Thank you for your interest in learning more about Ayuda. This press kit provides background information on what we do, our experts on staff, our accomplishments and impact, and more. If you would like more information or to speak with a staff member, please use the media request form below and a staff member will be in touch shortly.
Executive Director: Paula Fitzgerald, Esq. is the executive director of Ayuda. She previously served as managing attorney at Ayuda’s Virginia office, and as an immigration staff attorney. Prior to joining Ayuda in 2008, Paula served as an immigration staff attorney at Hogar Hispano of the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, and as an associate at Hunton & Williams LLP.
Paula’s immigration legal work focuses on humanitarian relief for individuals, children, and families, including VAWA self-petitions, U visas, T visas, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions. She also has extensive experience in family-based immigration matters, consular processing, waivers and NACARA cases. Paula credits her parents with instilling the values that led her to her work. Her mother, a Colombian immigrant, was a social worker at a school with a large Latino immigrant population. Her father worked as a psychologist for the mentally ill at Saint Elizabeths Hospital.
Paula currently serves on the Fairfax County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council. In 2017, Washingtonian magazine included Paula in its 40 Under 40 list of leaders in the Washington, D.C. region. Paula has also been recognized by the Alexandria Domestic Violence Program for her work with domestic violence victims. Paula earned her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. She graduated cum laude with a B.A. in psychology from James Madison University. Paula and her family have lived in northern Virginia for more than 35 years.
Immigration Law Expert: Laurie Ball Cooper is Ayuda’s legal director. Laurie provides leadership, vision and support to our legal services teams across offices and practice areas. Laurie previously served as a senior staff attorney in Ayuda’s pro bono program. She has represented immigrants and survivors of trauma in many capacities throughout her career, including as a Skadden Fellow at the Tahirih Justice Center, at the Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia, and in the human rights practice group at the private law firm Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll.
Prior to her work in direct legal services, Laurie was a law clerk to the Hon. M. Margaret McKeown on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and worked in international development and human rights. Laurie has dual degrees in law and public policy from Yale Law School and the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and completed her undergraduate degree at Duke University. Laurie is fluent in Spanish and Bosnian/Serbian/Croatian.
Social Services Expert: Andrea Wein is the Interim Director of Social Services at Ayuda. She joined Ayuda’s Social Services team in 2016 as the Bilingual Therapist in the Takoma Park office. As a therapist at Ayuda, Andrea enjoyed working with clients to overcome their traumas and to find their resiliency in the process. She also started Ayuda’s Wellness Wednesday program, which focuses on providing self-care to Ayuda’s staff.
Prior to her work at Ayuda, Andrea worked extensively with immigrant communities in the DC Metropolitan area in schools, home-based programs, and outpatient settings. In addition to her work at Ayuda, she works in private practice in Washington, DC.
Andrea received her Bachelor’s of Social Work from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and her Masters of Social Work with a clinical concentration from The Catholic University of America.
Language Services Expert: David Steib is the Language Access Director at Ayuda. The Language Access Program trains interpreters, educates service providers, advocates for enforcement and amendment of local and federal language access laws, and arranges interpretation and translation services for dozens of nonprofits throughout the DC metropolitan area.
Prior to joining Ayuda, David was the Assistant Director of the Office of Public Interest at American University Washington College of Law. He serves on the Language Access Advisory Committee of the DC Courts and on the board of the Washington Council of Lawyers. He has also served on the Executive Committee of the DC Language Access Coalition and on the Steering Committee of the DC Bar’s Courts, Lawyers, and the Administration of Justice Community. David received a JD from Georgetown University Law Center. He earned his BA in Spanish and Theater Studies from Yale University.
Ayuda is the region’s leading provider of legal, social and language services to low-income immigrants. Since 1973, we have helped more than 100,000 low-income immigrants in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia access the services they deserve. Our comprehensive and welcoming approach transforms lives by reducing barriers, helping those in need, and strengthening communities. Our services include:
Immigration Legal Services: Ayuda provides expert legal services so that low-income immigrants can overcome barriers and access justice.
- Ayuda’s staff attorneys and pro bono legal program serve more than 3,000 women, men, and children every year by helping them obtain visas, work authorization, legal status, and more.
- Ayuda offers holistic legal services in a culturally sensitive environment to immigrant victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
- Ayuda’s Project END (Eradicating Notario Deceit) fights “notario,” or immigration consultant fraud. The fraudulent work of some notarios can lead to financial ruin, a damaged legal case, deportation, and permanent family separation.
Social Services: Ayuda’s social workers support and protect immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, as well as abused or neglected children.
- Case managers work with hundreds of immigrant families to help them find emergency and transitional shelter, food, clothing, or medical and mental health care.
- Ayuda’s services include safety planning, crisis intervention, emotional support, and trauma-informed therapy so survivors can heal and recover.
Language Access: Ayuda ensures that all of our neighbors can get assistance when they need it, regardless of the languages they use to communicate.
- Language barriers can put basic services out of reach. Ayuda provides free in-person interpretation, telephonic interpretation, and document translations for thousands of Limited English Proficient or deaf clients who need support to communicate with a public interest lawyer or a victim services provider.
- Language Access Program staff also train interpreters, lawyers, and advocates on effective interpretation and translation services.