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Greater DC Staff

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

Alexandra “Sasha” Bershad

Supervising Attorney

After engagement with Tahirih as a legal intern and volunteer attorney in 2014, Sasha rejoined Tahirih in 2017. As an Immigration and Family Law Supervising Attorney, Sasha represents and advocates alongside immigrant survivors of gender-based violence on their journeys to safety and justice. Sasha provides advice, counseling, and direct legal representation to survivors in affirmative and defensive asylum, VAWA, T visa and U visa cases, and in domestic relations matters such as divorce, custody, support, protective orders, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status. Prior to Tahirih, Sasha worked as Senior Direct Representation Attorney for Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), where she represented unaccompanied immigration children in removal proceedings. Sasha was the recipient of the Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Conference Significant Service Award for the 2015-2017 bar years for her contributions as a Program Chair for the Immigrant Outreach Committee. While in law school, Sasha represented her first client in an affirmative asylum matter as a student attorney in the Refugee and Human Rights Clinic. Sasha was born in Moldova and has spent time abroad in the UK, Europe, Central and South America, and Asia.

“Every day, I am inspired by the courage and strength of the women and girls that Tahirih serves, and the opportunity to empower them to live with dignity, in a world free from violence. Alongside my passionate and dedicated colleagues, I am honored to help elevate the status of women worldwide, by transforming the life of one survivor at time.”

Education: University of California, Hastings College of the Law, JD; University of Maryland, College Park, BA

Languages: Spanish, Russian

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Bitania Endalkachew

Legal Assistant

Bitania Endalkachew joined Tahirih in 2022. As the Legal Assistant, Bitania provides critical administrative support to the Afghan Asylum Project by screening survivors, maintaining project case databases, preparing documents, and supporting the project’s contract attorneys. Prior to joining Tahirih, Bitania served as a Program Associate on the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund housed in the National Women’s Law Center. Bitania has worked abroad in Morocco on public health issues at Organisation Pan-Africaine De Lutte Contre Le Sida.

I am inspired by Tahirih’s interdisciplinary model of service and quick response to people’s needs, as demonstrated by the Afghan Asylum project.

Education: Vanderbilt University, BA

Languages: English, Amharic

Hometown: Alexandria, VA

Dane Foster

Immigration Staff Attorney

Dane joined Tahirih in 2022. As Immigration Staff Attorney in our Greater DC-Baltimore regional office, Dane represents immigrant victims of gender-based violence in Immigration Court and before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Prior to joining Tahirih, Dane worked as an attorney for Winston & Strawn LLP in their eDiscovery & Information Governance Department in DC and as an Immigration Law Clerk with Blessinger Legal PLLC in Virginia. Dane has written several publications including a journal article titled “Constitutional Court Landscape Post-Arab Spring: A Survey of Design,” 8 Indiana Journal of Constitutional Design 2 (2021), and a book chapter titled “Refugee Admissions Under the Trump Administration,” in “Perceptions and Misconceptions of Donald Trump” (Mohamed A. ‘Arafa ed., Nova Science Publishers, Inc. 2022).

I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to restorative justice and healing for vulnerable populations who have faced great trauma in their lives. Tahirih dedicates itself to helping immigrant survivors gain safety and security, and I am honored to be part of that work.

Education: Indiana University Maurer School of Law, JD; Indiana University Bloomington, BA

Languages: English, Arabic, and Spanish

Hometown: Indianapolis, Indiana

M. Shea Lamanna

Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships Manager

Shea Lamanna joined Tahirih in 2022. As Community Engagement and Strategic Partnerships Manager for the Greater DC-Baltimore Regional office, Shea supports Tahirih’s development goals through the management of local partnerships, donor cultivation, and the execution of fundraising events and campaigns. Before coming to Tahirih, Shea was on the Outreach team for the American Bar Association’s South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) and served as Development Director for DC-based nonprofit- the Interfaith Council of Metropolitan Washington.

Shea is the recipient of the Outstanding Civic Engagement award by Campus Compact. She is a published researcher and novelist. Shea has lived in Germany and Wales while studying and researching European naturalization laws and asylum policies affecting refugee populations. She has solo travelled to 14 other countries in Europe and Asia.

“I am inspired by the story of Tahirih and they ways in which her legacy of courage and resilience are reflected in our team and in the women and girls we serve.”

Education: American University, MA; West Virginia University, BA

Hometown: Germantown, MD

Languages: English, Spanish

Brenda Melgar

Immigration and Family Law Paralegal

Brenda Melgar joined Tahirih in 2019. As the Immigration and Family Law Paralegal in the Greater DC office, Brenda supports our attorneys with important legal tasks like preparing immigration forms and filings; client related work like scheduling and meeting with clients. Brenda comes to Tahirih with fifteen years of paralegal experience. Prior to Tahirih, Brenda was a Senior Paralegal at a private practice, immigration firm, where she gained her passion for helping her immigrant community.

“I am inspired by Tahirih’s commitment to serving courageous immigrant women and girls.”

Education: George Mason University, Paralegal Certificate

Languages: Spanish

Hometown: Woodbridge, Virginia

Anusce Sanai

Managing Attorney

Anusce Sanai (she/her/ella) joined the Tahirih Justice Center in 2012. Anusce is a dedicated and experienced attorney with 10 years of direct legal services and management work in the immigration nonprofit field. She continues to strive for the advancement of equal rights, social justice and race unity while working with survivors of gender-based violence. At the core of her career is a deep-rooted passion for the eradication of systemic racism and oppressive structures that marginalize vulnerable demographics. As such, her career has been shaped through diversity, equity, and inclusion discourse and trainings to provide culturally competent services.

Anusce’s journey at Tahirih began as a family law attorney, expanding into immigration law while ascending to the role of supervisor to the current position of managing attorney. She represented clients in matters related to immigration remedies under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), U-Visa, Battered Spouse Waiver, T-Visas and Asylum claims. In addition, her family law portfolio includes divorce and custody proceedings as well as spousal and child support petitions. In addition, Anusce serves as a co-chair on Tahirih’s Gender, Race, Anti-Racism, Cultural humility, and Equity Task Force (GRACE).

As an immigrant to the United States herself and as a Baháʼí Iranian woman, Anusce’s identity has contributed to shaping her commitment to social justice and advocacy work.

“The partnership that the Tahirih Justice Center provides to equal rights advocacy work allows me to accompany our clients on the path to social justice and the dismantling of systems that continue to widen disparities, inequalities and injustices.”

Education: New England School of Law, JD; University of Colorado at Boulder, BA

Languages: Italian and Farsi

Hometown: Lucca, Italy