AILA Public Statements, Press Releases

AILA Elects New Officers: Kelli Stump to Serve as President of Association

6/13/24 AILA Doc. No. 24061302.
George Tzamaras
Belle Woods


Thursday, June 13, 2024

AILA Elects New Officers

Kelli Stump to serve as president of association

Chicago, IL – Today, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) elected new officers to its Executive Committee for the 2024-2025 term. Kelli Stump was installed as AILA’s President and the following officers were elected today: Jeff Joseph as President-Elect, Alexis S. Axelrad as First Vice President, Jacqueline Watson as Second Vice President, Rekha Sharma-Crawford as Treasurer, and Michelle Saenz-Rodriguez as Secretary.

Kelli Stump Installed as President of AILA

AILA installed Kelli Stump as the association’s 78th President for the 2024-2025 term. Ms. Stump was installed as part of the AILA Annual Conference held in Chicago, IL.

Ms. Stump possesses nearly two decades of experience in a practice limited exclusively to immigration law. Her practice is primarily focused on family-based immigration, complex deportation with emphasis on “crimmigration” matters leading to inadmissibility and deportability, and federal litigation in the immigration context. To date, she has argued before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals on four occasions.

Ms. Stump’s AILA volunteer experience includes serving as a Past Chair of the Texas/Oklahoma/New Mexico Chapter. Additionally, she has served as an elected director of the AILA Board of Governors (BOG) and was Chair of the 2019 Annual Conference. She is a past Chair of the AILA Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) Committee. She has served as a member of many other national AILA Liaison committees, including several years on the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) Committee, EOIR Committee, and the Conference Planning Committee.

The author of several articles on immigration law, she has also served as an editor for the AILA annual conference handbook and fundamentals book. Ms. Stump has been recognized in Super Lawyers in Oklahoma and selected by her peers for inclusion in “Best Lawyers in America,” where she has also been recognized on several occasions as “Lawyer of the Year” in Oklahoma City, OK on Immigration Law.


Jeff Joseph Named President-Elect of AILA

AILA has elected Jeff Joseph, an immigration lawyer whose practice is based in Denver, CO, as the association’s President-Elect for the 2024-2025 term.

Jeff Joseph is a Partner with Berry Appleman and Leiden (BAL) where he manages the Denver office and guides corporate clients on global immigration initiatives. He has more than two decades of experience advising clients in a wide variety of industries on immigration law and policy. A skilled advocate, Mr. Joseph has represented clients before the Department of Homeland Security, the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the U.S. District Courts, and the Circuit Courts of Appeals.

Well-known throughout the immigration legal community, Mr. Joseph is a past Chapter Chair of the Colorado Chapter of AILA and a past elected director on the AILA National Board of Governors. He was on the Board of Trustees of the American Immigration Council from 2006-2012 and served as Chair of the Litigation Action Committee. In 2004, he received the Joseph Minsky Young Lawyer Award from AILA. He also served as Vice Chair of the Immigration Law Section of the Federal Bar Association and President of the Colorado Chapter of the FBA.

Mr. Joseph enjoys teaching others about immigration law, explaining complex concepts with ease. As a thought leader in the field, he has given more than 200 lectures to professional organizations on wide-ranging aspects of immigration law. He also teaches and mentors the next generation of immigration attorneys, serving as an adjunct professor of immigration law at the University of Denver College of Law. He is bilingual in English and Spanish.

He is active on Twitter/X; his handle is @jeffjoseph. On LinkedIn, he can be followed as well.

Alexis S. Axelrad Elected First Vice President of AILA

AILA elected Alexis S. Axelrad, an immigration attorney whose practice is based in New York, NY, as the association’s First Vice President for the 2024-2025 term.

Ms. Axelrad is a partner with Barst & Mukamal LLP, where she maintains a busy corporate and family-based immigration practice with a particular emphasis on interaction with the various offices of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Justice Department, including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of State, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Born in New York City, Alexis has almost three decades of experience in immigration and nationality law. Ms. Axelrad previously served as an elected director of AILA's Board of Governors and as the Chair of AILA’s CBP Committee. She is a past Chair of the New York Chapter of AILA. Ms. Axelrad is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Executives Association of New York and serves on the Membership Committee of the organization.

She is the recipient of the distinguished 2020 AILA Susan Quarles Service Award and a past recipient of AILA President's Commendation Award for Outstanding Service on the USCIS HQ liaison committee, June 2008-2010 & 2014, CBP HQ Committee 2019 & 2021.

Ms. Axelrad was the author of a quarterly column on immigration matters published in the New York Law Journal and the researcher and writer of US Immigration Laws: Working, Living and Studying in America (1999). She is a frequent writer for periodicals and speaker on immigration and nationality law and is honored to be a source of information and guidance for her colleagues in and outside of the immigration bar and for the NYC Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) community.

Ms. Axelrad received her B.A. from the University of Maryland at College Park (1994) After earning her J.D. from New York Law School (1997), Ms. Axelrad was admitted to practice in New York in 1998.

Jacqueline Watson Named Second Vice President of AILA

AILA elected Jacqueline Watson, an immigration attorney whose practice is based in Austin, TX, as the association’s Second Vice President for the 2024 - 2025 term.

Jacqueline Watson is a proud El Paso native and undergraduate alum of the University of Texas at El Paso, where she studied political science and Russian. She earned her J.D. at the University of Texas School of Law. Certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, she has practiced immigration law in Austin since 1999 and is a partner at JLW Immigration Law Group.

Ms. Watson’s expertise includes citizenship and naturalization, family-based immigration, defense from removal, asylum, federal court litigation, and other complex immigration matters. A member of the Texas Bar, she is licensed in the Western District of Texas and in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

She is a frequent presenter at state and national immigration law conferences. She has been quoted in publications such as the Austin American Statesman, The Texas Tribune, the New York Times, and the Associated Press, and has appeared on Univision, Spectrum News, Good Day LA, Austin Public Radio’s KUT, and NPR’s This American Life. In 2009, 2010, and 2011 she was selected for inclusion in the Immigration Law section of the Rising Stars list published in Texas Super Lawyers magazine.

Ms. Watson volunteers her time with organizations such as American Gateways, the City of Austin Urban Renewal Board, the State Bar of Texas, and the University of Texas School of Law, who awarded her the 2020 W. Page Keeton Award for Excellence in Continuing Legal Education. Ms. Watson is an adjunct professor in the Paralegal Program at Austin Community College and is a former AILA Texas Chapter Chair and Elected Director of the AILA National Board of Directors.

Rekha Sharma-Crawford Named Treasurer of AILA

AILA elected Rekha Sharma-Crawford, an immigration attorney whose practice is based in Kansas City, MO, as the association’s Treasurer for the 2024-2025 term.

Rekha Sharma-Crawford is an immigration attorney and partner in the Kansas City law firm Sharma-Crawford Attorneys-at-Law. A nationally recognized expert in immigration law, she focuses her practice on removal defense issues, trial advocacy and federal litigation. In 2024, Ms. Sharma-Crawford was awarded the Professional Leader of the Year by the Kansas City Asian Chamber of Commerce. In 2023, she was a member of the AILA Amicus Committee when the committee was awarded AILA’s Jack Wasserman Memorial Award. In 2021, she received the AILA Edith Lowenstein Memorial Award, for excellence in advancing the practice of immigration law. In 2018, the Kansas Bar Association honored Ms. Sharma-Crawford with the Courageous Attorney Award, “an award presented from time to time, to attorneys who have displayed exceptional courage in the face of adversity, thus bringing credit to the legal profession.” In 2017, The Missouri Bar Association honored Ms. Sharma-Crawford and her law partner with its Pro Bono Publico Award.

Along with having several critical published court decisions, Ms. Sharma-Crawford is also an author and speaker on issues involving immigration law and policy. She has served as an Elected Director for the AILA Board of Governors for several years, and in 2023 became the first South Asian American Secretary of AILA. She is also a member of the Board for SevenDays, a Kansas City nonprofit whose mission is to spread kindness through education.

In 2012, she co-founded a nonprofit law clinic to provide representation for indigent individuals facing removal in the Kansas City Immigration Court. The Clinic has helped thousands of clients and for nearly a decade, has provided much-needed low bono and pro bono representation.

Ms. Sharma-Crawford is also the author of her children’s books, Aaliyah the Brave, Empowering Children Coping with Immigration Enforcement, released in 2022 and her new book, Finding Freedom, Empowering Young Survivors of Human Trafficking, released in 2023. The net profits from the sale of the books are divided between 2 nonprofits: The Clinic at Sharma-Crawford, which provides removal defense to indigent individuals in the Kansas City Immigration Court, and the National Immigration Litigation Alliance.

Michelle Saenz-Rodriguez Elected Secretary of AILA

AILA elected Michelle Saenz-Rodriguez, an immigration attorney based in Dallas, TX, as the association’s Secretary for the 2024-2025 term.

Michelle L. Saenz-Rodriguez is the co-founder and senior partner at Saenz-Rodriguez & Associates in Dallas, Texas. She started as a Judicial Law Clerk under the Attorney General’s Honor Program for 7 Immigration Judges in Harlingen, Texas. She began her immigration practice shortly thereafter and has remained a passionate advocate for immigrants from around the world.

Ms. Saenz-Rodrigez has served in numerous volunteer capacities with AILA, including as former Chair for the Texas Chapter. She served as an elected director on AILA’s Board of Governors and is on the AILA ICE Liaison Committee. She is also an Advisory Member of the ABA Commission on Immigration.

After nearly 3 decades in the immigration law field, she is active in her local community where she serves as a volunteer for pro bono lawyers who are representing unaccompanied minors and mothers with young children who are fleeing Central America due to the uncontrollable violence that continues to plague the area.

Her firm has been named one of the “Top Tier Immigration Law Firms in America” for the last several years and she herself has been rated as a “Top Lawyer in the Field of Immigration” by Best Lawyers in America.