Rigoberto J. Arrechiga was born in Mazatlan, Sinaloa, Mexico to parents who struggled in their native land. Their desire for a better life brought them to this country without the requisite documentation. Mr. Arrechiga was undocumented most of his childhood and lived under the constant fear that he might be picked up by the “green” vans. He was raised in the Eastside community of Boyle Heights, where generations of immigrants just like him have and continue to settle in their journey towards the American Dream.
Mr. Arrechiga attended San Antonio de Padua, a small parochial school located in Boyle Heights, not too far from the concrete banks of the Los Angeles River and in the shadow of downtown’s high rises. He graduated from Cantwell Preparatory High School in Montebello, where he cleaned classrooms before and after school to help offset the cost of tuition. Mr. Arrechiga was the first in his family to attend college. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in History with a Minor in Latin American Studies from Arizona State University in 1995 and his Juris Doctorate from Loyola Law School in 1998. Mr. Arrechiga has had the privilege of representing thousands of clients in all aspects of their criminal cases as a deputy public defender for the County of Los Angeles. He joined the office in 2001. Prior to his employment as a deputy public defender, Mr. Arrechiga taught History and Language Arts to middle school students at Stevenson, Hollenbeck and Nimitz Middle Schools. He also taught citizenship classes at Belmont Adult School.
Mr. Arrechiga is Past President of the Latino Public Defender Association, founding member of the Adopt a School Project (Hoover Elementary School) for the Office of the Public Defender, and a volunteer for the Constitutional Rights Foundation. Mr. Arrechiga was Deputy in Charge of the East Los Angeles Public Defender’s Office for three years. While at the East Los Angeles branch, he organized the Annual Cinco de Mayo Celebration that drew hundreds of participants and awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships for students from Roosevelt and Garfield High Schools. Mr. Arrechiga is married to Erica Marquez. They have the privilege of raising their three year old son, Asael G. Arrechiga in beautiful Pasadena.
Elizabeth P. Uribe was born in Los Angeles to immigrant parents from Guadalajara and Ayutla, Jalisco, Mexico. She is a 1998 graduate of Woodrow Wilson High School, where she participated in the Administration of Justice and Law Magnet. She attended UCLA and graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Chicana/o Studies in 2003. While at UCLA Ms. Uribe was active in MEChA and was a peer counselor at the Student Retention Center. Ms. Uribe obtained her Juris Doctorate from UC Hastings College of the Law in 2006. While at UC Hastings she interned at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies and the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. She also served on the boards of the La Raza Law Students Association, the Native American Law Students Association and the Race and Poverty Law Journal. Ms. Uribe is an associate at the Law Office of Enrique Arevalo where she practices immigration defense. In her spare time she enjoys running and plans to run her first marathon this year. This is her fifth year serving on the MABA board.
Erick Solares is a native of Guatemala. He obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and his Juris Doctor Degree from the University of San Diego School of Law (USD). While at USD, Mr. Solares served as President of the La Raza Law Students Association. Mr. Solares is currently a Senior Attorney with the Legal Division of the California Department of Transportation where he handles complex litigation matters in the areas of governmental tort liability, construction contract, inverse condemnation and eminent domain. Mr. Solares firmly believes in giving back to the community and has served on the Board of Directors of various non-profit organizations. Most notably, Mr. Solares served as President of the Central American Festivities Committee (COFECA) and as Executive Director of the Guatemalan Unity Information Agency (GUIA), an organization which provides immigration services to underprivileged individuals. Mr. Solares is currently a Board Member of Intelligent Mobility International (IMI), a non-profit organization, founded by alumni from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which seeks to empower underprivileged individuals with disabilities by designing and producing wheelchairs suitable for the terrain in developing countries. As a Board Member of IMI, Mr. Solares serves as a legal advisor to the organization. Mr. Solares enjoys visiting schools and motivating Latino students to pursue a college education. Over the years, Mr. Solares has worked closely with community leaders and activists in the fight for social justice.
Gladdys Uribe was born and raised in Solvang, California along California’s Central Coast. Gladdys’ mother is from Estación Guadalupe Victoria, Baja California and her father is from Los Vergara, Jalisco. At the age of sixteen while attending a Youth and Government conference in Sacramento, California she heard a young Latino attorney from MALDEF speak about affirmative action. Since that day, Gladdys was inspired to become an attorney. As the daughter of immigrants, she wanted to combat some of the injustices she grew up witnessing. She graduated from Dunn School in Los Olivos, California in 1998 and subsequently enrolled at Occidental College in Eagle Rock, California. While at Occidental, Gladdys served as the co-chair for MEChA. She graduated cum laude in 2002 with a B.A. in Sociology and was honored as the 2002 Student Leader of the Year. After graduation, she moved back to the Santa Ynez Valley and worked for People Helping People, a local non-profit. She also taught English as a Second Language to adults. In 2003 Gladdys began her legal education at the UCLA School of Law. She served as co-chair of the UCLA La Raza Law Student Association and was active on the board of the UCLA Chicano-Latino Law Review. During the summers, she worked for the Learning Rights Project advocating for children with learning disabilities and for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network making “know your rights” presentations to immigrants in detention. She graduated from the UCLA School of Law in 2006 with concentrations in the Critical Race Studies Program and the Public Interest Law & Policy Program. Gladdys practices immigration law. She is currently on the boards of the Dunn School, the Latina Lawyers Bar Association (LLBA), and the Marco Firebaugh Dream Fund, which provides scholarships to
AB540 students at the UCLA School of Law. This is her fifth year on the MABA board
Felipe de la Torre is a felony trial attorney with the Alternate Public Defender’s Office. He has tried over 65 complicated misdemeanor and felony trials. Mr. de la Torre is also a Team Leader with the Alternate Public Defender’s Office, and in that capacity supervises 8 felony trial attorneys. Mr. de la Torre was born in Jerez, Zacatecas and was raised in the Chinatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. He graduated from the Magnet Program at Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights. He attended Cal State University, Los Angeles and majored in Political Science. He was selected to become a Ford Foundation student, where he did research on Get-Out-The-Vote activities in the inner city. In 1997, Mr. de la Torre graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. He received the American Jurisprudence Award in Legal Research and Writing and was an editor of the Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal. During law school, he clerked with the Los Angeles Public Defender’s Office, the Federal Public Defender’s Office in Los Angeles, and interned with the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. Mr. de la Torre is grateful to his high school teacher, Mr. Fong for encouraging him to apply to college, as well as CSULA Professors Goldberg, Maleki, Wagner, and Koch for encouraging him to apply to law school. Mr. de la Torre is thrilled to be on the MABA Board and is looking forward to serving the Latino community.
Michael was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He attended California State University, Fullerton where he majored in Political Science. He earned his J.D. from New England School of Law in Boston, Massachusetts. Michael is an Attorney from the State of New Mexico and is licensed to practice Immigration law in all 50 States. Upon graduation from law school Michael was one of only 24 new lawyers in the entire United States who was offered a Judicial Law Clerkship from the U.S. Department of Justice Honor’s program, for the U.S. Immigration Court in Los Angeles, California. While serving as a Judicial Law Clerk for the U.S. Immigration Court in Los Angeles, CA, Michael drafted the legal decisions the U.S. Immigration Court Judges would render in Court. Additionally, he would draft legal memoranda which would address specific complex issues of Immigration law that were under consideration by the U.S. Immigration Court Judges.
Michael now practices in his Entertainment Immigration practice where he prepares non-immigrant visa applications for his clients. He has literally submitted thousand's of visa applications for entertainers throughout his years of practice. Some of his client’s include Vicente Fernandez, Alejandro Fernandez, Pepe Aguilar, Mariachi Vargas, Shaila Durcal as well as many other top regional Mexican music artists. Additionally, Michael prepares visa applications for Actor’s from Australia, Canada, England, and Mexico as well as Boxers from Mexico and South America. He is no stranger when it comes to working with major studios such as ABC Family, Disney, Fox, and NBC Universal. Additionally, he has also has a well established working relationship with the Latin Grammy's.
Attorney Michael Felix is also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which is the largest association for Immigration Attorney in the United States. Michael firmly believes in giving back to his community and because of that he previously served for three years as a Trustee and Executive Board member for the Mexican American Bar Association. He is also a member of the American Bar Association and National Hispanic Bar Association.
Lillian Vega Jacobs is a partner with the law firm of Jacobs & Vega where she practices criminal defense representing clients in the counties of: Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, and San Diego. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from U.C. Berkeley majoring in English and graduating with a distinction in general scholarship. She earned her Juris Doctor degree from UCLA School of Law. She has been a member of the State Bar of California since 1998.
Prior to practicing criminal defense, Lillian Vega Jacobs was a prosecutor for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office for nearly six years completing numerous felony trials and prosecuting thousands of cases. She is currently on the panel of qualified criminal defense attorneys of the County of Los Angeles accepting court appointments to represent defendants charged with criminal offenses.
Lillian Vega Jacobs is a member and past President of the Southeast District Bar Association (SEDA), is a Trustee of the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA), a member and past Treasurer of the Mexican American Bar Association (MABA), and a member of Latina Lawyers Association and Whittier Bar Association. Lillian Vega Jacobs will be named the 2011 recipient of the Attorney of the Year award by the Southeast District Bar Association.
Board of Trustees
Pete Navarro is MABA’S 2008 Past President. Born and raised in Boyle Heights, Pete Navarro has deep roots in Los Angeles. The Boyle Heights doctor who delivered him in 1950 also delivered his father, Pete Sr., in 1918. Pete attended Cathedral High School, East LA Community College and got his undergraduate degree from UC Santa Cruz. Pete’s father was an IBEW Union electrician while his mother, Helen Navarro, worked for LAUSD. During the late 60’s Pete became involved in the anti-war and Chicano civil rights movements as did so many during that period. The turning point in his life was when a beloved cousin was killed in Vietnam. His legal advocacy began at UCSC with an internship with Watsonville Legal Aid representing the rural poor in welfare hearings. It wasn’t until he heard of the Peoples College of Law, however, that Pete considered law school. Attending PCL at nights from 1976-1980 he worked full time for the ACLU and later with SFV Legal Services as an attorney. Pete sought a career with Legal Services but when the Reagan administration gutted LSC’s budget and imposed restrictions on the practice of poverty law, Pete went into private practice and now handles adult criminal, delinquency and civil rights cases. Pete’s wife, Norma Navarro, works for Occidental College and together they raised four sons, Gabriel, Magon, Sandino, and Jamal who died on 9/27/11 after waging a courageous 4 year battle with colon cancer. A resident of El Sereno, he has been involved in its Neighborhood Council and numerous other local efforts including acting as a plaintiff in a suit which successfully challenged the State’s plans to build a freeway through El Sereno. Appointed in 2006 to the City’s Affordable Housing Commission by his childhood friend, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, he is the Commission’s Vice President. Throughout Pete’s adult life he has been involved with political campaigns and community organizations focused upon improving the quality of life for residents of this City and State.
Maria is a Head Deputy District Attorney for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and has been in the office 21 years. Maria is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and received her Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School in 1990. This is Maria’s third year on the MABA Board.
Maria’s story in Los Angeles began when her grandfather emigrated from the town of Pihuamo, Jalisco, Mexico where he had the distinction of serving as the town’s mayor. In Los Angeles, Maria’s grandfather started a trucking company which continues to operate to this day as Ramirez Trucking Company. Maria’s father soon followed her grandfather to Los Angeles to work for her grandfather’s company as a truck driver. Eventually, Maria’s father sent for her mother who was living in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and was a few months pregnant with Maria. Maria was born in 1965 at Rose Hospital in Los Angeles. Maria’s family was later joined by two sisters and one brother. Maria grew up in Boyle Heights and attended Our Lady of Talpa grammar school and Sacred Heart of Mary High School in Montebello. After graduating from high school, Maria attended Loyola Marymount University where she majored in Political Science and minored in Philosophy. During college, Maria was President of the Latinos for Law student organization. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1987. At Loyola Law School Maria focused on criminal law and trial advocacy and was on the board of the La Raza Law Student’s Association.
Maria joined the District Attorney’s Office as an attorney in 1990 and spent most of her career in the Hardcore Gang and Major Narcotics Divisions. In 2009, District Attorney Steve Cooley promoted Maria to Head Deputy District Attorney, thereby becoming the first Latina Head Deputy in the history of the office. Maria is also a founding member and former president and board member of the Latino Prosecutors Association. Maria currently lives in Whittier with her fiancé Edward Guerrero, Fire Captain with the City of Alhambra, and their one year old son, Cruz Edward Guerrero.
Efrain Aceves was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States with his family as a young child. He attended UCLA, becoming the first member of his family to graduate from college in the United States. Upon completing his undergraduate studies at UCLA, Mr. Aceves was appointed as a U.S. Probation Officer for the Central District of California. Mr. Aceves returned to his alma matter with the goal of becoming a prosecutor for the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office. He earned his Juris Doctorate in 1997 and landed his dream job shortly thereafter. Mr. Aceves served as MABA President in 2007, becoming the first Deputy District Attorney to lead the association. He has remained very active in MABA and is currently serving his tenth year as a member of the Board of Directors. Mr. Aceves has distinguished himself at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. He has been lead prosecutor in almost one hundred jury trials and is currently assigned to the Family Violence Division. Mr. Aceves is the also an elected official at the Whittier City School District. He has been representing the schools he attended as a child for six years and currently serves as School Board President. He also has the honor of being the youngest member serving on the Presbyterian Intercommunity Hospital Board of Directors, an important and well regarded regional hospital located in the city of Whittier.
Robert F. Jacobs was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by school teacher parents and attended college at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. He was elected Student Government President while supporting diversity and multiculturalism. He completed a full time summer internship for Governor Tommy Thompson in the State Capital in Madison prior to graduating in 1994 with Highest Honors in Political Science and Economics. (In the spring of 2011, he was presented the Alumnus of the Year Award and gave the graduation Commencement Speech.) After college, he was able to attend Marquette University Law School, due to the Dean’s Scholarship, where he graduated in 1997. He was involved with the Hispanic American Law Student Association (HALSA) and was a member of the Marquette Law Review, Moot Court, and the Pro Bono Society. Robert Jacobs is the founding partner of Jacobs & Vega, PLC, a boutique immigration and criminal defense firm, practicing immigration law and post-conviction relief. He has been a Certified Specialist in Immigration Law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization since 2007 and was named a Super Lawyers Rising Star in 2011. He specializes in Removal Defense for immigrant detainees primarily from Mexico and Latin America and conducted court cases in seven states. His post-conviction Motions to Vacate have been granted in the Counties of Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco, Riverside and Contra Costa. He has published Board of Immigration Appeals and Ninth Circuit Court decisions and presented eight oral arguments before the Ninth Circuit. He has served on the Board of the Los Angeles County Bar Association (LACBA) Immigration Law Section since 2007, is a past Trustee of the Southeast District Bar Association (SEDBA), and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). He has been the organizer/moderator and a panelist for several CLE seminars through LACBA and the Beverly Hills Bar Association, presented a LACBA “Lunch With the Experts” seminar, and been on immigration liaison committees including USCIS, EOIR, and ICE. He has provided pro bono legal advice at several legal fairs and is a past president of the Kiwanis community service club in Downey. He has also been a guest legal commentator for a Vietnamese legal radio show. This is his second year as a proud Trustee for MABA.
Guillermo Santiso is a Deputy District Attorney that has prosecuted on behalf of Los Angeles County for approximately 7 years. He works in downtown Los Angeles in the Central Trials Unit, where he handles a diverse range of felony crimes. Mr. Santiso graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he majored in Political Science. Wanting to experience a different environment, he decided to attend law school in Washington, DC., where he graduated from the George Washington University School of Law in 2004. Both his parents were born and raised in Argentina. They grew up in the Villa Urquiza suburb of Buenos Aires. They left Argentina before he was born, and after living in Mexico City for a short period of time, permanently relocated to Los Angeles. Mr. Santiso was born and raised in Los Angeles and he spent the majority of his childhood in the Santa Clarita Valley. He is proud of the fact that this is the third year that he has been able to serve the Hispanic legal community through his position as a trustee.
Juan Ramos has experience in transactional law, including corporate, real estate, and general contracts and business law. Prior to starting his practice, he worked at several big law firms. He is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Southwestern Law School, where he teaches Drafting Business Contracts, and Special Counsel to the Board President of the Los Angeles Unified School District.Juan was born and raised in Los Angeles, where he attended public schools. After graduating from Roosevelt High School, he attended Harvard, where he received his B.A. in Economics. He then received his Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Michigan. After graduating from Michigan and before going to New York to work in finance, Juan returned to Los Angeles to teach at his high school alma mater. He eventually went to law school at Stanford. Juan has used his skills as an attorney to assist people through his community involvement in several boards. He is a board member of the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA and the Variety Boys and Girls Club in Boyle Heights. Juan has also served as a commissioner in the City of Los Angeles. Juan is married and has three daughters.
Eber N. Bayona began his legal career, as an apprentice with the Law Office of Lawrence R. Young, a criminal defense firm. Mr. Bayona worked with Mr. Young for about a year, during that time he handled mostly serious felonies. After second-chairing a couple of murder trials with Mr. Young by his side, he developed a deep desire to become a trial lawyer. He felt that too many people, especially those who had prior criminal records, were afraid to put their case before a jury. After working for other attorneys, he opened his own law practice. His office is located right across from the Norwalk Courthouse, where he practices criminal defense and personal injury.
Mr. Bayona graduated from Tufts University with an undergraduate degree in International Relations and then went on to obtain his J.D. from Western State University. During law school he did a study abroad program in Guanajuato, Mexico, at the Facultad de Derechos de Guanajuato. Although he was born in Ecuador, at the age of five his parents, who already lived in New York City, brought him to the United States so that he could attend school here. He was raised in Harlem, and attended Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School. Mr. Bayona says that many people ask him about his native country, however, he admits that he knows more about Mexico, where he backpacked for a couple of weeks during a summer, and the Dominican Republic, than he knows about Ecuador. He
Mr. Bayona thanks his parents for instilling in him the belief that “the only person who can stand in the way of his goals is himself.” He says he has a long way to go, many people to meet, and many things left to accomplish in this great life.
Alejandro Becerra was born in Jalisco, Mexico. At the age of thirteen he migrated to the United States. He attended East Whittier Middle School and La Serna High School in Whittier, California. Mr. Becerra was the first in his family to graduate from high school. Mr. Becerra enrolled at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). As a student at CSUF, Alejandro Becerra was involved with different student organizations that focused on student involvement and giving back to the community. Mr. Becerra graduated cum laude from CSUF with a double major in History and Chicano Studies. He received the Outstanding University Service Award and the Academic Excellence Award. Mr. Becerra taught elementary school before attending UCLA School of Law where he earned a J.D. with a Concentration in Critical Race Studies. In law school, Mr. Becerra was secretary for La Raza Law Student Association, an associate editor of the Chicano Latino Law Review and was a co-founding student member of the National Latina/o Law Student Association. Mr. Becerra taught courses in Chicana/o Studies at CSUF as a part time faculty for three years. He was also a consulting attorney to Mexican Consulates throughout California mostly representing pro bono clients. Attorney Alejandro Becerra is grateful to all the mentors that have believed and guided him over the years. He understands how much others have contributed to his success and firmly believes in giving back to the community. Mr. Becerra is grateful for his appointment as a MABA Trustee and looks forward to a productive and meaningful year. Alejandro Becerra is an associate in the Pasadena firm of Thon Beck Vanni Callahan & Powell, a plaintiff’s personal injury law firm. Mr. Becerra continues to represent pro-bono clients.
Judy Perez was born in Los Angeles, California to Mexican Immigrant parents from Colima and Jalisco. She was raised in Highland Park where she attended St. Ignatius Elementary, then went on to attend Sacred Heart of Jesus High School in Lincoln Heights. Ms. Perez left her familiar neighborhood surroundings and relocated to Westwood to attend UCLA. While at UCLA she interned for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in Washington, D.C. After graduating in 1999, Ms. Perez pursued her legal studies at Loyola Law School where she externed for MALDEF’s Los Angeles office and for Judge Teresa Sanchez-Gordon in Los Angeles Superior Court. After graduating from Loyola, she entered private practice as an associate for the law firm of Moreno, Becerra, Guerrero & Casillas. In 2006, she opened her own firm in downtown Los Angeles where she currently practices personal injury and civil rights law. Ms. Perez served on the MABA Board for 7 seven years before going on to become MABA President in 2010. She also previously served as a Board Member and President for the Latina Lawyers Bar Association in 2009. In 2011, Ms Perez was honored as Community Woman of the Year by the Mexican American Opportunity Foundation. She credits her accomplishments to those very special people in her life who have believed in her along the way. She recognizes that she has been able to overcome barriers because of people who believe in opening doors and in MABA’s mission of empowering the Latino community.
Ms. Claudia Menjivar was born in East LA and spent most of her childhood in Downey, California. Born to a father who emigrated from war-torn El Salvador and a mother who emigrated from Peru, Ms. Menjivar understood the power of the law at an early age and vowed to one day be a lawyer. After graduating from Warren High School, Ms. Menjivar attended the University of California, Los Angeles where she graduated with a degree in History. Instead of going straight to law school, Ms. Menjivar took a few years off and fulfilled some dreams, including moving to New York City and traveling to South America. While out of school, Ms. Menjivar also worked in different industries, including an environmental consulting firm, an advertising agency, and a hospital. Now, Ms. Menjivar is a student at Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, where she is back to working on her goal of becoming a lawyer and serving the Latino community. While in school, Ms. Menjivar has worked at the Center for Conflict Resolution providing mediation and conciliation services for the monolingual Latino community of LA County and is also a coordinator for the Young Lawyer Mentorship Program, an organization that mentors inner-city high school students through a mock trial. During her free time, Ms. Menjivar is either reading a fiction book or spending quality time with family and friends, all of which provide her with profound joy. Ms. Menjivar is incredibly grateful for the opportunity to participate on the 2012 MABA Board.
Maria Torres was born in Zacatecas, Mexico and immigrated to the United States as a young child with her immediate family. She was raised in the community of Echo Park in Los Angeles, California. As an undergraduate at California State University, Northridge, she majored in Psychology with a minor in Sociology focusing on gender and crime. During the course of her undergraduate education Ms. Torres became involved in various student organizations, one of which being The Aztlan Graduation and Scholarship Committee. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in June 2006 and was invited to attend the Honors Convocation as a Cum Laude graduating student. Subsequently she became part of the MABA family as the Executive Administrator. In May of 2011 Ms. Torres obtained an M.A. in Clinical Psychology, cum laude. During the course of her enrollment in the Clinical Program she became involved in the Child and Adolescent Assessment Clinic where she provided diagnostic psychometric assessments and evaluations of children referred for suspected Learning Disability/Dyslexia, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and their associated learning and behavioral issues.