Our Board of Directors
Board of Directors
Sue Weishar began work as the Migration Specialist/Research Fellow with the Jesuit Social Research Institute (JSRI) at Loyola University New Orleans in August 2010. She has worked in education and social service sectors for almost 40 years, including 14 years as Director of Immigration and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans (1991-2005). At Catholic Charities she developed a community-based Alternative to Detention Program that allowed asylum seekers and long-term “indefinite” detainees to obtain housing, employment, and legal representation and a youth services program for high at-risk Vietnamese teens. From 2007 to 2009 she served as the Gulf Coast Coordinator for the Mississippi Center for Non-Profits. While living in Biloxi she became involved in the work of El Pueblo, The Steps Coalition, and was a member of Our Lady of Fatima Church. At JSRI her research and advocacy have focused on human rights violations in private prisons, the impact of harsh immigration policies on migrants’ lives, and how faith communities can welcome immigrants and advocate for just and humane immigration policies. Sue has served on the Board of Directors of El Pueblo for most of its existence. She received a B.S. in Liberal Arts and a Master’s Degree in Comparative Education from the University of Illinois. Her Ph.D. is in Educational Leadership and Research from LSU.
Brandon Riches graduated from Brigham Young University in 2013 and received his Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 2016. Brandon currently works for Anderson Immigration Law Group as the Lead Attorney where he works on removal defense, family petitions, waivers, appeals, and naturalization cases. In addition, Brandon was a resource parent for the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services and he currently serves as a board member to Jackson County CASA.
Mr. Tito Echiburu graduated from Mississippi State University in 1966. He has worked for six different businesses. He started with Arthur Andersen as an external auditor. Then he worked for Firestone as an internal auditor. His next job was with B.C. Rogers Poultry Co. as Chief Financial Officer in Morton, MS. After that, he worked for SunTrust Bank and John Hancock Insurance Co. representing them for two years on Bankruptcy Court. Finally, he worked for the Bank of Morton as Chief Financial Officer. He retired in 2021, but he is still a member of the Board and a couple of committees.
Mr. Echiburu oversaw the Hispanic Project while working at B.C. Rogers. This project brought Hispanic workers to work at poultry plants. While working at the Bank of Morton, he oversaw the start of a program that opened bank accounts and provided loans to the Hispanic population.
He has been the President of the Mississippi Hispanic Association, Morton Chamber of Commerce, Morton Lions Club, and Morton Excel.
Roberta Avila is a second generation Mexican-American and a social justice advocate. After Katrina in 2005, Roberta served as the executive director of the Steps Coalition and the Mississippi Coast Interfaith Disaster Task Force. Both organizations advocated to ensure that after Hurricane Katrina, vulnerable and low- income residents received resources for an equitable and healthy recovery. Roberta has served in the non- profit, social justice sector in Mississippi for 35 years and is a founding member of the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance. She currently works part-time for the MS Low Income Child Care Initiative
Sister Pat Brown
Sister Pat Brown is a Catholic sister from Buffalo NY living in Savannah GA. Since 1982 she has worked with the migrant community in GA and MS. Sr. Pat is a clinical social worker. She retired from Catholic Charities of Savannah in 2019. This enabled Sr. Pat to volunteer at a refugee center in Indio, CA for refugees sent by ICE from the border and also to respond to the mental health needs of some of the families involved in the ICE raids in Mississippi.
She is trained in basic immigration law and collaborates with local attorneys to provide support for the UNHRC refugees in Savannah. Sr. Pat also has a private practice seeing clients from clinics for the uninsured and churches, as well as virtually through the military one source program.
Andres Fuentes is a New Orleans native, graduating from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in Mass Communications. He is currently a reporter for WVUE-TV, after time as a reporter at WLOX-TV in Biloxi and a producer at WWL-TV.
John Gaudet, M.D.
Dr. Gaudet is a pediatrician who has cared for infants and children in Mississippi for over twenty-five years.
A native of Jackson, MS, he is active in the Mississippi Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, advocating for access for all Mississippi children to the best medical care.
Dr. Gaudet provided telehealth care for teens in Forest and Morton during the pandemic and worked to increase access to mental health services for central Mississippi children.
After retiring from clinical practice in 2021, Dr. Gaudet became an Associate Professor at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Hattiesburg, helping to create the next generation of physicians serving our state and region.
Lizbeth Jimenda Velasquez
Lizbeth Jimenda Velasquez graduated from Mississippi State University with degrees in Anthropology and Biology in 2000; she is currently a Doctor of Jurisprudence Candidate at Mississippi College School of Law. She worked for the Mississippi Department of Transportation as an Archaeologist for 18 years before returning to school and spent the summer of 2021 as an intern at the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office. Additionally, Jimenda has been a member and leader in the Mississippi Hispanic Association for over 20 years.
Father Alexis Zuniga
Born in Honduras, Alexis Zuniga became ordained as a Catholic Priest in 2000. Since then, he has spent time in New Jersey, Costa Rica, Florida, and now Mississippi, working to address injustices within the Latino population. Fr. Zuniga now serves the central Mississippi community.
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