The team at the Office of Immigrant Relations is comprised of innovative thinkers and passionate community members who believe that immigrants make Santa Clara County stronger. We value our community and are proud to be employees of a County that loves our community as much as we do.
Zelica Rodriguez-Deams, Director
she / her / hers
I am from…strong woman warrior ancestry
I am from…my community’s resilience, struggle and strength
I am from…pupusas, atol de elote and flor de izote.
Zelica has nearly 20 years of experience in the non-profit field as a community organizer, advocate and community builder. Her prowess is in research and analysis, strategy development and program impact. For the past 8 years, Zelica has served on the leadership team at SOMOS Mayfair, first as Director of Programs and then as Associate Director, designing a comprehensive program strategy that puts residents at the center of community change and transformation. She is both an internal and external thought partner, helping craft organizational vision and policies, facilitating strategic partnerships, and serving as a media spokesperson for immigration rights and policies.
While at SOMOS, Zelica launched the “In Our Hands” initiative that spanned 13 programs, all focused on addressing multi-generational crisis in Mayfair and dismantling inequity and led the development of a collective impact model across five local organizations (the Si Se Puede Collective) which have built a robust eco-system supporting families in the Eastside. She also led the creation of an immigrant women worker-owned cooperative that has gained visibility across the county as experts in sustainable community engagement.
Before joining SOMOS, Zelica served as the Director of Policy & Organizing for SIREN, where she developed and won advocacy campaigns to increase equity, access, resources and rights for immigrant families. She also led SIREN’s robust civic engagement strategy that resulted in a multi-language civic campaign to increase awareness of voter rights and responsibilities amongst the immigrant community.
Born in El Salvador, Zelica came to this country as a child. She earned her Master’s in Political Science from San Francisco State University in 2007. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Latin American and Latino studies from University of California, Santa Cruz.
She is married to Dewayne Deams, proud BART Train operator, and has two girls, Mikaela (3) and Lina (6 months).
Teresa Castellanos, Immigrant Services Coordinator
she / her / hers
Focus areas: Community and staff education, research and resource development, legislative updates, Know Your Rights, immigration matters, workers rights, emergency planning, and custody options
I am from... home made tortillas, papas con chorizo and coffee.
I am from... the smell of wet earth, the sounds of crickets in the fields, and the smell of roses my grandmother planted around her house.
I am from... "Si se puede," "We are still here," and "You are my other self."
Teresa Castellanos has worked with the diversity of immigrant communities for over 30 years. She began her career as a labor organizer with Justice for Janitors and the Health Workers Union. She worked for Catholic Charities’ Immigration Program leading the organizations' citizenship efforts in the mid-1990s. For the past 23 years she has been a guiding force behind the Santa Clara County's citizenship and immigrant integration programs. Through her efforts, in collaboration with community based agencies and other colleagues, 133,000 County residents have received assistance in their citizenship process.
She is a contributing author to Bridging Borders in Silicon Valley and KIN: Knowledge of Immigrant Nationalities, two books based on the data from the Summit on Immigrant Needs and Contributions, as well as the recent Office of Human Relations report A Tale of Two Valleys: The Price we Pay for Living in Santa Clara County.
Milina Jovanovic, Immigrant Services Coordinator
she / her / hers
Focus areas: research, analysis, events coordinator, citizenship, and leads the Immigrant Programs Task Force
I am from… Balkan versions of the Turkish coffee, gibanica, baklava and vitamin salad.
I am from… the Neolithic matriarchal Vinca and Lepenski Vir, the smells of the rivers Danube and Sava, sounds of noisy boat restaurants, and busy cafés .
I am from… the land of rebels and anti-fascists, dreamers, and revolutionaries.
Milina Jovanovic has worked with numerous immigrant communities and researched a wide scope of immigrant issues since 1996. In the summer of 1999, she was hired by the Office of Human Relations to conduct research on 16 immigrant groups in Santa Clara County. With her unique research expertise gained and developed over the course of more than two decades in both Yugoslavia and the U.S., she has contributed to all research projects that originated within the Office of Human Relations. She was a contributor and co-editor of Bridging Borders in Silicon Valley and KIN: Knowledge of Immigrant Nationalities, two books based on the data from the Summit on Immigrant Needs and Contributions. She has worked with Immigrant Programs (IRIS/OIR) since 1999 and with the Dispute Resolution Program from 2010 to 2015.
She is a published author of two books and numerous articles covering a wide range of topics from ethnic studies and immigrant contributions to U. S. foreign policy, gender studies and ecofeminism. She has also taught Women and Gender Studies classes at Evergreen Valley College. Her hobbies include gardening, yoga, and spoiling her four dogs.
Anthony Vũ, Associate Management Analyst
I am from… Thịt Kho Tộ, Crab with tamarind and chili, and fish sauce
I am from… The sound of hymns and prayers, ad the smell of incense.
I am from… Uống nước nhớ nguồn (When you drink water, remember the source)
Anthony was born in San Jose, CA a year after his family had immigrated to America from Vietnam. At a young age, Anthony showed great interest in the subject of history. His love of history came from the analytic aspect, where unique perspectives can tell very different stories of the same historical events. He studied at San Jose State University where he received his bachelor’s degree in history in 2016.
Anthony’s personal drive comes from being raised in an immigrant family. His father worked long hours to support him, his mom, and 2 siblings while his mother stayed home to take care of her children because they were unable to afford childcare. His family had access to many resources and received support throughout their life. His goal was to be able to give back to the community in some way which led him to joining the OIR.
His personal mission is to see every immigrant family have the same opportunities that he and his family had, so they are able to build a life and have a future here in Santa Clara County.
Carolyn Lê, Public Communication Specialist
she / her / hers
Focus areas: media, communications, and digital and video production
I am from... fish sauce, phở lộn xộn, mango chili lucas, and hot cheetos with cream cheese.
I am from... "Ăn cơm chưa?"
I am from... resilient Vietnamese refugees, the Monkey King, Scooby Doo, and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Carolyn was born and raised in East Side San José, California and identifies as Southeast Asian, second generation Vietnamese American. At the Office of Immigrant Relations, Carolyn specializes in visual storytelling where she works to amplify the County’s steadfast commitment to immigrant communities through education, empowerment, and integration. Her work is informed by her experience in nonprofit arts for Southeast Asian Americans and grassroots organizing at the intersection of immigration and the criminal justice system.
Her hobbies include woodworking and spoiling her dogs.
Alejandra Garcia, Community Outreach Specialist
Focus areas: Community outreach and engagement.
I am from…tlayudas, memelitas and chapulines.
I am from…enjoying leche quemada ice cream on a hot afternoon.
I am from… the sacrifices of an immigrant mother.
Alejandra Garcia was born and raised in San Jose, California. She has worked to serve our diverse community for 3 years. Before coming to the County, Alejandra served families in the East Side of San Jose as a member of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Silicon Valley. After she joined Santa Clara County, she has worked for both the Public Health Department and the Department of Family and Children Services. Her previous work has allowed her to provide direct service to community members in efforts to prevent and manage chronic diseases. She contributed to the development of an action plan for child abuse prevention in the County. At the Office of Immigrant Relations, Alejandra strives to serve as a community liaison to reach and engage immigrant communities, by informing them about community service programs aimed at meeting the needs of immigrant populations.
At home, Alejandra is a daughter, sister, wife, and dog mom to a miniature poodle named Marvin. Her hobbies include exploring different National Parks and traveling and Disney.