This month, DCVLP honors the countless achievements, contributions, and rich history the Hispanic community. We are proud to highlight
just a few of those contributions below.

Celebrating Hispanic DCVLP Staff

Aida Vindell

Co-Legal Director

Aida Vindell is DCVLP’s Co-Legal Director, overseeing our Domestic Violence Program. She was born in Nicaragua and is a native Spanish speaker and a licensed attorney in the District and Maryland. Aida has devoted her legal career to ensuring that Hispanic survivors of violence have equal access to legal services in their language and by attorneys who are sensitive to their culture. Aida was recently appointed to serve as a commissioner on the DC Access to Justice Commission. Before joining DCVLP in 2019, Aida was a Senior Attorney at Children’s Law Center where she represented children in abuse and neglect proceedings. While at the Children’s Law Center, Aida was recognized by the American Bar Association as a Reunification Hero. Before that she was a Staff Attorney at Ayuda, where she represented domestic violence and sexual assault survivors in protection order, custody and divorce proceedings. Aida earned her Bachelor of Public Administration from Florida International University and her J.D. from the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law.

Daniela Huerta Garcia

Managing Attorney, Immigration Program

Daniela is the Managing Attorney for the Immigration Program. She joined DCVLP in 2022. Daniela was previously an antitrust associate in the Washington, DC office of White & Case LLP. While at White & Case, Daniela maintained an active pro bono practice, including counseling clients regarding asylum matters, drafting comments in opposition to proposed Department of Homeland Security rules, and advocating for the release of a Guantanamo detainee. During law school, she led and participated in various immigration clinics and worked at an immigration law firm, focusing on asylum and other forms of relief. Before starting her legal career, Daniela worked as a field representative for a Member of Congress, focusing on community building and advocating for constituents. Daniela earned her J.D. from University of California, Berkeley School of Law and two B.A.s from The University of Texas at Dallas. She is licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia. Daniela was born in Mexico and she arrived to the United States when she was 11 years old. She is a native Spanish speaker and is passionate about educating immigrants about their relief options and providing legal support in their native language.

Vanessa Hernandez

Supervising Attorney, Domestic Violence Program

Vanessa Hernandez is a Supervising Attorney in our Domestic Violence Program. Prior to joining DCVLP, Vanessa worked for CAIR Coalition advocating for and representing detained immigrant children in their humanitarian cases. While at CAIR Coalition, Vanessa served minors from Central America by providing direct representation to them and by mentoring pro bono attorneys who volunteered to take their cases. Vanessa has previously worked with survivors of domestic violence at CAIR Coalition and during her internships with Ayuda and with the Domestic Violence Unit at DC Superior Court. Before starting her legal career, Vanessa worked for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as a Resources Analyst. Vanessa earned her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez Campus; her Master’s degree from the University of Maryland Global Campus; and her J.D. from the George Washington University Law School.

Maria Velez

Client Advocate

Maria provides non-legal support to survivors of intimate partner violence as well as immigrant clients impacted by gender-based violence. As a Client Advocate, Maria assists clients with crisis response, safety planning, and navigating resources in the District. Prior to DCVLP, Maria was a Family Liaison at Fairfax County Public Schools. In this role, Maria worked with school social workers, counselors, and administrators to assist families in accessing resources, services, and programs for their needs. From 2016-2022, Maria volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for the Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court in Fairfax County. Maria advocated for the best interests of abused and neglected children by identifying their needs, ensured that they received all required services, and worked towards the goal of their placement in a safe and permanent home by advocating for their best interests in Court. Maria is fluent in Spanish.

Celebrating Hispanic DCVLP Interns

Ignacio Gomez

Ignacio Gomez is a former DCVLP intern and volunteer; he assisted in staffing DCVLP’s Children’s National Columbia Heights medical-legal clinic for two semesters. Ignacio was born and raised in New York and attended university in Washington, DC. Growing up in a first-generation Mexican household, Ignacio frequently traveled to Mexico to visit family which he says had a significant impact on his life; however, he did not speak any Spanish. Despite Spanish being Ignacio‘s father’s first language, he did not teach Ignacio the language after an immigration issue prevented his father from re-entering the U.S. for some time, fearing that teaching Ignacio the language would lead to discrimination against Ignacio as well as he grew older, Ignacio learned Spanish through school and self-study in an effort to connect with his family, learn more about his culture, and assist Spanish speakers however possible. While Ignacio used his Spanish sparsely before his time at DCVLP, his internship showed him that he should embrace speaking the language with more confidence and his time with Spanish-speaking clients showed how his desire to help Spanish speakers was possible and something he wishes to continue pursuing.

Andrea Morin

Andrea Morin worked as a summer undergraduate intern for DCVLP in 2023. She assisted in staffing DCVLP’s Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Library clinic, actively interacted with clients, and observed legal consultations to gain insight on the Domestic Violence and Asylum cases. Using her advanced Spanish language knowledge, a language she learned at home from her Mexican mother, Andrea translated various documents and interpreted client-attorney meetings during her time at DCVLP. Working with Spanish-speaking clients through her translation services showed Andrea the need and value of multilingual attorneys. As a current senior pursuing a Government and Italian double major and a Linguistics minor at Georgetown University, she hopes to attend law school and pursue a career in public interest law. During her time working at DCVLP, Andrea was inspired by the impact that the organization made on the local Hispanic community and was truly honored to have been part of an organization that advocates and empowers such an important part of our D.C. community.

Sofia Schuchner

Sofia Schuchner is a former DCVLP intern; she assisted in staffing DCVLP’s Children’s National Columbia Heights medical-legal clinic for a semester. Sofia was born in Argentina and raised in the U.S. surrounded by immigrant and Latinx communities. From an early age, Sofia saw the value of language skills to communicate with non-English speakers. At DCVLP, Sofia’s work at the clinics included providing Spanish-language services to communicate and increase trust with migrants. Prior to DCVLP, Sofia interned with CASA Virginia, a non-profit organization that advocates for immigrants at the local, state, and federal level. Developing on these experiences, at DCVLP, she prepared country profiles for immigration and asylum cases, specifically focused on women, children, and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Celebrating Hispanic Attorneys of Note

Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor is an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS).

She was born on June 25, 1954, in the Bronx, New York to Puerto Rican-born parents. She received her B.A. from Princeton University then attended Yale Law School where she earned her J.D.

After working in private practice, she was nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by President George H. W. Bush.

In 1991, she was nominated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by President Bill Clinton.

In 1997, she was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Barack Obama, becoming the first Hispanic and third woman to serve on SCOTUS.

Throughout her career as a Justice, she gained a reputation for her advocacy for Latinx representation in the judicial system.

Catherine Cortez Masto

Catherine Cortez Masto is a lawyer serving as United States Senator of Nevada.

She was born on March 29, 1964, in Las Vegas, Nevada to a Mexican-Italian family. She received her B.S. from the University of Nevada and then attended Gonzaga University where she earned her J.D.

From 1999 to 2001, she worked as a federal prosecutor in Washington D.C.

In 2006, she ran and won the election for state’s attorney general for two terms. As the state’s attorney general, she led large-scale prosecutions of illegal drug and sex traffickers.

In 2015, she ran for Senate and won. She was the first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate and became the first woman to represent Nevada.

As Senator, she works on repairing the broken immigration system and protecting hardworking families. She is a cosponsor of the DREAM Act and a supporter for a comprehensive immigration reform.

Miriam Naveira Merly

Miriam Naveira Merly served as Justice on the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico before she retired.

She was born on July 28, 1934, in Santurce, Puerto Rico. She received her Master of Laws from Columbia University and then attended the University of Puerto Rico, where she earned her J.D.

In 1973, she became the first female Solicitor General of Puerto Rico. In 1975, she argued before the Supreme Court of the United States, becoming the first Latina to do so.

In 1985, she was appointed to the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico and became the first woman to serve on that court.

In 2003, she was appointed to serve as Chief Justice of the court and became the first woman to serve before retiring in 2004.

She is remembered for breaking the barriers for Latina women who want to be Solicitor General or Justice of Puerto Rico. Also, for her advocacy for gender equality.

Gidget Gabriela Benitez

Gidget Gabriela Benitez is a Legislative Assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives

She was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Florida and Maryland. She got her B.S. from the University of Central Florida and then attended American University Washington College of Law, where she earned her J.D.

In 2019, she became a legislative assistant, and some of her responsibilities were to review bills, monitor legislation, resolutions, etc.

During her time on the Hill, she was listed as one of the nation’s most influential lobbyists and Capitol Hill staffers.

She also created her podcast, “Afro LAWtina,” to answer frequently asked questions of African American and Latino pre-law and law students.

Kiara Santos

Kiara Santos is a licensed and practicing attorney specializing in Business, Intellectual Property, and Estate Planning law.

She grew up in Florida. She got her B.S. from the University of South Florida and then attended Florida A&M University College of Law, where she earned her J.D.

She created her own business and provided legal consulting services to small or mid-size companies.

After gaining experience in her business, she decided to start the Santos Legal Group to provide legal services to those who have businesses.

As an Afro-Latina founder, she was named Top 40 under 40 by the National Black Lawyers in New York.

She created her own blog to provide advice to those who want to go to law school and yoga. She also shares her story, as an Afro-Latina, on what kept motivated and how to motivate those who might be going through the same.

Jennifer Salinas

Jennifer Salinas is a Latina attorney who is currently the Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Cerence.

She earned her B.A. in Political Science from San Diego State University, and later her J.D from Loyola University Los Angeles.

Salinas has twenty years of experience at several prominent law firms, including ten years as a Partner. Furthermore, she is the former National President of the Hispanic National Bar Association.

While in her role as National President, Salinas says she made community engagement her mission. She explained how she understands how useful visibility of Latinx lawyers would have been while growing up in a Latinx community herself.

Salinas has been an advisor on a range of matters including compliance, IP, labor, litigation, and corporate governance.

Lawyers of Color announced Salinas as an addition to its 2023 Power List as one of the most influential minority attorneys.

Dennis Chavez

Senator Dennis Chavez was the first American-born Hispanic senator. He represented New Mexico, where he was born and raised, for twenty-seven years and was dedicated to giving a voice to the oppressed.

Chavez attended Georgetown University Law, and after he returned home to New Mexico, he began practicing in Albuquerque and was later elected to the New Mexico House of Representatives in 1923.

Chavez introduced legislation to provide free textbooks for public school students in his early years in the state legislature. After being elected to the Senate in 1936, he served on the Committee on Public Works and the Committee on Post Office and Post Roads.

One of Chavez’s early pushes in the Senate was for the US to strengthen ties with Latin America. He was appointed chairman of a group investigating the US relationship with Puerto Rico and concluded that the problems could only be met “with a full knowledge that the people are American citizens and not foreigners.”

Furthermore, Chavez fought for issues in regard to his Latinx constituents, such as creating a Fair Employment Practices Commission. This was a particular concern for Latino constituents because, as Chavez said, “many of our people in the Southwest have been discriminated against economically.” Though the bill regarding fair employment ultimately did not pass, he is remembered for being a champion of human rights.

Mario Guerra Obledo

Mario Guerra Obledo was born in San Antonio, Texas as one of thirteen children. He left the University of Texas at Austin to enlist in the U.S. Navy and serve in the Korean War.

After briefly serving in the US Navy, Obledo graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in pharmacy. During his time there, he established a chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens (“LULAC”). Obledo received his J.D. from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio in 1960 and established a private practice in San Antonio and worked there until joining the Texas attorney general’s office in 1965.

In 1968, Obledo co-founded the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (“MALDEF”). He served as the first general counsel and then as the executive director, a role in which he grew the organization to fight for Mexican American rights in multiple different locations.

After resigning from MALDEF in 1973, he joined Harvard Law School in 1974 and became a teaching fellow, as well as returning to his private practice. The following year, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Obledo as California’s head of the Department of Health and Welfare. Later, he served as the president of LULAC from 1983-1985.

Justina K. Rivera

Justina Rivera serves the Office of the New York City Comptroller as General Counsel and Deputy Comptroller for Legal Affairs. She graduated from Fordham University School of Law in 2010.

In addition to her current role, Rivera oversees the Comptroller’s Bureau of Law & Adjustment and the Bureaus of Engineering and Labor Law.

Riverais the Vice President of Membership of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association (MBBA) MBBA supports Black and other minority lawyers and fights to advance the progress of minorities in the profession.

Prior to these positions, she specialized in products liability, general commercial litigation, and medical malpractice as an associate at Harris Beach LLC.

Rivera also worked as a trial attorney, Senior Counsel, and Assistant Borough Chief at the NYC Law Department.

Doralyn De Dios

A recent awardee of the Top Lawyer Under 40 Award from the Hispanic Bar Association, Doralyn De Dios is the managing attorney at De Dios Law. She founded this firm and deals with immigration law and criminal defense.

De Dios is the child of immigrants, and graduated New York Law School in 2016. She began her career at the Kings County District Attorney’s office where she worked in the Domestic Violence, Investigations, and Early Case Assessment bureaus.

She served as president of the Dominican Bar Association, where she empowered Latinx law students and attorneys. Additionally, she served as board director for the Association of Black Women Attorneys. Through these roles, she has organized several programs to help underserved populations including Citizenship workshops and Immigration Law Know Your Rights seminars.

De Dios is truly passionate about ensuring her clients have excellent representation, and believes every person accused of a crime deserves this experience.