Our Staff

 Mary Townsend – Director

Mary Townsend is a native of Pass Christian, Mississippi. She graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1974 with a double major in Mathematics and Computer Science. She worked for a number of years as a computer systems analyst, until she began volunteering with the immigrant community in 1998 in Central Mississippi.

She established and taught English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in Morton, MS, arranged for an immigration attorney to provide low-cost immigration services at the local Catholic Center and worked as an interpreter and advocate for the Spanish-speaking community. She also taught ESL classes at Trinity Mission Center of the United Methodist Church in Forest, MS, and at Tyson Foods in Carthage, MS, over a period of 8 years. She helped to establish the Immigration Clinic of Catholic Charities Jackson and was the Director of that program from 2002 to 2003.  She was a founding member of MIRA! (Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance) and served as an officer and member of the Board of Directors for several years.

Ms. Townsend returned to the Gulf Coast in July, 2006 to work for Hispanic/Latino Ministries of the United Methodist Church as a long-term recovery caseworker for Spanish-speaking victims of Katrina. She helped to found El Pueblo in 2007 and has been providing immigration legal services there ever since then.  She now serves as the Director of El Pueblo.

Sophie Woodruff – Attorney

Sophie Melissa Woodruff is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana; where she graduated near the top of her class at Grace King High School. Her high academic achievements allowed her to attend Hampshire College on full scholarship, which imprinted on her early a deep value for social justice and respect for diversity. Her studies there led her to a dual Fulbright award to study abroad in Germany and Turkey, where she worked on translational immigration and integration. Before eventually bringing her back home to Tulane University where she studied law and graduated summa cum laude in 2014. Following her graduation, she clerked for an immigration judge In New York City’s immigration court, followed by two years representing children in removal proceedings with Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Unaccompanied Minor’s Program. She now works on defending immigrants of all ages in removal proceedings, both in detained and non-detained settings. She remains committed to a more just world for immigrants. 

Allison Hanson – Language Access Program Director

Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Allison Hanson is a human resources professional, specializing in literacy and language access programs. After arriving in the United States in 2004, her entrepreneurial spirit resulted in establishing her own successful business in the construction industry where her bilingual capabilities allowed her to interact with the large Spanish speaking population of southern Florida.

Since a large portion of her employees were from various Latin-American communities, she was intimately aware of the difficulties encountered by immigrant families, and soon found herself drawn back to her roots in Human Resources.

Upon coming to Mississippi she continued to operate her business, but became much more involved in providing services to the community.  She refined her skills by training for paralegal services at El Pueblo and ESL (English as a Second Language) and ELL (English Language Learners) programs for various Gulf Coast school districts.

She serves as a professional Interpreter and interfaces with government institutions, hospitals, courts, law enforcement, and all community agencies and guidance services helping ensure a smooth and caring transition with educational guidance and other family services.
She loves what she does, and is very passionate about it.

Iveth Diaz – Paralegal

Iveth has 10 years of experience interpreting for individuals to ensure they have access to accurate information as they navigate systems that often lack language accessibility. She started working at El Pueblo as a receptionist and interpreter and has since been promoted to paralegal. She is currently working on becoming DOJ accredited.

Iveth is committed to providing high quality legal services to the immigration community, while working on expanding equal access to opportunities, and advocating for just and fair treatment of all people.

Yenny Ruiz – Paralegal

Yenny Ruiz Profile Photo

Yenny is a Texas State University alumna who graduated back in 2010 with a major in advertising and minors in both business administration and Spanish. While an undergrad, Yenny held various leadership positions and obtained jobs that required knowledge of social media, web editing, and customer service.
She started a career in small business marketing and social media management. It didn’t take long for her to see discrimination against immigrants. She immediately sought out opportunities to help the immigrant community.

Yenny found her work with several nonprofit organizations to be extremely rewarding. She pursued a career in immigration law. Since 2011, she has successfully filed several hundreds of removal and family-based cases. Yenny is particularly proud of achieving 100 percent approval on I-601A cases.

Mayra Ramshur – Victims Advocate Coordinator

Mayra is from Honduras. She worked as an elementary school teacher for eight years and one year as a high school teacher. She is currently a writer for Periodico Latino. Her newspaper articles address issues regarding education, immigration, labor, and other topics of interest to the Latino community. Mayra is writing a book, “The Dangers in an American Dream Suitcase,” and hopes to publish it soon.

She is also a full-time student at William Carey University and has made the Dean’s list twice. She is passionate about helping people overcome hardships and live successful lives in the United States. One of her dreams is to be able to provide psychological services to people in need.

Anthony Irving – Custodian

Anthony is a native of Biloxi, Mississippi. He has worked at a retirement home for veterans, recycling center, and a couple of casinos. Anthony has been a part of Seashore Mission day shelter in Biloxi for about 8 years.

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