Yliana Johansen-Mendez

Department: Top 30 List 2023
Experience: Associate Director, Immigrant Defenders Law Center

Personal Information:

“I firmly believe in following your heart’s compass in the pursuit of what is just. Even in the face of adversity, never lose hope, and seek out others who share your vision. With relentless determination and an unyielding commitment to our community, together we reimagine and build a better world, leaving behind a profound legacy of transformative impact.”

Yliana Johansen-Méndez is a California licensed attorney and Associate Director at Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef). Yliana is a fierce advocate who draws from her experience in government and removal defense to lead and train the next generation of immigrant defenders. After graduating from Boston College Law School, as an Equal Justice Works Fellow she did groundbreaking work with unaccompanied minors, creating the first One-Parent SIJS Manual for attorneys seeking predicate orders before family courts in California. Thereafter she spent almost five years in government service, as Attorney Advisor for the Las Vegas Immigration Court, and then as a Senior Asylum Officer for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. As the Trump administration began implementing more and more anti-immigrant policies, in February 2018 she returned to non-profit immigration removal defense and advocacy as part of ImmDef’s management team. Under her leadership, ImmDef’s Children’s Representation Project tripled in size, now providing legal services to over 2,600 children per year. She has been on the front-line protecting immigrant rights, launching ImmDef’s emergency response efforts from the shelters for minors in the Long Beach Convention Center and Pomona Fairplex in 2021, to most recently providing services to the migrants bussed from Texas to Los Angeles in 2023. The impact of her work has made immigration relief a reality for thousands of immigrants.