Executives in Residence
The Executives in Residence initiative is the second phase of USCIS’s implementation of the Loaned Executive Program. The new initiative builds on the Entrepreneurs in Residence team’s success by again pairing private sector executives with experts from USCIS to work together during the initiative’s duration. The goal of this initiative is to enable USCIS to better understand current business realities and equip officers with relevant information to inform and align their adjudications with industry realities in the performing arts and entertainment, and nursing fields.
For the Executives in Residence initiative, USCIS formed industry-specific teams of private-sector professionals with the agency’s own immigration experts. Over a period of six months these teams will work to explore ways that USCIS ensures consistency in its adjudications within the performing arts and entertainment and nursing industries, and develop policies and procedures that better support USCIS customers and officers.
In the performing arts and entertainment industries, USCIS will examine issues regarding O and P visas. Issues of particular interest include agents, O visa eligibility standards, unions and consultation requirements, industry standards regarding contracts or agreements, and itineraries. In the nursing industry, USCIS will examine issues such as the educational requirements for entering into various nursing occupations, duties in nursing occupations, licensing issues and standards, visa eligibility requirements, staffing agency contracts, and new industry trends.
The following are USCIS’s Executives in Residence who provide expertise and insight into business realities during the duration of the Executives in Residence initiative.
Briony Raymond is currently a Director at Prism Healthcare Partners LTD working to implement clinical and nonlabor initiatives that are focused on performance improvement for hospitals and health systems. She worked as a Senior Manager at a Big Four Accounting Firm's federal health practice, in addition to practicing as a Critical Care Nurse and Case Manager with several Academic Medical Centers. She has served as a Project Manager for a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) engagement, working with the undersecretary and VHA staff to identify and install clinical care management best practices for Veteran Administration Medical Centers' operations and technology. Briony has a certification in project management and is also a registered nurse in the states of Virginia, California, and New York, as well as the District of Columbia. She received her bachelor's degree in Nursing from the University of San Francisco and her master's degree in Public Health from the University of California, Los Angeles.
Sarah Tarlow is the Field Service Director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers in Chicago. Sarah recently served as the Senior Counsel for the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) in New York City. Before the SAG and AFTRA merger, she was the Assistant General Counsel for AFTRA in Los Angeles as well as New York City where she oversaw the issuance of visa advisory consultation letters and became familiarized with USCIS during her tenure. She received a bachelor’s degree in History from Bryn Mawr College, a master’s degree in Public Communication from Columbia University, and holds a Juris Doctor from Brooklyn Law School. She was admitted to the New York State Bar Association in 2005.
Laura Wilson is the Director of Programming for World Cafe Live. During her tenure she has been responsible for the programming in the company's Philadelphia venue as well as their second location in Wilmington, DE. She began at World Cafe Live in October of 2005 as a talent buyer and has since grown to also oversee ticketing, marketing and production operations while doubling profits in her divisions. Laura received her Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania and her Master’s degree in Social Research from the University of Edinburgh.
USCIS Team Members – Performing Arts and Entertainment
Peggy Churchill began her USCIS career with the Vermont Service Center (VSC) while it was still part of legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1981. During her tenure, she held the positions of Clerk, Applications Adjudicator, Information Officer, Immigration Examiner, and Supervisory Immigration Services Officer. She has worked with many petitions and applications during her tenure at the VSC. Most notably, Peggy was one of the first officers to adjudicate petitions involving the Violence Against Women Act. She was involved with reviewing the regulations and training the main core of officers who adjudicated the petitions. Currently, Peggy is a Supervisory Immigration Services Officer in the Business Division at the Vermont Service Center. She has held this position since January 2010.
Sheila Fisher is a Deputy Chief for the Service Center Law Division at the California Service Center. She was first hired as an Executive Office for Immigration Review honor grad by the Department of Justice in 1996. She then went onto work for legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1997, which became USCIS in 2003. Sheila received her Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics/Russian from the San Diego State University and her Juris Doctor from University of San Diego.
Julia Kennedy is an Adjudications Officer at Service Center Operations (SCOPS) in Washington, D.C. Julia began her career with legacy INS in September 2001 at the Nebraska Service Center as a Center Adjudications Officer. In this role she primarily worked with employment-based adjustment of status applications. She began working at SCOPS in August 2009 and has been the portfolio manager for the O, P, and Q petitions related to Form I-129 since that time. Julia received her bachelor’s degree in History from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in 1992.
David Leckenby began his career with legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in April 1994 as an immigration inspector in the Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport where he worked for six years. He created instructions for the performance of adverse actions such as expedited removals and visa waiver refusals, and worked on the development of manuals used in processing immigrant visa packets, F-1 students, and J-1 visitors. During his legacy INS and USCIS career, David has either written, or been directly involved in the development of numerous standard operating procedures, adjudications templates, processing checklists, and training materials. David joined USCIS’s Office of Policy and Strategy’s Business and Foreign Workers Division in August 2012. His current portfolio includes E-1/E-2 Treaty Traders and Investors, E-3 Australian Specialty Workers, EB-5 Investors and Entrepreneurs, O and P nonimmigrants, TN or North American Free Trade Agreement, nonimmigrants, B-1 Business Visitors, H-3 Trainees, Form I-539 Change of Status/Extension of Status, and work authorization issues. David graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Management with areas of concentration in Economics, Business Statistics, and Political Science.
Maria Miran is an Associate Counsel with the Adjudications Law Division in the Office of Chief Counsel (OCC) in Washington D.C. Before joining OCC in December 2010, Maria served as the Special Counsel to the Chief Counsel and as an Attorney-Advisor for Regulations and Security Standards for the Transportation Security Administration’s Office of Chief Counsel. She has also worked as an Associate Attorney and Summer Associate in the private sector, specializing in class action defense and complex litigation. Maria received her Bachelor of Arts from Loyola University Chicago and her Juris Doctor from the American University Washington College of Law.
Paola Rodriguez Hale
Paola Rodriguez Hale is an Adjudications Officer in the Business and Foreign Workers Division of the Office of Policy and Strategy in Washington, D.C. Paola joined USCIS in 2004 and has worked primarily on nonimmigrant employment-based classifications. Her current portfolio includes O and P nonimmigrants, F-1 Students, J Exchange Visitors, and issues specific to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Paola received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Relations from American University and her Juris Doctor from American University’s Washington College of Law.
Marisol de los Santos
Marisol de los Santos joined legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1987, and has served in various positions throughout her 26-year career with USCIS. She started her career at headquarters as a clerk, and transferred to the California Service Center (CSC) in 1993. At the CSC, she has had the opportunity to adjudicate and supervise every application and petition type processed at the CSC. She has worked with different teams at the CSC. These teams focused on immigrant and nonimmigrant employment, family, Form I-485—specifically employment and family, waivers, and customer service and congressional matters. While at the CSC, she has served as the AST manager, the Administrative Site Visit and Verification Program supervisor and program manager at the Center Fraud Detection Operation, and an adjudications trainer and Fraud Detection and National Security trainer, as well as the Section Chief for the EB-5 Investor Branch. Marisol also worked for two years at the Los Angeles Field Office where she conducted preliminary interviews for adjustment of status. Marisol is currently the Section Chief of the HOPE section at the CSC.
USCIS Team Members – Nursing
Morgan Bailey serves as an Appeals Officer at the Administrative Appeals Office, where she prepares and edits appellate decisions involving complex and unique immigration issues. Morgan previously worked as an attorney at distinguished law firms in New York City and Washington, D.C. Before embarking on her legal career, Morgan worked in the consular section at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Morgan holds Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Russian, a Juris Doctor from Loyola University, and an Executive Master of Arts from the University of Amsterdam.
Silvia Cynamon-Rosenthal is a Senior Immigration Services Officer with the Employment-Based Team at the Texas Service Center. Silvia joined USCIS in September 2008 as an Immigration Services Officer focusing on employment-based immigration matters. Silvia also worked as an Adjudications Officer (Policy) during a virtual detail to the Business Employment Services Team at the Service Center Operations Directorate from 2013-2014, and as an Appeals Officer while on a virtual detail to the Administrative Appeals Office in 2012. Before joining the agency, Silvia was a Senior State Attorney at the Office of the State Attorney General in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She received her bachelor's degree in Law from Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro in 1990. In 2001, she received her master’s degree in International and Comparative Law, concentrating in International Law and Business, from SMU Dedman School of Law in Dallas.
Nikki Lomax-Larson is an Adjudications Officer with the Office of Policy and Strategy (OP&S), Business and Foreign Workers Division, in Washington, D.C. Before joining OP&S, she worked at the Nebraska Service Center as a Supervisory Immigration Services Officer for the Special Immigrant Iraq and Afghanistan Military Translator Program. Nikki began her career with legacy Immigration and Naturalization Service in 2001, and has held positions as a District Adjudications Officer in the San Antonio District Office and as a Center Adjudications Officer/Immigration Services Officer at both the Texas and Nebraska Service Centers. Nikki earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from the University of Maryland and a Certificate in International Migration Studies from Georgetown University.
Miriam Morse joined the Office of Chief Counsel (OCC) in September 2013 as Associate Counsel in the Adjudications Law Division in Washington, D.C. Her portfolio includes employment-based immigration matters. Before joining OCC, Miriam was a Branch Chief for at the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) from 2006-2013. During her tenure she oversaw employment-based immigration matters, specifically appeals of denied immigrant visa petitions accompanied by labor certification applications that included health care professionals. She was an appeals adjudicator at the AAO from 2003-2006. Before that, she represented clients in a variety of immigration matters as a member of the private bar from 1999-2003. Miriam is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Allegheny College in 1991, her Juris Doctor from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in 1998, and a Master of Laws degree in International Legal Studies concentrating on human rights from American University’s Washington College of Law in 1999.
Jennifer Oppenheim began her career as a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) for the U.S. Department of State. As a FSO, she was assigned to the consular sections at the U.S. Embassies in the Philippines, Peru, and at Department of State headquarters in Washington, D.C. Jennifer joined DHS in 2012, first working in the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis before moving to USCIS’s Office of Policy and Strategy, Business and Foreign Workers Division. Jennifer received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Tulane University and a Juris Doctor from Penn State University.
Dan Pringle is an Appeals Officer with the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO). Since joining the AAO in 2009, Dan has primarily focused on employment-based immigrant visa petitions. Before working for the AAO, Dan worked as an attorney in private practice for over 10 years, where he represented business and individuals in a wide array of immigration matters. Dan received a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the College of William and Mary.
Ami H. Shah
Ami H. Shah joined the Office of the Chief Counsel (OCC) in July 2013 as an Associate Counsel in the Adjudications Law Division in Washington D.C. Her portfolio includes employment based immigration matters. Before joining OCC, Ami worked on voting rights and felony disenfranchisement issues as a legal fellow at the Advancement Project. She received her Juris Doctor from The George Washington University Law School in 2012. As a law student, Ami litigated on behalf of victims of H-2B fraud and trafficking as a student attorney for the school’s International Human Rights Clinic, and drafted judicial decisions as an extern for the Arlington Immigration Court. She also focused on appropriations and procurement law issues as a summer associate at the Government Accountability Office. Ami is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association. Before law school, she received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Virginia, and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia from 2006-2008.
Michelle Westra is an Adjudications Officer at Service Center Operations. Michelle began her career at the California Service Center as an Immigration Services Officer where she primarily focused on employment-based petitions, more specifically on the H-1B Specialty Occupation classification. In addition, she was a member of the Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises, or VIBE, team. In 2012, Michelle began working on the Business Employment Services Team for Service Center Operations. As an Adjudications Officer, her focus has remained with employment-based petitions and she has been involved with various portfolios ranging from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, to the H-1B Specialty Occupation and the H-2 Agricultural and Non-Agricultural Worker programs. Michelle holds a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Sociology.
Input from upcoming engagements will provide members of the arts and entertainment, and nursing industries an opportunity to describe critical issues regarding the agency’s policies and procedures. USCIS will use the input gathered from these engagements to shape the teams’ agendas and priorities.
For more information on these engagements or on how to participate, please visit the National Engagements page on the USCIS website.
USCIS Idea Community
The Executives in Residence will continue to engage with stakeholders in the arts and entertainment, and nursing industries through an online feedback system called USCIS Idea Community. Leveraging the IdeaScale crowdsourcing platform, stakeholders will be able to submit questions and ideas about O and P visas and the nursing field.
Last Reviewed/Updated: 04/22/2014