe, a San Francisco-based firm focusing on asylum and deportation defense. She interned with the Immigration and Refugee Services Department of the Spanish Red Cross in Granada, Spain, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Washington, DC, and at a Swiss Refugee Transit Center.

“I am inspired by the strength and courage of the women and girls that I have the privilege of serving at Tahirih. Their unwavering commitment to breaking century-old cycles of violence against women and the courage that it takes to stand up against their families and traditions is remarkable.”


Morgan is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with high honors and the University of California Hastings College of Law, where she served as the Scholarly Publications Editor on the Hastings International and Comparative Law Review and was awarded the Judith Stronach Women’s Rights Fellowship to work with the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS). Morgan also served as a Graduate Research Fellow at CGRS where she drafted a protocol for the investigation of femicides and assisted Professor Karen Musalo in updating sections of her course book related to asylum based on membership in a particular social group. During law school, she interned in the Trial Chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Her undergraduate honors thesis compared the United States and Canadian applications of gender-based guidelines in asylum law.

Awards and Recognition

Morgan was named Leader of the Year by AILA’s DC Chapter Liaison Division in 2013, and in 2008, she won National Championship and First Place Speaker Awards at the UC Davis Asylum Law Moot Court Competition.

In the Media