Alisa Diehl joins the Education team

By Paloma Mexika

I spoke with New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty’s new senior education attorney, Alisa Diehl, about her experience working in social justice. Ms. Diehl has years of legal and advocacy experience. She attended law school at University of Iowa College of Law and received her undergraduate degree at Arizona State University. This interview has been edited and condensed.

What made you interested in social justice/advocacy work? 

I grew up aware of inequity and injustice. My parents protested in the 70’s against the Vietnam war because of racial violence. My dad was moved by the injustices of the government—because of the war itself and the response to protestors at the time. My dad also was committed to learning about the injustices faced by Indigenous people. 

These perspectives were ingrained in me from a young age. I feel I have a responsibility to have a role in fighting against it. 

What in your upbringing influenced your decision to be a lawyer?

My parents made sure that I grew up aware of my privilege and that my life was easier because of it. I felt a responsibility to fight for equity, justice, and accountability, and one way to do that is through policy and the law. The law can help effectuate change.

To do this work, it’s important to really listen and understand what others are thinking, feeling, or experiencing. I put great value on humility, relationship building, and communication and supporting the work of Black, Indigenous, and people of color. 

What is your proudest accomplishment in this work?

What sticks out most are the several-year-long clients I worked with that turned into meaningful relationships. Before coming to the Center, I worked at Legal Aid focusing on unemployment benefits, housing, and domestic abuse litigation. I did individual client work, which is a much different form of advocacy work. 

In one specific unemployment benefits case, I represented a woman from the administrative level through the Iowa Supreme Court, where we were finally successful in helping her obtain benefits. She’s a working mother, a survivor of domestic violence, and a woman of color in a very white state. We had a great legal outcome, but more importantly, we connected and built a friendship over the years. We grew trust, practiced patience, and went through several legal hoops together because I helped her with other legal issues that arose in her life as a domino effect during that time. We still stay in touch. 

The way her life was impacted by the circumstances that led to her unemployment benefits case  was so stark in a state where the racial disparity for incarcerated Black residents is among the worst in the country. The events that happened to her showed very clearly the systemic and institutional racial inequalities that function effortlessly together. 

Why did you want to join the Center’s education team? 

I am a product of public schools, as is my husband and family. Public education has always been personally important to me. Perhaps more importantly, I am connected to this issue as a parent myself, because everyone wants a good education for their children.

Our social and economic systems maintain racial inequities and discrimination. The public education system is perhaps the greatest example of this. At the same time, public education has the most potential to be the great equalizer IF it’s administered and funded fully and equitably. 

I am excited to be part of a multifaceted approach to education advocacy. I look forward to developing and maintaining community relationships as part of the Transform Education NM coalition and the Yazzie counsel. I’m eager to join the formidable advocacy efforts of generations of New Mexican parents, teachers, community organizations, and education experts. 

Education Attorney

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is seeking an attorney to carry out litigation and policy advocacy to transform the public education system.

We seek a dynamic and creative attorney to work with educational leaders throughout New Mexico on major policy reforms and litigation related to education, including compliance with the landmark Yazzie/Martinez court decision. In July 2018, families and school districts represented by the Center on Law and Poverty and co-counsel won a historic court ruling that the public education system is insufficient and violates the constitutional rights of Native American, English language learner, and low-income students and students with disabilities. The ruling mandates comprehensive programmatic and funding reforms. This position will work with our legal team on ongoing litigation of the Yazzie case, advance legislative efforts, conduct administrative advocacy with agencies, and investigate and litigate new issues related to public education. Learn more about our education work at: www.nmpovertylaw.org/our-work/education/

The Center is a nationally recognized non-profit law firm that engages in systemic advocacy and impact litigation to advance the health, economic and educational wellbeing of New Mexico’s families. We partner with our communities to provide advocacy through the courts, the legislature and administrative agencies, and through community outreach and education. To learn more about the Center, please visit our website at www.nmpovertylaw.org.

Required: strong leadership and strategic thinking skills; passionate about education policy, racial justice and community lawyering; excellent litigator, writer and researcher; ability to manage complex projects; ‘no-stone-unturned’ thoroughness and persistence. Preferred: Indigenous language or Spanish speaker, experience with lobbying, coalition-building, and media.

Apply in confidence by emailing a resume and cover letter to contact@nmpovertylaw.org. We are an equal opportunity employer. Native Americans, other people of color, and people with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply.

Annoucing Sireesha Manne as NMCLP’s executive director

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is pleased to announce Sireesha Manne is taking the helm as our executive director. Sireesha has been serving as interim director since February, and has been an attorney with the Center for the last 10 years. With a strong commitment to New Mexico’s families, she has led and collaborated on successful major campaigns, including to expand healthcare access in the state. She is known for her high-caliber policy and legal advocacy, skill with developing effective strategies, and perseverance in achieving lasting results. She leads with a vision for economic and racial justice centered in our communities, and has over 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations.

A message from Sireesha:

The Center stands united with our families and community partners in advancing a bold movement for change in New Mexico. I am very grateful to be part of an exceptional and dedicated team as we enter the next chapter of our history — working together to make healthcare affordable for all, ensure every family has food security, fair wages, and financial well-being, and to pursue wholescale transformation of our public education system so that every child has the opportunity to succeed.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years, to the many collaborators that have helped build the Center – both inside and outside the organization – and to all who have made this transition a success. I look forward to working with you in the months and years to come.

Sireesha Manne
Executive Director

Kim Posich Memorial Celebration

Please join us to celebrate the life of Kim Posich at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History. The memorial will be located in the courtyard of the museum. Light snacks and refreshments will be served.

Hosts: Gail Evans & Ruza Donohue

When: Friday, August 18th from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM

Where: The Albuquerque Museum of Art and History 2000 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM

 

Introducing our Summer 2017 Legal Interns

The New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty would like to recognize its two outstanding summer legal interns, Eduardo (Eddie) Garcia and Dawn Vernooy.

Eduardo Garcia

Eddie is a recipient of the Peggy Browning Fellowship for distinguished students who have excelled in law school and have demonstrated a commitment to workers’ rights through their educational, work, volunteer, and personal experiences.

Eddie is working under the supervision of the Workers’ Rights team focusing on an initiative to pass an Albuquerque earned sick leave ordinance, creating workers’ compensation outreach materials in Spanish and English for agricultural workers, and defending Albuquerque’s minimum wage ordinance.

A native of the Juárez, México- El Paso, Texas, Eddie was involved in community organizing and activism in the borderland. A witness to his parents struggle with minimum-wage and poor working conditions, he advocated for justice for farmworkers, day laborers, and retail and service industry workers.

Eddie will graduate from UNM School of Law in 2018.

Dawn Vernooy

Dawn Vernooy is the recipient of the Seth Montgomery Fellowship for exceptional law students working on poverty related issues at the Center.

Dawn is working under the supervision of the Workers’ Rights and Public Benefits teams focusing on initiatives to secure paid time off for sick workers and defending Albuquerque’s minimum wage ordinance as well as securing unobstructed access to Medicaid and food assistance. She has a deep personal connection to the work at the Center as a former food assistance and current Medicaid recipient.

A graduate of Albuquerque’s West Mesa High, Dawn holds a PhD in English and has spent over a decade in academia at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania focusing on women’s and workers’ rights. She currently serves on the Sexual Assault Nurses Examiners Collective board of directors.
Dawn will graduate from UNM School of Law in 2019.

Kim Posich 1953-2017

Kim Posich

A memorial will be held for Kim at 6pm on Friday, August 18th at the Albuquerque Museum (2000 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104).

Remembering Kim

Kim Posich, long-time Executive Director of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, passed away on Sunday night at home. His family, the Center staff, and the community mourn the loss of such a tremendous social justice advocate.

Gail Evans, the Center’s Legal Director and his wife, wrote the following remembrance of Kim:

Kim was diagnosed with ALS in January of 2015. During these past few years, as his body steadily shut down, his mind, his humor, his grace, his patience, his appreciation of life did not. He continued to be a wonderful partner, parent, grandfather, friend, and colleague, contributing to the Center’s work until very recently, when he became more and more focused on the basics – breathing, eating, and drinking – all of which had become a real struggle.

Many of us loved and respected Kim. We loved his intellect; we loved his determination to build a more just world; we loved his persistent fight against poverty and injustice; we loved his appreciation for life, nature, a good joke, a good poem, and a good game, and we loved how much he loved. He truly was a beautiful man.

Please take a moment to appreciate the sky, the light, a flower growing in a crack in the sidewalk, and remember Kim. Be kind and understanding to someone you don’t know, or don’t like, and remember Kim. Say yes to someone in need who asks you for a favor, and remember Kim. Be inspired by the Freedom Riders and remember Kim. Take a bold move for justice, and remember Kim.

 

Kim at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty

Kim Posich served as Executive Director of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty for 14 years, between 2002 and 2016. He joined the Center with a clear purpose: to transform the small but effective organization into the powerhouse of legal advocacy in New Mexico that it is today. In the ensuing years, he achieved that vision beyond what anyone could have imagined. He increased the Center’s budget by more than $1 million, grew the size of the Center’s staff by 300 percent, and expanded the issue areas in which the Center was engaged, all while staying true to the Center’s history and core values. The Center’s achievements under his tenure are too numerous to list, but a few highlights include:

  • Leading stakeholders from around the state in a successful campaign to expand Medicaid eligibility. This change extended healthcare coverage to over 250,000 adults who were not previously eligible.
  • Winning a landmark lawsuit extending workers’ compensation benefits to agricultural laborers.
  • Coordinating campaigns that brought $16 million of financial support to New Mexico’s civil legal services system—the “legal emergency room” for the poor.
  • Collaborating with community groups to persuade the University of New Mexico Hospital to stop charging uninsured, indigent patients 30 percent more than insured patients and requiring them to pay 50 percent of expected charges for some services in advance.
  • Arguing for improvements to the state’s administration of public benefits that resulted in hundreds of thousands of people getting assistance more effectively when they needed it.

As New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty Board Member John W. Boyd wrote:

Kim’s tireless work has resulted in accomplishments that have changed New Mexico law and improved our state in ways that make us very proud.

Rest well, Kim. We will miss you.

Two Center Attorneys Selected as Fellows for Prestigious Race-Equity Training

The Center is pleased to announce that Supervising Attorney Sovereign Hager and Staff Attorney Abuko Estrada have been selected to participate in the Sargent Shriver National Center on Law and Poverty’s Racial Justice Training Institute (RJTI). RJTI is a national training program committed to promoting race equity as an integral part of antipoverty advocacy. Over a six month period, RTJI fellows will participate in a combination of online and onsite learning to develop their skills to successfully address the role racism plays in causing and perpetuating poverty.

As part of their fellowship, Sovereign and Abuko have spent the week in Chicago training with the Shriver Center. Abuko said, “The Shriver Center’s Racial Justice Training Institute has been an inspirational experience. I am excited to put into the action the tools and strategies learned and continue to engage with a great network of advocates across the nation. I am honored to be a part of the training and feel positive it will help to inform and transform the Center’s work and impact in New Mexico.”

Staff Attorney Abuko Estrada
Staff Attorney Abuko Estrada
Supervising Attorney Sovereign Hager
Supervising Attorney Sovereign Hager

NM Trial Lawyers Association Honors the Center

On Friday, April 22nd, the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association recognized the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty with the 2016 AMICUS Award for Significant Contributions to the Advancement of Law. Professor Michael Browde presented the award to the entire staff of the Center and shared his reflections on our work:

“…the Center has become the leading legal organization in service to the poor in this state—serving client interests directly in the broadest ways possible, while also working diligently and cooperatively with the legal aid and specialized legal service organizations that work so hard in service to the poor and disadvantaged segments of our society. So, it is fitting in the extreme that NMTLA honors, the Center, its extraordinary Executive Director, Kim Posich, its indefatigable Director of Litigation, Gail Evans, and its marvelous and dedicated staff.”

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Thank you to the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association for this honor!

Introducing the Center’s new Executive Director!

It is with great pleasure that we introduce you to the NM Center on Law and Poverty’s new Executive Director, Edward Tabet-Cubero. Edward 2
Edward’s family has deep New Mexican roots, and he is intimately familiar with our state’s strengths and weaknesses. He has a deep understanding of inequity and an unshakable commitment to address it. And he comes to the Center with the leadership, management skills, personal strength and vision to shape our role in doing so.

Mr. Tabet-Cubero has had an accomplished career as an educational leader and advocate, serving as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, district program director, university instructor, and most recently Assistant Superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools. Between 2011 and 2015, Mr. Tabet-Cubero worked as Associate Director of the nonprofit organization Dual Language Education of New Mexico (DLeNM). DLeNM’s mission is to “develop, support, and advocate for high-quality dual language enriched education in New Mexico.” In 2014, Mr. Tabet-Cubero was one of 24 New Mexico fellows selected to participate in the WK Kellogg Foundation’s National Community Leadership Network. He currently plays a variety of roles with a number of grassroots community organizations and non-profits, including the New Mexico Coalition for the Majority, which continues to find success in its advocacy for the 72% of New Mexican students who are linguistically and culturally diverse.

Mr. Tabet-Cubero will begin his new position at the Center on Law and Poverty on June 1, 2016. He will be working with Kim Posich, the Center’s long-time Executive Director, over a period of several months to facilitate a smooth transition.

The Staff and Board of the NM Center on Law and Poverty know that Mr. Tabet-Cubero will be an outstanding leader for our organization as we move into the next 20 years of advocating on behalf of New Mexico’s low-income families! Please join us in welcoming him to the Center.