A Few Words About Us

About El Centro

El Centro Hispanoamericano, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) recognized organization, located in Plainfield, New Jersey. Created in 1984, El Centro has a 35-year history of counseling and representation of low-income immigrants, including the undocumented.

El Centro represents clients before the Citizen and Immigration Service (CIS), in Immigration Court, and in appeals covering matters such as political asylum, cancellation of removal, temporary protected status, naturalization, and self-petitioning aliens under the Violence against Women Act of 1994. We represent people without regard to country of origin, but we primarily serve the Spanish-speaking community in the central New Jersey region. All of our staff members are fluent in Spanish.

In addition to legal assistance, El Centro offers citizenship and ESL courses as part of its effort to help immigrants become productive members of their community. We also run a small emergency food pantry for those in need and provide personal “advocates” for those seeking services from public and private agencies.


Laura Lobe, Chair

  • BA from Columbia University in Political Science
  • Catholic Charities of New Brunswick, BIA accredited
Erik Werfel, Secretary and Supervising Attorney

  • BA from Hampshire College in Economics, MA in Spanish from Rutgers, JD from University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • Licensed member of the New Jersey bar
  • Business Applications Manager at Fragomen, a law firm focusing on global corporate immigration law
  • Member of American Immigration Lawyers Association
  • Lives in Cranford, NJ
Bonnie Ruggiero, Treasurer

  • Financial consultant to nonprofits and small businesses
  • Owner, Taxes Etc LLC
  • Tax preparer for 16 years and IRS Enrolled Agent
  • Active in Presbytery of Elizabeth, serving on several committees
  • Vice chair of board at Stony Point Center
  • Lives in Scotch Plains, NJ
Oscar Arriaza

Orlando Castillo

John Donnelly