Celine Kennelly (Chair)
A native of Moyvane, County Kerry in southwestern Ireland, Commissioner Kennelly is Executive Director of the San Francisco Irish Immigration Pastoral Center (IIPC), a non-profit, volunteer-managed organization assisting Irish immigrants in the San Francisco and the Bay Area. IIPC is part of the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers (CIIC), a national umbrella organization representing Irish immigrant groups throughout the United States. IIPC provides advice, information, advocacy, referral and support, and assistance with housing, jobs, immigration, social services and family issues. Kennelly is a fierce advocate for undocumented immigrants and changing an immigration system that she says makes it nearly impossible for immigrants to work or live in the United States. Kennelly is the recipient of several awards and recognitions, including "Woman of the Year" for the 12th Assembly District, SF Commission on the Status of Women's "Women's History Month Award," the Irish Voice's "50 Most Influential Irish Women in the U.S." award; and the "Service Partner Award" for Catholic Charities. She is also an accomplished singer who is often invited to perform at Irish community celebrations. She holds a BMus Honors Music degree from the University of County Cork, Ireland, College of Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences.
Haregu Gaime (Vice Chair)
Haregu Gaime, originally from Eritrea, was nurtured and raised in San Francisco and the Greater Bay Area. Educated by the excellent academic institutions found in the Bay Area, Gaime graduated with degrees in African American Studies and History from the University of California, Berkeley and earned her J.D. at the University of San Francisco School of Law. During her studies, she traveled to Eritrea and attended the University of Asmara while volunteering for a year and half. Furthering her global experience, in 2005 she spent time in South Africa conducting comparative research on the institutionalizing of laws and the effects it has on people. Her research compared the effects of Jim Crow laws in the U.S. to those of the apartheid in South Africa, and underscored the impact that laws can have in altering perceptions of right and wrong behaviors. In 2009, Gaime opened her own law practice, specializing in immigration law and asylum work and serving immigrants in the greater San Francisco Bay Area. She is a tireless and passionate advocate for civil and immigrant rights and works to bridge language and generational gaps in the community.
Elahe Enssani, PhD, MEng., MSc., PE (AZ)
A civic-minded scholar and environmental expert, Commissioner Elahe Enssani brings a unique set of skills to the Immigrant Rights Commission. Currently a professor of Environmental and Civil Engineering at San Francisco State University, she previously founded Applied Technology and Sciences, a San Francisco-based environmental consulting firm, and worked with the City and County of San Francisco where she oversaw various environmental programs. Enssani holds a Ph.D, master’s in Civil Engineering and master’s in Chemical Engineering from UC Berkeley, as well as a bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering from Sharif (Araymehr) University of Technology, Tehran, Iran. She has been widely recognized for her achievements in academia and engineering, including “Top 100 Scientists in 2005,” by the International Biographic Center in Cambridge, England, and as an extraordinary engineer in the book Changing Our World: True Stories of Women Engineers by Sybil E. Hatch, P.E. (ASCE Press 2006). Although her academic training has been in Math and Engineering, Enssani has always been a writer, a poet, and a passionate political activist. She is currently Chair of Nowruz at City Hall (a celebration of Persian New Year in San Francisco), Co-Founder of the Iranian American Chamber of Commerce, a member of Encyclopedia Iranica, and Founder of CWESTE (Committee for Women’s Education in Science, Technology and Engineering) at SF State University.
Commissioner Fuentes is a longtime member of the Commission, serving two consecutive terms as Vice Chair and chairing the Outreach Committee. He has dedicated his professional life to advocating and empowering the Latino immigrant community and ensuring fair labor practices for immigrants and workers in San Francisco. Fuentes was appointed to the San Francisco 2010 Census Complete Count Committee and played a major role in organizing Mission District residents to participate in the decennial census count. He is currently the Senior Outreach & Education Manager for the Office of Civic Engagement & Immigrant Affairs, where he is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and coordinating with a wide network of community based organizations, advocates and Latin American consulates to educate immigrant communities on city services and programs. Prior to joining the city, Fuentes worked for Unite-Here Local 2 and as the Employment Training Coordinator for the San Francisco Labor Council. He attended the Universidad De San Carlos Law School in Guatemala and is a graduate of the City College of San Francisco Labor Council Leadership Institute in Labor and Community Studies. A frequently requested speaker and recipient of numerous recognitions and awards, Fuentes is an active member of numerous organizations, including: LCLAA (Labor Council for Latin America Advancement); Low Wage Immigrant Workers Coalition; Workers Immigrant Rights Coalitions (WIRC); Immigration Coalition; and the SF Immigrant Rights Defense Committee.
Commissioner Kong received her undergraduate degree in accounting from Hong Kong Polytechnic University and became a controller before immigrating to the United States in 1990. Like many immigrants, Kong endured many cultural shocks while raising a family in her adopted country. With a business background and help from city agencies, she overcame those challenges to establish a thriving business that now employs many San Francisco residents. With her first-hand knowledge, Kong believes strongly that immigrants are a valuable resource in America. Kong served as the president of San Francisco Chinese Club and Asian American Contractors Association. She actively participates in organizations that assist immigrants, such as the Organization of Chinese Americans, American Legion Cathay Post, Chinese American Democratic Club, and Build Bayview. Kong is looking forward to providing assistance to all immigrant communities in San Francisco while serving on the Commission.
Commissioner Maldonado is Executive Director of La Raza Community Resource Center, a bilingual, multi-service, non-profit organization that has established a reputation for excellence and innovation in the delivery of services to the Latino community in San Francisco. Throughout her three decades of experience in civil rights, women’s rights, child welfare, family policy, city budgeting, voter registration and various other justice issues, Maldonado has pioneered forward-looking programs and practices that have helped countless Latino women, families and individuals. Maldonado’s numerous affiliations have included executive and membership roles in many leading community-based, political and educational organizations. She has served as president of the Centro del Pueblo Board of Trustees, board member of CAMINOS, founding member of the Chicano Latino Family Resource System, director of Mission Neighborhood Center’s Capp Street Center, and as a member of many other organizations. Maldonado was born and raised in Puerto Rico and graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. She is a mother and grandmother and has traveled extensively through Latin America, Africa and Europe.
Mario Paz is the Executive Director of the Good Samaritan Family Resource Center, founded as a settlement house for new immigrants in San Francisco. Good Samaritan delivers comprehensive educational, health and social services tailored to the needs of the Latino immigrant community. Paz has been a passionate nonprofit and public service leader and advocate for children, youth, families and immigrant communities for more than 25 years. He has worked as an organizer, counselor, director, consultant, policy advisor and foundation program officer. He has served on numerous boards of directors in San Francisco and the Bay Area serving the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, and has received recognitions and awards from several communities and foundations for his work and advocacy for immigrants and communities of color, including Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families, ABC7 News, and Stanford's Haas Center for Public Service Leadership Award. Commission Paz holds a master’s degree in public administration from Cal-State Hayward and a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Golden Gate University.
Andrei Romanenko is a California licensed attorney practicing U.S. immigration law in San Francisco. Andrei Romanenko graduated with a JD from Berkeley Law where he majored in immigration and business law, served as an Assistant Managing Editor of the Berkeley Journal of International Law. Commissioner Romanenko is fluent in Russian and Spanish. He graduated with honors from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Japanese. In his private practice Andrei Romanenko defends immigrants in immigration courts, represents applicants in asylum, family and business immigration cases before USCIS, the Board of Immigration Appeals, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Commissioner Romanenko was born and raised in Minsk, Belarus, and immigrated to the United States in 2001. As a first-generation immigrant, Commissioner Romanenko understands the hardships that immigrants routinely go through trying to adjust to a new culture, master the language, secure legal status, housing and employment. Commissioner Romanenko advocates for immigrants’ rights and believes that a comprehensive immigration reform is necessary to fix our broken immigration system. Andrei Romanenko is involved with the Belarusian and Russian-speaking communities in the Bay Area, volunteers as an attorney of the day at the San Francisco Immigration Court.
Executive Director, Adrienne Pon (bio)
Clerk, Jamie Richardson