Peter G. Simonson, Executive Director
Since 2000, Peter Simonson has served as Executive Director for ACLU-NM. As primary spokesperson for the organization, Peter develops policy positions and addresses such diverse topics as national security, “zero tolerance” in public schools, racial profiling, immigrants’ rights, separation of church and state, and the protection of free speech rights. Under Peter’s leadership ACLU-NM has grown from 2,500 to over 6,000 members. Our legal docket has grown from a dozen civil liberties cases a year to well over 30.
Prior to joining the ACLU, Peter directed a project to improve immigrants’ access to health care in Albuquerque. For five years he worked in sustainable development and ethnographic research in the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. Peter earned his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Michigan in 1994. He is a native of Albuquerque.
Kathryn Turnipseed, Deputy Director
Kathryn Turnipseed serves as the Deputy Director of ACLU-NM. Prior to joining the staff in May of 2008, Kathryn created Siladana LLC, a small private company specializing in advocacy, program development and strategic planning services for the non-profit sector. In New Mexico, she worked as the Executive Director for the Metropolitan Homelessness Project; Program Manager for the St. Martins Hospitality Center; and Project Assistant for the Phoenix Rising HIV/AIDS Re-entry Project. Kathryn is an active member and organizer in her community, and presently serves as the Board President for the Albuquerque Vipassana Sangha. She received her BA in Psychology from University of Evansville and her MBA from Rutgers University.
Michelle joined the ACLU of New Mexico as the Office Manager in 2012. Michelle worked for the Americorp Vista program for 2 years where she worked with the Atrisco Companies as the Accountant/Program Coordinator. Afterwards, completing the Vista program, she worked for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society as their Senior Accountant. Michelle is currently studying at Central New Mexico Community College where she is pursuing a double major in Accounting and Computer Science. She has been married for 25 years with three kids and enjoys spending time with her four grandchildren. Michelle is an animal lover with three dogs and three cats. She serves and attends Sagebrush Community Church and is active in the weekly Bible study.
Ernest serves as Director of Philanthropy and joined the ACLU of New Mexico in July, 2013. In that capacity he spearheads the organization’s critical fundraising efforts across the state to build a robust, sustainable and expansive major gifts program. He works collaboratively to build strategic partnerships with key supporters and strategic partners to seek funding opportunities.
Before joining the ACLU of New Mexico, he spent 6 years at the University of New Mexico and UNM Foundation as Senior Development Officer. He is a graduate of the City University of New York’s Baruch College with a BBA in Public Administration and an MPA in Finance and Advanced Management from Columbia University.
Ernest lives in Albuquerque with his two sons, Zachary and Lucas.
In January, 2012, Steven Robert Allen joined the ACLU of New Mexico as the Director of Public Policy. Allen acts as the ACLU of New Mexico’s primary representative at the Roundhouse, lobbying to protect and extend civil liberties through the law making process. Allen will also seek to promote good government policy at the municipal and county level throughout the state.
Allen has a BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a JD from Chicago-Kent College of Law. He is a member of the State Bar of New Mexico and is the former editor of the Weekly Alibi, Albuquerque’s alternative newsweekly. Most recently, Allen served four years as the Executive Director of Common Cause New Mexico, a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to holding elected leaders accountable to the public interest. One of his biggest accomplishments during his tenure with Common Cause was helping the state pass campaign contribution limits.
Steve lives with his wife, Sheila, and his two dogs and two cats. When not fighting for the public interest at the Roundhouse, he can often be found wielding a banjo in the alternative bluegrass band Young Edward.
Amanda Johnson serves as field organizer for the ACLU of New Mexico. Amanda’s previous experience includes serving as a regional organizer for a 2010 Congressional campaign in Rhode Island, and coordinating community-wide efforts to prevent the Massachusetts affordable housing legislation from being struck down by a statewide referendum. She has also served as a legislative intern for Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, an advocate for immigrants’ rights at the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and a weekly op-ed columnist for the Tufts Daily newspaper. In addition, Amanda spent a semester in Buenos Aires, Argentina, studying and leading workshops for underprivileged youth. She joined the ACLU in July 2012 after graduating from Tufts University with a degree in International Relations.
Havens Levitt, Coalition Coordinator
Havens Levitt is the coordinator of the All Families Matter Coalition. She recently retired after 29 years as a high school math teacher. A native New Mexican, she has been working on LGBT rights issues in New Mexico for over 30 years. She advocated for LGBT students and staff throughout her teaching career, helping to gain domestic partner benefits for APS employees and retirees and participating in the creation and success of the APS Safe Zone program. She has served on the boards of EQNM and several of its predecessors, as well as the board of WIMIN, which produced WIMINFEST for 25 years. Among Havens’ passions are Broadway musicals, traveling, jacks, and New Mexico. She lives joyfully in the present moment (as much as possible) with Rebecca, her partner of 17 years.
Micah McCoy serves as the Communications Manager, managing ACLU-NM media and press relations. Before joining the ACLU in July 2009, Micah worked as a freelance writer in Austin, TX. After graduating from Austin College with degrees in Sociology and Spanish, Micah spent a year in Kenya working as the Communications Coordinator for the East Africa regional office of Church World Service, a relief, development and advocacy organization. Micah also served as a volunteer coordinator for No More Deaths, an immigrants’ rights and border advocacy organization based out of Tucson, AZ. Micah is an avid fly-fisherman and snowboarder. He is also the author of several award-winning plays and acts in live theatre locally in Albuquerque.
Laura Schauer Ives joined the staff of the ACLU of New Mexico in January, 2009, as its managing staff attorney. After attending the University of New Mexico for her undergraduate studies in English and Political Science, Laura went on to earn her Juris Doctor at the University of New Mexico School of Law. While in law school, she worked to pass palliative care legislation in an effort to ensure people receive adequate pain treatment at the end of life. Since graduation, Laura worked at a small plaintiffs’ firm in Santa Fe, where she represented employees in discrimination cases including Dukes v. Wal-Mart, the largest civil rights class action ever filed. She has also served as an Assistant Public Defender. In the six years prior to joining the ACLU, Laura was a sole practitioner, representing plaintiffs in employment discrimination claims involving age, gender, ethnicity and First Amendment retaliation. Laura has two children, two dogs, and one husband.
Alexandra Freedman Smith joined the ACLU as a staff attorney in March, 2011. She graduated from the University of New Mexico School of Law in the top 10% of her class in 2002. While in law school, Alexandra was a member of the award winning American Bar Association Moot Court Team, and she was the Vice President of the Innocence and Justice Project. After graduating from law school, Alexandra worked as an associate attorney at the law firm Freedman Boyd Daniels Hollander Goldberg & Ives P.A. for four years. She also worked as a solo practitioner while raising her two children. While in private practice, Alexandra worked with the ACLU as a cooperating attorney, and was a winner of the ACLU’s 2008 Cooperating Attorney of the Year Award. Alexandra served on the board of directors of the Southwest Women’s Law Center for seven years, and the New Mexico Women’s Justice Project for five years.
Jesse Hale joined the ACLU of New Mexico as a staff attorney in August, 2013 after graduating from the University of New Mexico School of Law that spring. In law school, he was involved with the student chapter of the ACLU-NM and the Association of Public Interest Law, where he served as Co-President. Jesse also worked with a legal team, on behalf of a death row inmate, in preparing a petition to the Supreme Court of the United States. A native of Albuquerque, Jesse earned his undergraduate degree in history from the University of New Mexico. After graduating, Jesse worked in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C. and on a 2008 Senate campaign.
Jesse has long been committed to a career in civil rights, and went to law school hoping to one day work for the ACLU. When he’s not working or spending time with his family, Jesse is usually watching or playing soccer.
Jesse lives in Albuquerque with his wife and son.
Andrew Polnett serves as a Certified Paralegal for the ACLU of New Mexico. He is an active member of the New Mexico State Bar Paralegal Division. He is currently a Director and sit on the Board of Directors. Also, Andrew is a Co-Chair for the Professionalism and Professional Development Committee and also severs as a committee member on the Scholarship and CLE Committees. Additionally, Andrew has accepted a second appointment to the New Mexico State Bar’s Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee.
Andrew is a student at the University of New Mexico where he continues to work towards his a dual Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and English. Upon graduation it is his desire to attend UNM Law School. Andrew is a native of Albuquerque and is passionate about a variety of issues facing our Nation and communities.
REGIONAL CENTER FOR BORDER RIGHTS
Vicki Gaubeca, Director
Vicki Gaubeca joined the ACLU of New Mexico in January 2009 to become the director of the ACLU-NM Regional Center for Border Rights, based in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she has helped develop and implement its mission of addressing civil and human rights violations that stem from border-specific immigration policy. The Regional Center for Border Rights also acts as the southern office for the ACLU of New Mexico and helps identify and address civil rights issues in Southern New Mexico, including working on the advocacy and protection of rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community. She has more than 20 years of experience in policy advocacy, community organizing, public affairs, communications, and public health in a variety of settings, but immigrant rights–as well as any civil rights–is an issue close to her heart. Born and raised in Mexico City, Vicki Gaubeca joined ACLU-NM most recently from Tucson, Arizona, where she was a passionate advocate and supporter for both immigrant rights and the LGBT community. She was a member of Las Adelitas, a group that aims to improve the quality of life for Latinas and their families through political empowerment, and part of the steering committee for Adelante, Nuestro Futuro, an annual conference that brought 250 Latina mothers together with their middle school daughters for a Saturday full of activities, including health pláticas on diabetes and substance abuse prevention. She also participated in numerous university and community LGBT groups and committees, including Wingspan, Equality Arizona and the University of Arizona OUTreach group, where she helped obtain domestic partner health benefits for state employees. In addition, she took leadership roles in campaigns that aimed to defeat anti-LGBT legislation in Arizona. Ms. Gaubeca, who speaks Spanish and English fluently, has a B.A. degree in English/Communications and a master’s degree in public health.
Brian Erickson initially joined the Regional Center for Border Rights (RCBR) in August of 2010 as a Border Servant Corps volunteer. Upon completion of his year of service, Brian transitioned into the role of Field Organizer, focusing his efforts in the RCBR to connect with communities and individuals in Southern New Mexico and throughout the U.S.-Mexico border region to provide education and document the challenges to civil and human rights of the border context. Upon graduating from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington with B.A. degrees in Spanish and Global Studies. Brian made the trek across country to join the Latin America Working Group in Washington, D.C., where he helped coordinate efforts among organizations located both in and out of ‘the beltway’ and reached out to grassroots advocates across the nation to push for just U.S. policies towards Mexico and the U.S.-Mexico border region. To keep things light, Brian also enjoys music and tries to play guitar, is often found watching and playing sports, and retreats to the outdoors for hiking and camping.
Alyssa Telander joined the Regional Center for Border Rights in October of 2012, focusing her work on outreach, education, and documentation of civil and human rights abuses. She came to the RCBR after two years serving as a Border Servant Corps volunteer in El Paso, Texas. During her time in El Paso she worked on issues of wage theft and workers’ rights at Paso del Norte Civil Rights Project. She also worked at Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services providing services for immigrant victims of domestic violence. Alyssa graduated from Luther College with a B.A. degree in Women and Gender Studies. During her time at Luther she had the opportunity to work with refugees in the island nation of Malta in addition to working with immigrants in Postville, Iowa in the wake of a massive immigration raid in the spring of 2008. Alyssa enjoys living and working on the border and getting involved in her community.
Caroline Iosso serves as the Project Coordinator for the Regional Center for Border Rights, working on outreach and giving Know Your Rights presentations. She joined the RCBR in August 2013 through the Border Servant Corps volunteer program. Caroline graduated from Vassar College with a B.A. in Geography and Latin American/Latin@ Studies. She spent a semester in La Paz, Bolivia, examining relationships among revolution, racism, and neoliberalism. Caroline then won a Burnam Fellowship for the summer of 2011 to continue her study in the Andes in Cusco, Peru, leading educational seminars in a homeless shelter and teaching English. It was an influential study trip to the U.S./Mexico border that drew her away from pursuing international humanitarian work outside the U.S. and instead towards such work within it. Upon graduating, she worked as a housing advocate in a rural homeless shelter in southern Colorado and, after a year of witnessing the struggles of migrant workers, is excited to now be working even closer to the border. Caroline enjoys hiking, baking, and exploring new places.