Empowering undocumented young people in their pursuit of college, career and citizenship
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LEGAL SERVICES TEAM
For more information about our services and resources, visit our Legal Services page by clicking here!
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Marilia Zellner (Legal Services Supervisor)
Marilia Zellner has dedicated her career to humanitarian and public service work. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she was selected as the inaugural Face of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) in 2010. Mari is an immigration attorney, who practiced at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto for four years, during which time she supervised staff and volunteer attorneys, paralegals and law students with a complex caseload of affirmative and defensive immigration cases, primarily for survivors of violent crime, and for clients seeking humanitarian-based relief. She was also a public interest career counselor at Stanford Law School for two years, helping law students and recent graduates explore opportunities to make positive impactful change in public service throughout the world. Mari has been licensed to practice law in Minnesota since 2000, and her counsel in California is limited to federal immigration and naturalization law.
Alejandra Guillén (Legal Services Manager)
Alejandra is a graduate of the University of Southern California where she received a Bachelor of Science in Public Policy, Management, and Planning. She is a first generation college student and the first woman in her family to earn a graduate degree, obtaining a Master of Social Work at the University of Washington. As the daughter and family member of former and current undocumented immigrants, Alejandra learned early on about the injustice of the U.S. immigration system, which has led her to work to on issues directly impacting immigrants and on larger systematic changes. She has been a student organizer, organized social workers, and worked at immigrant serving non-profit organizations. Prior to joining E4FC, Alejandra worked as a Program Manager at Mission Asset Fund, managing Lending Circles for Dreamers and other social loan programs. Alejandra spends her free time doing social justice organizing, traveling, going to concerts, and training for half marathons.
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Denia Perez (Legal Services Coordinator)
Denia immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was only 11 months old. Hoping to reunite with their family and have a chance at a more prosperous future, the Perez family left their beloved Mexico and settled in Santa Rosa, California. Denia's primary inspiration has been watching her parents work hard and leave everything they knew behind so that she and her brothers could have a better life; without such incredible examples of what it means to lead with courage, love, and persistence, Denia would not be where she is today. In May 2012, Denia became the first in her family to receive a college degree; she graduated cum laude from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Women & Gender Studies, and is currently in the process of applying to law school. Denia wants to become an attorney working in the public sector with underserved populations. She joined E4FC in 2010 and in 2013 was granted the first openly undocumented Board of Immigration Appeals Level 1 Accredited Representative status by the United States Department of Justice, which authorizes her to represent clients before the Department of Homeland Security and certifies her knowledge of U.S. immigration law and policy. Denia plans to use the knowledge she learned as a Women & Gender Studies major to pursue a career in public interest law.
To connect with one of our Legal Advocates, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to write the team member's first name in the subject line.
CURRENT LEGAL ADVOCATE PROFILES
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Diana grew up in San Diego and emigrated from Puebla, Mexico when she was only nine months. In the future, she wants to go to law school to become an immigration attorney. Diana was part of E4FC’s Outreach Team this past year and gained a lot of skills and experience. She considers herself mature, specifically because of her experience as an undocumented person. Diana feels very honored and privileged to be receiving an education from San Francisco State University, where she is pursuing a double major in Criminal Justice and Psychology. Her heart is deeply invested in immigration work but Diana also loves attending poetry readings, because she knows how powerful words can be a tool to change the heart.
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Sarah was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. In pursuit of better opportunities and a brighter future, her family moved to the United States when she was 13. Raised by her parents to believe that education and hard work were the keys to unlocking those opportunities, she attended Stanford University and majored in International Relations, aspiring to eventually become a public policy activist. While in college, she volunteered at the Superior Court of San Mateo as an advocate for family law litigants, and she currently works as an immigration paralegal at a law firm in San Francisco. She plans to go back to school for a law degree towards a career in the public sector, and hopes to continue working as an advocate for her community.
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Yoshi emigrated from Mexico to the United States when she was 15 years old. In spite of the difficulties she faced as a newly arrived immigrant, she graduated from high school and then enrolled full-time at Skyline College. She then transferred to UC Berkeley where she received a B.A. in Sociology. While at Berkeley, she became a leader at Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA) and an ambassador of the Chicana Latina Foundation Broadband Project. In her last year, she discovered her passion for helping immigrants like herself to navigate the challenging immigration system and volunteered at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant (EBSC), where she aided in sanctuary -support, protection, and advocacy -to low-income and indigent refugees and immigrants. The financial independence Yoshi gained the very first day she set foot in the United States while working full-time to fund her education, and excelling academically has made her a strong, conscious and determined woman to make a constructive impact in the lives of other immigrants. Yoshi plans to pursue immigration law.
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Harry Yaechan Lee
Harry was born in Seoul, South Korea and immigrated to Southern California when he was fourteen years old. Although he had difficulties learning English and assimilating into a new culture, Harry managed to gain admission to UC Berkeley, where he will be receiving a B.A. in Sociology in Spring 2015. Last year, Harry interned at the Korean Resource Center (KRC) in Los Angeles as an Immigration Legal Project intern. During his six-month internship at KRC, their legal services team had the opportunity to help more than 5,000 community members file their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) applications. Harry aspires to contribute further to the immigrant community and to the greater movement by pursuing his passion to provide legal services as a public interest attorney. He hopes to fight for justice and equality for all hard-working immigrants. Harry ultimately wants to bring the skills he will be gain at Educators for Fair Consideration and law school back to the Korean-American community, so that not a single immigrant in the immigrant community is systematically excluded from obtaining immigration benefits.
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Nayeli was born in Mexico City and immigrated with her family to California at the age of two. Due to lack of information in high school, she was initially discouraged from wholeheartedly pursuing higher education. A couple of years later, she enrolled at San Jose City College and soon found the encouragement she needed in an AB540 student support group that helped her excel and transfer to a four-year university. Nayeli is now a graduate of San Jose State University, where she received her B.A. in Sociology with a concentration in Community Change. During her stay at SJSU, she held the chair position for Student Advocates for Higher Education (SAHE), an organization at SJSU whose mission is to promote higher education among immigrant students regardless of legal status and whom she credits for helping her grow as a community organizer. As a firm believer in the importance of being civically engaged, she dedicates her free time in organizing with many other South Bay organizations that advocate for immigrant rights and volunteering for organizations that aid eligible youth apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Nayeli’s passion for social justice and human rights has driven her to pursue Law school in the future.
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Carla Lopez is a self-identified Undocumented Queer Womyn of Color. She was born in Tabasco, Mexico and was brought to the United States at the age of two due to economic necessity. Because she moved around so much when she was younger, she calls many Northern California cities her home. Carla attended the University of California, Davis where she was heavily involved in activism and holistic support services aimed towards helping marginalized communities, most specifically undocumented and LGBTQ individuals. She graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in both Psychology and Chicana/o Studies. She is currently a program assistant at the National Center for Lesbian Rights where she works closely with the Immigration Project to assist LGBTQ immigrants file for asylum, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), U nonimmigrant status (U visa) and adjustment of status. Carla’s work and experiences have taken her down a path of social justice. Her future plan is to pursue a dual degree program in Law and Social Work. Her end goal is to become an immigration attorney in order to continue to assist and support the LGBTQ immigrant community through public service.
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Cindy immigrated to the U.S. with her parents at the young age of three months old from Mexico. She grew up in Marin County where she attended College of Marin before transferring to San Francisco State University where she received her B.A. in Philosophy with an emphasis in law. She currently interns at the San Francisco District Attorney’s office and works as a legal/marketing assistant at a criminal defense firm in San Francisco. Cindy also serves her community by mentoring several first generation college students in Marin County through a non-profit called 10,000 Degrees. Cindy’s dedication to social change has empowered her to take the next steps and apply to law school. She is very excited to join the legal services team where she will intertwine and further her passion for criminal and immigration law. In her spare time, Cindy enjoys hiking and practicing yoga.
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Tommy aspires to overcome his obstacles to uplift his communities. He arrived in the U.S. with his mother when he was eight and became undocumented when his tourist visa expired. At nineteen, his new stepfather kicked him out of the house for being queer, and his LGBTQ chosen family helped him during this tumultuous time. Tommy cleaned houses and did other under-the-table work to survive. His undocumented identity caught up to him in 2007 when ICE arrived at his doorsteps and placed him into deportation proceedings, which led to his current Withholding of Removal status a year later. To give back to his communities, Tommy has volunteered in non-profits, mentored LGBTQ youth, facilitated a peer support group, and helped change UC Berkeley policies. He has also interned at the East Bay Sanctuary Covenant where he assisted asylum seekers. In addition, Tommy is a storyteller; his short documentary Home/land(s) has been screened at the San Francisco and Seattle Transgender Film Festivals. Tommy will be graduating from UC Berkeley this December with a Bachelors of Arts in American Studies with a focus on the intersectionality of trans* and undocumented communities. For fun, Tommy enjoys hanging out with his beautiful girlfriend and stinky puppy.
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Larissa was born in Brazil, and immigrated to the United States when she was fourteen years old. As she moved on to community college after graduating high school, Larissa pursued Political Science as a major while being an active member in student organizations on campus, such as student government and the Puente Program. She then transferred to UC Berkeley where she received a B.A. in Political Science in Spring 2014. She was very active at Berkeley, and especially interested in participating in activities that dealt with immigration issues. Larissa was an intern for the Undocumented Student Program on campus and through that program, collaborated with other University of California campuses that wanted to expand their undocumented student services. She volunteered at the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) and helped in their monthly DACA clinics, which provided free legal services to low-income clients who were eligible to apply for DACA. She also volunteered to be a mentor for undocumented students at Berkeley High School and provided information about college resources aimed at improving their access to higher education. Now that she has graduated, her plans include pursuing immigration law in the future, due to her passion for protecting immigrants’ rights.
FOUNDING LEGAL TEAM
Beleza was born and raised in Brazil, and has been living in the Bay Area for almost eight years. As the daughter of Chinese immigrants in Brazil and an immigrant herself in the United States, she has witnessed the struggles and difficulties of newcomers. She has seen how cultural and language barriers prevent even the most hardworking from successfully adapting, and how broken immigration laws also prevent high-achieving students from becoming active members in society. Beleza has worked towards social justice as a teacher of at-risk youth in San Francisco, a writer with ethnic media such as AsianWeek.com and New America Media, and a community organizer. She graduated with Phi Beta Kappa and Highest Honors from UC Berkeley, and will be attending the University of Toronto in the Fall, where she will study Urban and Environmental Planning, with a focus on Community Development.
Krsna is a Juris Doctor Candidate at Cornell Law School and a graduate of the University of California, Davis where he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and Psychology. Having immigrated to the United States when he was only four months old, Krsna grew up feeling like he belonged in this country, despite his legal status. Growing up in East Oakland, he was a victim of four gun violence incidents. Early on, education became Krsna's tool for freedom and self-advancement. Since Krsna joined E4FC in 2009, he helped develop and advance E4FC's Legal Services program, gained in-depth knowledge of U.S. immigration law and has been able to use his knowledge to pursue and gain lawful permanent residency for himself and help others in similar situations.
Mohammad is an undocumented youth organizer from Michigan. His family moved here from Iran when he was three years old. He is a co-founder of DreamActivist - a growing network of undocumented student organizers and allies across the United States who are working on the passage of the DREAM Act. In 2008, Mohammad served as board member and co-chair of the United We Dream Network's organizing committee. In May of 2010, Mohammad joined four other students in staging a civil disobedience action in the Tucson, Arizona offices of Senator John McCain. Mohammad is currently studying for his Bachelors degree in Social Work. Prerna Lal
Prerna is an attorney licensed to practice in the District of Columbia. She is the Principal and Founder of Law Legal LLP.
Sergio is a first-generation college graduate, and the son of immigrant parents. He is a product of the community college education system, and a graduate from the University of California, Berkeley. There, he obtained his BA degree in Sociology and Minor in City and Regional Planning. His passion for social change and immigrant rights led him to co-found Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education (RISE), a support and mentoring program helping immigrant and underrepresented students successfully graduate college. Sergio has extensive leadership experience advocating for civil rights, immigrant rights, and affordable education at local, state-wide and national levels.
Currently, he volunteers with Reform Immigration for America (RIFA) national campaign as a Central Valley Lead. He is a Family Resource Specialist for the Center of Human Services in Modesto, California. Sergio co-manages a worker cooperative owned by UC Berkeley undocumented students who consult with local non-profit and community organizations. He plans to pursue a graduate degree in Law, and to continue being an agent of social change. His dedication to advocating for immigrants and students stems from his faith, humanitarian perspective on life and his lived experiences. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his friends and family.
PREVIOUS LEGAL ADVOCATES
Angelica was born in Michoacan, Mexico and came to the U.S. when she was 12 years old. After graduating high school, the lack of access to financial aid prevented Angelica from going to a 4-year university, but it did not stop her from reaching her educational goals. Angelica transferred from Foothill College, as an honor scholar, to the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), where she majored in Sociology. She has volunteered at the International Institute of the Bay Area (IIBA), the Santa Cruz County Immigration Project (SCCIP), was the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Internship Program (CUIP) intern for Educational Opportunity Programs (EOP), and is now the DACA Outreach Team member for the Bay Area DACA Collaborative. Angelica’s work has empowered her to create change and continue her education towards law school.
Angelica is currently a junior at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in Legal Studies with a minor in Human Rights. She hopes to attend law school one day to practice immigration law. Angelica arrived to the U.S. six years ago from Colombia. Coming to this country was not easy, as she could not speak English. Many times, she found herself in a world of loneliness, unclear about her path. Angelica felt different and lost trying to understand both the culture and the language of the United States. After graduating from Mountain View High School, she went on to Foothill College where she spent three years fulfilling her pre-requisite requirements. While studying at Foothill, she held jobs as a waitress and hostess to help finance her education. Now, thanks to funding from scholarships and financing from UC Berkeley, she can focus on her studies and be an active member of her community and on social issues that matter to her. Angelica’s hobbies include reading non-fiction books and practicing yoga.
Blanca was born in Toluca, Mexico. She was brought to the U.S. at the age of 6 and raised in the East Bay. Upon graduating from high school, she thought college was inaccessible to undocumented students and saw her future as non-existent. A few months later, Blanca found out about AB540, a new state law that allowed undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities. Blanca attended Contra Costa and Diablo Valley Community colleges, receiving an A.A in Liberal Arts. She later transferred to UC Davis and received a B.A. in Chicana/o Studies in 2008. While at Davis,she co-founded Scholars Promoting Education, Awareness and Knowledge (SPEAK), an undocumented student support group. After graduating from Davis, Blanca returned to her hometown of Richmond, CA where she continues to raise awareness about undocumented student rights and the federal DREAM Act.
Gabriela emigrated from El Salvador to the United States when she was 15 years old. In spite of the difficulties she faced as a newly arrived immigrant, Gabriela managed to gain acceptance at UC Berkeley, where she is currently double majoring in Ethnic Studies and Chicana/Chicano Studies. Her passion for social justice led Gabriela to take on leadership positions in the immigrant community, including at Rising Immigrant Scholars through Education (RISE), an undocumented/AB540 support group at UC Berkeley. Gabriela plans to pursue a PhD in Ethnic Studies and a Law degree in the future. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing and reading.
Gabrielle was born in New York and raised in Missouri. Her parents are of Puerto Rican, Native American and Barbadian decent. Gabrielle always knew she wanted to attend law school and realized her passion for immigration law when she became deeply involved in the refugee community in Chicago, IL. She formed strong bonds with many resettled families from Burma, Cuba, Iran and Bhutan and noticed the lack of support they received from their resettlement agency due to funding cuts and many unrealistic expectations placed upon them. Gabrielle is a first generation college graduate, an only child and the product of growing up in a single parent home where she had to contribute financially to her household at an early age. In 2011 she received her Bachelor of Arts, Cum Laude in International Studies from Loyola University Chicago. Gabrielle will be attending law school in the fall of 2014. She wants to use her JD to assist hardworking people who have come to the US with good intentions obtain the safe life they've pictured for themselves and their family. Gabrielle is new to the Bay Area, having moved here in August of 2012. She currently works at Enterprise for High Schools; helping SF high school students develop job readiness skills.
Jake was born in South Korea and immigrated to the United States at the age of 8. He is currently pursuing a joint degree in Bioengineering and Material Science Engineering at UC Berkeley. Jake believes that these majors will eventually pave a path for him to gain legal status and open up an array of opportunities in the United States. Jake has long struggled with his identity as an undocumented individual. Numerous failed attempts at passage of the DREAM Act have only worsened this. His passion to pursue law comes from his personal hardships and understanding of how ignorance of the law can tear families apart and cause much pain. He is very excited to join a community of students who understand his struggle.
Juliana was born in Brazil, and immigrated to the U.S. when she was 10 years old. Upon graduating from high school in Hawaii, she discovered that her home state did not provide nonresident tuition exemptions to undocumented students. With the desire to continue her education, she moved away from her family to attend college in California. At De Anza College, she became politically active and helped organize a number of events that demystified the stigmas of being undocumented and encouraged hundreds of undocumented high school students to attend college. She continued to strive to finish her education, and managed to obtain a Bachelors of Arts in Social Welfare and Legal Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Juliana is eager to continue her education and plans to become an immigration attorney so that she can continue to help her community.
Karla’s roots are in Jalisco, México but sprouted in the Napa Valley where she was raised since the age of three. As the oldest child of four, she is the first in her family to graduate high school. Upon graduating, Karla enrolled at Napa Valley College (NVC), where she cultivated her passion for education, community and social justice. In 2010, she co-founded the Napa Valley Dream Team, where she led the development and coordination of the first and second “DREAMErs Conferences” at NVC. She was named the Napa Valley College Outstanding Student of the Year in 2011 for her involvement within her community and academic accomplishments. Last year she transferred to the University of California, Berkeley, where she is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Ethnic Studies. Karla aspires to become a non-profit sector immigration and civil rights attorney/advocate.
Laura is originally from Mexico and currently resides in Napa. She is an alumna of the University of California, Santa Cruz, Class of 2009. She majored in Latin American and Latino Studies (LALS) with a minor in Legal Studies. She co-founded Students Informing Now (S.I.N., pronounced sēn), the first AB540 undocumented student support group at UCSC. She will be applying to law school to pursue a career as an advocate for immigrant and civil rights. She is eager to assist other immigrant students in finding remedies for their legal status, and to work together for passage of the DREAM Act.
Sarait immigrated to East Palo Alto, California with two younger siblings at the age of 10 to reunite with her parents. Upon arriving to this country, she dedicated herself to school. With great academic support, in the fall of 2007, Sarait attended CSU, Chico becoming the first in her family to attend a university. While in school, she became actively involved in several organizations. She was also involved in organizing among undocumented students. As an intern at the Chico Peace and Justice Center, Sarait collaborated with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Asian Law Caucus to introduce the Trust Act to city officials. Her tenacity and confidence have led her to achieve numerous awards. In May of 2012, she graduated with a B.A in Social Work. She has volunteered at Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN) in various processing events for Deferred Action and Citizenship applications. Her passion to help goes above and beyond measure as she pursues the legal path.
Susan was born in South Korea and raised in Canada, becoming a naturalized citizen there at the age of nine. She did not fully understand what citizenship meant until she immigrated to the United States when she was ten and later interned for an immigration law firm during high school, where she discovered she was undocumented. Susan dedicated her undergraduate studies majoring in Sociology with a minor in Asian American Studies at University of California, Davis to reevaluate her social identity. Her first time disclosing her status was at an AB 540 Task Force meeting where she was the only Asian American sharing a testimony. While her work has been focused on underprivileged and underrepresented communities, she hopes to promote collaboration among the different undocumented faces for common goals of education, advocacy, and self-empowerment. Susan will be applying to law school in the fall of 2013 to continue her pursuit of becoming an immigration attorney.
OTHER IMMIGRATION ATTORNEYS David Bennion
David Bennion is a staff attorney at Nationalities Service Center, a Philadelphia nonprofit organization, where he provides legal representation to low income immigrants.
Dan Berger is an immigration attorney at Curran & Berger LLP. He is a frequent speaker at colleges and universities around the northeast. He won the 1995 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) annual writing competition for an article on INS policies toward international adoptions. Mr. Berger has also been a Senior Editor of the Immigration and Nationality Law Handbook since 2000, was an Author/Editor of the revised National Association of Foreign Student Advisers' Manual (2000), Editor-in-Chief of Immigration Options for Academics and Researcher (2005), and the Editor of the International Adoption Sourcebook. He is currently the Chair of the AILA Publications Committee and Vice Chair of the AILA Business Litigation Committee, having recently served five years on the Vermont Service Center Liaison Committee. Mr. Berger developed his interest in immigration in college, where he studied immigration history and taught English as a Second Language for adult refugees. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Cornell Law School.
Born and raised in Cuba, Francisco obtained his law degree at the University of Las Villas, graduating as one of the top students in the school. For several years, he worked as a civil litigator and taught civil litigation, civil procedures and administrative procedure at the University of Santa Clara in Cuba. After joining a Catholic political opposition movement and becoming legal adviser to the bishop of Santa Clara, Francisco was forced to leave Cuba and become an immigrant and asylum seeker in Sweden. He later immigrated to the United States, initially working as a janitor while enrolled full-time at City College. In 1998, Catholic Charities of San Francisco hired Francisco as an immigration counselor and promoted him to the coordinator position of their Refugee & Immigrant Services Program just eight months later. Francisco is a Board of Immigration Appeals accredited representative, which authorizes him to represent and advocate for clients at all possible levels within the immigration legal system. Francisco has represented dozens of asylum seekers and clients seeking suspensions of deportation and/or cancellations of removal. He is also a writer for the El Heraldo Catolico and appears as a weekly guest on the Telemundo channel. Francisco believes that "caring deeply for the clients' legal problems is the soul and essence of a successful legal practice."
Sin Yen Ling
Sin Yen Ling is a senior staff attorney at the Asian Law Caucus focusing on immigrants rights. She is a former staff attorney at the New York-based Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) where she has spent 6 years conducting litigation and advocacy in the areas of anti-Asian violence, racial profiling and immigrant detention/deportation. A native New Yorker, Ms. Ling was born in Manhattan's Chinatown to immigrant parents who worked in garment factories and restaurants. Mark Silverman
Mark Silverman is the Director of Immigration Policy at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC), where he has worked as an attorney since 1983. Mark has done over 400 presentations and trainings for immigrant communities throughout California. He has also made numerous presentations on various aspects of the law to attorneys and other legal workers. He is the author and co-author of more than ten ILRC publications on different aspects of immigration law, including Winning Asylum Cases; Winning NACARA Suspension Cases; and publications on family visa, Temporary Protected Status, pro bono asylum programs, and the hardship requirement for waivers and cancellation. Mark's hobbies include increasing his repertoire of (what some people consider) jokes through disciplined study of The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and other contributions to the highest traditions of American culture. He is a fluent Spanish speaker.