Sehla Ashai is an attorney specializing in immigration and criminal justice system advocacy for victims of human trafficking. Prior to working as a solo practitioner, she worked as a staff attorney for the National Immigrant Justice Center's Counter-Trafficking Project, where she provided legal services to more than 40 adult and child victims of human trafficking. She has also been a legal consultant and trainer for Heartland Alliance's child trafficking prevention project in Haiti, which commenced after the January 12, 2010, earthquake. She is a graduate of University of Michigan Law School, and was a recipient of the Henry Bates and Clara Belfield Overseas Fellowship to conduct research on gender discrimination and citizenship law in Indian-Administered Kashmir. Her research resulted in an article entitled, "The Jammu and Kashmir State Subjects Controversy," published in the Drexel Law Review Symposium on South Asia and the Law, Spring 2010.
Elyse Dobney is the volunteer manager for STOP-IT, The Salvation Army’s initiative against human trafficking for Northern Illinois. Before working for STOP-IT, she worked as a Long Term Recovery Specialist for the Katrina Aid Today Program, which existed to help survivors of Hurricane Katrina acclimate to life in Chicago. In her current position, Ms. Dobney raises community awareness on the issue of human trafficking, including the “red flags” and what can be done. She also trains community service providers, law enforcement, and medical personnel on matters related to human trafficking victims. In addition, she provides direct outreach and support to suspected victims. Ms. Dobney is also responsible for establishing STOP-IT’s volunteer program to augment its existing services and increase its capacity for serving survivors of human trafficking. She earned her MA in Social Work, with a focus on Community Health and Urban Development, from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned her undergraduate degree from Elmhurst College.
Miguel Keberlein Gutierrez is the supervisory attorney for the Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project at the Legal Assistance Foundation (LAF), where he began working as a staff attorney after graduating from law school in 2002. Mr. Gutierrez is one of only two attorneys in the state of Illinois dedicated to representing migrant workers involved in labor disputes. Mr. Gutierrez’s work was featured in an article in the September 2006 issue of Chicago Lawyer magazine. Mr. Gutierrez earned a BA in International Relations from St. Norbert College and an MA in Third World Development Support from the University of Iowa. He earned a JD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Kaethe Morris Hoffer is the deputy executive director and legal director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE). Ms. Hoffer represents individual survivors of sexual assault, including through prostitution, advocating for them through civil litigation and within the context of the criminal system. Ms. Hoffer has devoted the last 20 years working as a legal and political advocate for trafficking victims. She has coauthored cutting edge civil rights laws for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence, and lobbied for progressive legislation on trafficking and prostitution in Springfield, Washington DC and at the United Nations. Ms. Hoffer conducts trainings on civil legal remedies against sexual assault for rape and domestic violence service organizations, as well as for attorneys and legal organizations. She currently serves on the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s Policy Advisory Committee, and previously was a member of the women’s policy advisory group for the Obama Campaign, the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women in Illinois, and a policy advisor to Mayor Richard M. Daley. Ms. Hoffer earned her JD from University of Michigan Law School.
Darci Jenkins is the Midwest regional coordinator of the Northern Tier Anti-Trafficking Consortium at Heartland Human Care Services in Chicago. She is also a member of the training subcommittee of the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force and the victim services committee of the International Organization for Adolescents. Additionally, Ms. Jenkins sits on the Wisconsin Anti-Trafficking Consortium and the Indiana Protection for Abused and Trafficked Humans. She has served as the outreach liaison for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), and is currently the co-chair for the Young Activist Council at CAASE. Ms. Jenkins earned an MA in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago and a BA in Psychology and Justice Studies from the University of New Hampshire.
Maheen Kaleem has over ten years of experience working with system-involved youth in Washington D.C. and California, and is currently a third-year law student at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. Prior to law school, she served as the only first-responder and advocate for victims of domestic minor sex trafficking for a pilot program in Oakland, California. Ms. Kaleem has worked with over 350 commercially sexually exploited children, and has worked with Human Rights for Girls to assist in advocacy efforts for federal policy shift around domestic minor sex trafficking. She has lobbied Congress on a number of issues related to human trafficking. She has worked with public defenders to assist in developing protocols and MOU’s to better serve victims of domestic minor sex trafficking in juvenile detention settings, and continues to mentor and support a number of survivors and former clients.
Virginia Kendall (JD ’92) was appointed district judge for the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, in January 2006. She currently serves on the Judicial Conference of the United States’ Codes of Conduct Committee for the federal judiciary and the Seventh Circuit’s Civil Jury Instruction Committee and has also sat by designation with the Seventh, Ninth, and Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal. Judge Kendall teaches and lectures extensively in the areas of human trafficking, child exploitation, electronic discovery, internet and computer investigations, intellectual property case management, ethics, and victims’ rights. In addition, she is co-author (with T. Markus Funk) of the book Child Exploitation and Trafficking: Examining the Global Challenges and the U.S. Responses. Prior to her appointment to the U.S. District Court, Judge Kendall worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office in Chicago for over ten years. During her tenure in the United States attorney’s office, she served as deputy chief in the criminal division, child exploitation coordinator, and coordinator of Project Safe Neighborhoods. She also served on the United States Attorney General’s Advisory Committee on Nationwide Child Exploitation. For her work as a federal prosecutor, Judge Kendall received the Chicago Crime Commission’s Star of Distinction Award in 2005; the Department of Justice’s Service Award in 2003; and the FBI Director’s Letter of Recognition in 1998. Judge Kendall received her BA and MA degrees from Northwestern University and her JD from Loyola University Chicago School of Law.
Withelma "T" Ortiz-Macey Walker Pettigrew is a nationally recognizable survivor and advocate for the needs of victims of domestic minor sex trafficking. Although she endured unimaginable abuse, Ms. Pettigrew was fortunate to access resources and free herself from the horrors of human trafficking. She currently works with Human Rights for Girls and advises on federal policy as it relates to commercial sexual exploitation of children domestic minor sex trafficking. She also sits on a policy council for the Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families. She has testified before congress and presented at countless conference across the country on the topic of human trafficking. Ms. Pettigrew has received a number of awards for her advocacy and strength, including the 2011 Glamour Magazine Woman of the Year. She currently attends Trinity University in Washington, D.C.
Katherine Kaufka Walts is the director of the Center for the Human Rights of Children at Loyola University Chicago, which utilizes an interdisciplinary approach to protecting the rights of children. Ms. Kaufka Walts served as the executive director of the International Organization for Adolescents (IOFA) before joining the Loyola faculty. At IOFA she developed several projects in the U.S. and abroad advancing the rights of children and youth, including a program to develop the capacity of child welfare system to better respond to child trafficking and exploitation cases. Prior to IOFA, Ms. Kaufka Walts managed the Counter-Human Trafficking project at the National Immigrant Justice Center, where she worked with several local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies on single and multiple-victim sex and labor trafficking cases. Ms. Kaufa Walts is the author of numerous publications, including Building Child Welfare Response to Child Trafficking handbook and “Understanding Child Trafficking in the United States: A Review of Current Policies, Research, and Issues Facing Survivors” (book chapter). Ms. Kaufka Walts earned her JD from the University of Wisconsin and her BA and BS from the University of Michigan.
Maria Woltjen (JD ’87) is a lecturer and director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights at the University of Chicago Law School. Ms. Woltjen founded The Young Center in 2003, a national initiative that provides guardians ad litem for unaccompanied immigrant children detained by the federal government. Ms. Woltjen began her legal career in 1987 with the law firm of Coffield Ungaretti Harris & Slavin, where she devoted substantial time to pro bono cases. From 1991-96, she directed the Children’s Advocacy Project of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, focusing on juvenile justice, health disparities and disability rights. Additionally, Ms. Woltjen worked for two years as adjunct faculty at the Civitas ChildLaw Center at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Ms. Woltjen speaks at numerous national conferences on the subject of integrating child welfare principles in immigration proceedings for children and youth. Her current focus is on trafficking of youth for labor. She serves on boards and committees in the immigration field including the Washington D.C. based InterAgency Working Group on Unaccompanied Children. Ms. Woltjen earned her JD from Loyola University of Chicago School of Law and her BS from the University of Illinois at Chicago.