Jeanette Castagnola Lazelle is the Director of the Division of Immigrant Policies and Affairs (DIPA). Prior to joining the Department of Labor, Jeanette worked for the US Small Business Administration ("SBA") Disaster Assistance Division as an Attorney Advisor. She helped victims of declared disasters obtain SBA business, home, and personal loans. Jeanette often assisted businesses and homeowners in Puerto Rico rebuild their businesses and homes after the devastating damages caused by hurricanes, floods and other declared disasters. Toward the end of her term with the SBA, Jeanette supervised a group of attorneys and paralegals in lower Manhattan assisting those directly impacted by the events of 9/11 with obtaining business and home loans to assist with their recovery.
Jeanette then joined the New York State Department of Labor where she worked for six years as a Labor Standards Investigator-Spanish Language. As an investigator, Jeanette conducted wage and labor law investigations, including farm inspections. In addition to ensuring that businesses were in compliance with NYS labor laws, Jeanette educated employers and workers about their rights and responsibilities under the law. In 2010, Jeanette became the New York State Monitor Advocate. As Monitor Advocate, she monitored and evaluated the services that were provided to migrant and seasonal farmworkers (MSFWs). Federal Regulations require that Department of Labor services be provided to MSFWs at a level that is comparable to those offered to all other workers. In 2012, Jeanette became DIPAs Acting Assistant Director. As Acting Assistant Director Jeanette worked with Vilda Vera Mayuga in directing the policy and programs that directly impact all farmers and farmworkers in New York State. In both roles, Jeanette educated farmers and assisted them in complying with New York's labor laws. And now as the Division Director, Jeanette will begin to widen her focus to all the programs and initiatives within DIPA which include anti-human trafficking efforts, state mandated language access and other DIPA projects. But her goals regarding the Agriculture Labor Program will continue to be the same: to support both farmers and farmworkers so that agriculture remains a viable, profitable and safe industry for growers and workers.
Laura Tramontana is the New York State Employment Services Monitor Advocate. As the Monitor Advocate, Laura conducts an ongoing critical review of services and protections afforded by the NYS Department of Labor, including the Agriculture Labor Program, to migrant and seasonal farm workers. Laura meets with farm employees, employers, and community-based organizations to ensure that the full scope of Career Center services is delivered to migrant and seasonal farm workers in a way that is appropriate to their particular needs, in accordance with federal and state law. Laura advocates on behalf of migrant and seasonal farm workers to improve services. The Monitor Advocate is a part of the Division of Immigrant Policies and Affairs, but remains outside of the Agriculture Labor Program so that she may have access to review performance and make suggestions, while maintaining the independence of an outside monitor.
Laura has worked with the migrant and seasonal farm worker community since 2005, first as a real estate agent who specialized in transitioning farm workers to the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area, evaluating housing for proximity to employment opportunities and collaborating with local organizations to enable clients to achieve long-term stability and success. Later, Laura worked for a non-profit organization called WATCH, where she critically reviewed the Minnesota judicial system's service to persons of all races, cultures, and genders, specifically watching for cultural sensitivity to refugee and farm worker populations. Laura also worked in a Pennsylvania law practice where she protected the interests of business owners by providing strategic business planning and concurrently handled cases that involved employee rights and safety. Most recently, Laura has worked in the state Department of Labor as an Agriculture Labor Specialist where she physically delivered Career Center services to workers and employers in the field. Laura's experience representing both employer and employee interests is a particular asset to her role as the Monitor Advocate because employer and employee interests go hand in hand. When an employer comes into labor law compliance, the employer protects his or her liability and the employee receives protections required by law. Laura's dual customer experience enables her to objectively assess employment services and to provide practical recommendations for improvement.
Laura attended The Pennsylvania State University, where she earned a bachelor of arts in English, with a minor in Spanish, and a juris doctor degree. Laura is admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar. While at The Pennsylvania State University, The Dickinson School of Law, she was certified as a Public Interest Advocate by the Miller Center for Public Interest Advocacy. She speaks English and Spanish.
Community Relations Officer
As a DIPA Community Relations Officer, Geovanny reaches out to workers, and collaborates with faith-based groups, community organizations, and government representatives on behalf of immigrants and limited English proficient workers. His territory includes western, central, and upstate New York State. He speaks English and Spanish.
Geovanny has been a Community Relations Officer since July 2007. Before joining DIPA, Geovanny was the Outreach Coordinator for the Workers' Rights Law Center of New York, and before that, held a similar position at the Farmworker Law Project, a statewide program of the Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York. Both are non-for-profit advocacy organizations that educate, counsel, and represent indigent workers regarding labor and civil rights matters.
In his current position, Geovanny continues to educate workers about labor rights and available nonprofit and government services. He partners with organizations to improve the Department of Labor's accessibility and responsiveness to workers, with a focus on low-wage and immigrant workers, and he collaborates on inter-organizational initiatives to assist members of New Yorks vulnerable workforce.
Community Relations Officer
As a DIPA Community Relations Officer, Carmen reaches out to workers, and collaborates with faith-based groups, community organizations, and government representatives on behalf of immigrants and limited English proficient workers. Her territory includes New York City, Long Island, and Westchester, Putnam, and Rockland Counties. She speaks English and Spanish.
Before joining DIPA, Carmen worked at various community organizations, including at the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health as an Immigrant Safety & Health Specialist, where her work was dedicated to assisting immigrant workers who helped in rescue, cleanup, and recovery efforts after 9/11. She also worked at Latino Justice as an intake and outreach worker/paralegal, and co-founded its 9/11 program, Proyecto Ayuda. She has worked extensively in the areas of social services and civil rights, advocating for equal justice in the Latino and immigrant communities, including as the chair of the Williamsburg/Southside Fair Housing Committee for Equal Justice. She has also served on many boards and helped co-found organizations such as El Puente, Habitantes Unidos para Preservar a Williamsburg, Trinity SRO, Trinity/Transfiguration Church Homeless Shelter, Casa Bethsaida, Musica against Drugs, and La Cocina.
Community Relations Officer
As a Community Relations Officer for the Agricultural Labor Program under DIPA, Estelle reaches out to workers, employers, and the organizations that support both groups to ensure labor rights are protected and businesses are supported in meeting their workforce requirements. This is primarily done through presentations to agricultural workers and community-based organizations and aiding employers with accessing DOL business services. Estelle supervises the five Western and Central New York Agriculture Labor Specialists, stationed from Syracuse to Buffalo.
She is originally from Washington State. Before joining DIPA, Estelle worked at Cabrini providing Iegal assistance and social services to immigrant populations. Estelle also has experience in Trafficking and Domestic Violence cases through Safe Horizon, and handled wage and hour violations as part of her clinical work. She speaks English and Spanish, and is a member of the New York State Bar.
Catalina Cruz graduated cum laude with a Bachelors of Arts in Forensic Psychology and a minor in Women’s Studies from the City University of New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She obtained her law degree from the City University of New York School of Law, where she was part of the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Clinic representing clients in removal and asylum proceedings.
Catalina worked as an intern for the NYS Attorney General in the Civil Rights and Executive Bureaus. She also served as a Volunteer Assistant Attorney General and worked on case development for immigration service fraud investigations and prosecutions.
Prior to joining DIPA, Catalina worked as a Housing Attorney at the Goddard Riverside Community Center SRO Law Project, where she represented low income tenants of Single Room Occupancy Units and Rent Stabilized apartments in Housing Court.
For over ten years, Catalina has worked continuously with New York immigrant communities as a volunteer and board member of organizations like the Cypress Hills Child Care Corporation/Head Start and Latino Lawyers Association of Queens County, and is currently a member of the New York State Bar. Catalina, a native of Colombia, was raised in Brooklyn, and speaks both English and Spanish.
Christine Tavares is a graduate of Stony Brook University, with a degree in Sociology and Women's Studies. Before joining DIPA, she worked as a hotline specialist for the New York State Spanish Domestic Violence and Sexual Violence Hotline. Prior to that, she was a bilingual domestic violence counselor for Help R.O.A.D.S., a non-profit organization in Brooklyn, NY. At the hotline, she was responsible for developing and administering the database. She handled 300 crisis calls per month, and distributed educational materials to state agencies. At Help R.O.A.D.S. she served as a counselor and advocate for 30 domestic violence victims. Christine was born in Brooklyn, NY to Dominican parents. She joined DIPA because she feels that there are so many immigrants, like her parents, coming to this country every day who do not know what their basic labor rights are and who may be abused or taken advantage of by their employers. She is glad to be part of a team that helps make a difference in these people's lives. Christine speaks English and Spanish.
Research and Programs Associate
Carolyn Robledo graduated from New York University, with a degree in Politics. She has a deep commitment to serve the immigrant community knowing the difficulties they face on an everyday basis. As an AmeriCorps Alumni, she has intimately worked with children and parents from low-income neighborhoods throughout the city enrolled in the Jumpstart Program. She was able to help toddlers develop the language and literacy skills they needed to succeed in school.Carolyn has also worked as an intern at the NYC Human Resource Administration assisting the legal department. Born to Colombian parents in Queens and raised in the Bronx, she wishes to positively affect the lives of immigrant workers by accurately informing them of their labor rights and the benefits and services available to them. She speaks English and Spanish.
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