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Staff

From five high-need locations across the United States, our staff provide interdisciplinary, trauma-informed services to immigrant survivors of gender-based 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 supporting our clients.

Archi Pyati

Chief Executive Officer

Since May 2021, Archi Pyati has served as Chief Executive Officer of the Tahirih Justice Center, taking on the task of leading Tahirih in its service to more than 30,000 women, girls, and other immigrant survivors seeking safety from gender-based violence.

Archi was the Chief of Policy and Communications at Tahirih before assuming the role of CEO. As the Chief of Policy and Communications, Archi led the policy team in using survivor-centered policy advocacy to assist clients in securing the rights that they are entitled, to rebuild their lives.

Archi is also a spokesperson for Tahirih, connecting with lawmakers, media, funders and on coalitions such as the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence.

Before joining Tahirih, Archi served as Deputy Director of the Immigration Intervention Project at Sanctuary for Families in New York, where she ran a pro bono asylum program and worked with survivors to end female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) from occurring in the United States. Prior to joining Sanctuary for Families, Archi was a senior associate with the Human Rights Defenders Program of Human Rights First.

She brings nearly twenty years of experience in immigration law, women’s rights, and public policy advocacy to the CEO role. Archi is a graduate of Brown University and the University of Michigan Law School, where she was named Outstanding Woman Law Student of the Year by the Michigan Women Lawyers’ Association.

Lubabah Abdullah

Executive Director, Houston

Lubabah Abdullah joined Tahirih in 2021 as the Executive Director of the Tahirih Justice Center’s Houston Office. As a long-time attorney, Ms. Abdullah worked at Karamah: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights, the Julian Center, one of the first family justice centers in the United States, and the Muslim Alliance of Indiana as Executive Director. She has managed and established multiple legal programs, including a modest-means legal clinic, a pro-bono protection order program which ensured that every woman who came to the courthouse for a protection order had an attorney to advocate alongside her. She started her own law practice in 2009 and focused primarily on serving families, through family law, estate planning, and family-based immigration. Much of her work in the nonprofit sector, as well as her own personal law practice, has focused on creating a holistic approach to client’s problems. She firmly believes that in helping a family address not just their legal problems, she is able to provide them the tools necessary to heal themselves, their children, their families, and their communities making us all stronger and more resilient.

From her 20+ years of experience at nonprofits, she is committed to building consensus, rooted in values of transparent decision-making and communication.  She has a strong commitment to education, outreach, and advocacy, and long history of personal and professional commitment to the immigrant community. She has a Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri and speaks fluent Arabic and conversational Spanish. She sits on the board of the Islamic Society of North America and steering committee of Houston Faith Leaders Coalition. She served as a Board member of Al-Salam Day School for seven years and founded a new campus of the school. She is also an advisor to the Peaceful Families Project, which is devoted to preventing domestic violence, with a particular focus on Muslim families of diverse cultural, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. She is a member of the Houston Muslim Bar Association and Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis, the Missouri Bar Association, and the Texas Bar Association.

One of the things that I love about Tahirih is the unique interdisciplinary approach to direct services, including legal and social services, policy advocacy, training and education. In the fight to end gender-based violence, we must help address all areas of a client’s needs because they are the experts for their own life journey.

Education: Bachelor of Arts and Juris Doctorate, the University of Missouri

Hometown: Chicago/St. Louis

Barfonce Baldwin

Executive Director, GDC-Baltimore Region

As Executive Director of the GDC-Baltimore Region, 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-Baltimore 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

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

Maricarmen Garza

Chief of Programs

Maricarmen Garza joined Tahirih in 2021 as the Chief of Programs. She previously held a 21-year tenure with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA). As a TRLA attorney, Maricarmen focused her legal practice on assisting survivors of gender-based violence with complex family law and victim privacy matters. She initiated and managed one of TRLA’s most successful, and longstanding projects of the organization, the Legal Alliance for Survivors of Abuse (LASA). LASA is a unique collaboration between TRLA and domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers in the 68 Texas counties served by TRLA.

Through the LASA Project partnership, Maricarmen ensured that victims received holistic, trauma-informed, and victim centered legal and social services critical to breaking the cycle of violence. In 2010 the LASA project received The Mary Byron Project’s Celebrating Solutions Award for its innovative approach to breaking the generational cycle of intimate partner violence. Maricarmen also managed TRLA’s Victim Rights Group which included the Legal Aid for Survivors of Sexual Assault team and the Survivor Centered Economic Advocacy team, providing direction, mentorship and supervision.

Maricarmen currently serves on the ABA Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence (ABA CDSV) and on the boards of the Texas statewide coalitions for domestic violence (TCFV) and for sexual assault (TAASA).  Maricarmen was nominated as a leader of color for her expertise in working at the intersections of domestic violence, child welfare, and race equity to join the National Cohort Women Transforming Families: Rising to End Violence, Oppression, and the Legacy of Trauma, and is a part of the Texas Cohort (TWAIS) as well. She also serves as faculty for the ABA CDSV, trains internationally and nationally on issues impacting victims of gender-based violence, has testified as a domestic violence expert in a civil trial, and was appointed to a state legislative taskforce for her expertise in providing civil legal services to victims (Senate Bill 434 -Texas 82nd Legislature). In 2018, Maricarmen was awarded the Champion for Social Change award by TAASA.

She started her legal career as a staff attorney for Catholic Charities in Houston, representing clients in removal proceedings, VAWA self-petitions, and political asylum cases.

Maricarmen received a Bachelor of Arts in Child Psychology from the University of the Incarnate Word in 1992. She received her J.D. from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 1996.

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.”

Education

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

Portrait image of Elaine de Leon smilingElaine 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

Adriana López

Co-Director of Client Advocacy
Adriana Lopez

Adriana López joined Tahirih in 2017. Previously the Social Services Program Manager at Tahirih’s Greater DC office, Adriana brings nine years of experience advancing immigrants and gender-justice causes through advocacy, training and capacity-building, program development, and direct service work. As Co-Director of Client Advocacy, Adriana strengthens Tahirih’s interdisciplinary model of service, where legal and social services staff comprise one interdisciplinary team to holistically address clients’ needs and increase their access to safety and justice. Prior to joining Tahirih, Adriana worked at the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), and the Equal Rights Center. She has lived abroad in Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe.

“Violence against women and girls is one of the most visible effects of gender inequality, and eradicating it is critical to women’s social, economic and political well-being everywhere. I feel privileged to be a part of an organization that advocates for and provides holistic services to immigrant women and girls, so they can live their lives free from violence.”

Education: University of Michigan, MSW; London School of Economics, MSc in Gender, Development and Globalization; and Saint Mary’s College, BSW

Hometown: Elgin, IL

Languages: Spanish

Layli Miller-Muro

Founder and Senior Advisor to the CEO

Layli Miller-Muro is the founder of the Tahirih Justice Center and Senior Advisor to the CEO. 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/cutting (FGM/C), 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 the book Layli and Fauziya co-authored about the case, “Do They Hear You When You Cry?,” Layli created the Tahirih Justice Center in 1997 to serve immigrant survivors of gender-based violence seeking safety and justice.

Since 2001, Layli has led Tahirih in its service to more than 30,000 women and children, growing the non-profit from a staff of six to over 100, and expanding its offices from Greater DC to Houston, Baltimore, Atlanta, 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.”

Education

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

Adilene Nuñez Huang

Co-Director of Client Advocacy

Adilene Nuñez Huang joined Tahirih in 2018. Adilene most recently served as the Managing Attorney for the Greater DC office. In her current role as the Co-Director of Client Advocacy, Legal Services, Adilene ensures that interdisciplinary client services teams have the infrastructure in place and necessary tools to deliver smooth, efficient, high-quality, client-centered, and trauma-informed services to immigrant survivors of gender-based violence.

Adilene is an active member of the AILA DC chapter, has written on bond issues, cancellation of removal for non-lawful permanent residents, has spoken at the national AILA conference and local chapter conference, and she regularly hosts trainings for the Tahirih Pro Bono network to help pro bono attorneys develop practical, trauma-informed, and client-centered best practices for working with immigrant survivors of violence. Prior to joining Tahirih, Adilene advocated for immigrants at a boutique immigration law firm in Washington, DC.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s holistic approach to client services. Tahirih not only provides women and girls with immigration and family law assistance and connects clients to social services, but Tahirih also works to advocate for policy changes so that women and girls can live in safety and with dignity. I am thrilled to be part of an organization like Tahirih that works daily to provide lasting change for such a vulnerable population.”

Education: Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, JD; Santa Clara University, BS

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Fremont, California

 

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.”

Education
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

Rob Weeks

Information Technology & Operations Director

Rob WeeksRob joined Tahirih in 2021. As the Information Technology & Operations Director, Rob is accountable for strategizing, defining, and implementing Information Technology (IT) and Operations in alignment with the evolving needs of our national organization. Prior to joining Tahirih, Rob lead operations at a regional urgent care network in Southeast Texas, and has also held senior leadership roles at College Station Medical Center and Memorial Hermann Health System. Rob has also been a consultant spanning many years, internationally, supporting the medical mission of Hospital Metropolitano in Nicaragua.

“I am deeply inspired by the Tahirih mission of enabling and lifting-up those most in need as SURVIVORS.”

Education: Masters in Health Administration; Post-Masters in Business Administration

Hometown: Houston, TX

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.”

Education

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