Ignite innovation! From Technology to New Partners in Naturalization

The field of naturalization is bubbling with innovation and excitement. Across the nation community organizations, legal service providers, credit unions, faith communities, municipalities, businesses, organized labor, and tech innovators are creating new models to help facilitate the naturalization of the nearly 9 million immigrants eligible to naturalize. Participants will learn about the latest tools, resources, partnerships, and best practices that can be implemented in their own communities to enhance their programs and expand their services. Moderator:

  • Melissa Rodgers, Director of Programs, New American’s Campaign -- Melissa Rodgers is the Director of Programs at the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) and the Project Director of the New Americans Campaign (NAC), a national initiative for which the ILRC serves as the lead agency, which brings together national and local organizations in partnership with a funder collaborative to increase naturalization among eligible lawful permanent residents. Melissa has held leadership positions at Blue Shield of California Foundation, the Child Care Law Center, the UC Berkeley School of Law Center on Health, Economic & Family Security, and the Health Consumer Center at the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County. Melissa has an EdM and JD from Harvard.


  • Mathew Burnett, Immigrant Advocate Network -- Matthew is director of the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN), a collaborative effort of leading immigrants' rights organizations that develops innovative programs and technology to increase access to justice for low-income immigrants and strengthen the capacity of organizations serving them. Before joining IAN, Matthew represented immigrants at East Bay Sanctuary Covenant and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, and served as law clerk to Justice Z.M. Yacoob of the Constitutional Court of South Africa. He received his B.A. cum laude from the University of Washington, where he was a Mary Gates Scholar and elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and his J.D. cum laude from Seattle University School of Law. In 2013 Matthew was named to the Fastcase 50, which honors the law's "most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, & leaders." Under his leadership, IAN has received multiple awards, including a Webby Award for Best Law Site in 2013 and the ABA’s 2014 Keane Award for Excellence in eLawyering.
  • Laura Patching, Acting Chief of the Office of Citizenship, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services -- Laura Patching is the Acting Chief of the Office of Citizenship, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In this capacity she leads federal initiatives to promote the rights, responsibilities and importance of U.S. citizenship. In 2001, Patching joined the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and helped manage INS’ transition to USCIS after the passage of the Homeland Security Act of 2002. She has been part of the Office of Citizenship since it was created in 2003.
  • Shanna Huey, Nashville Mayors Office of New Americans -- Shanna Singh Hughey is a senior advisor to Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and the director of the Mayor’s Office of New Americans. Previously, Shanna was nominations counsel on Chairman Patrick Leahy's (D-VT) staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she worked extensively on the Supreme Court confirmations of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Shanna has also worked as an associate in the Washington, DC office of O'Melveny and Myers and as press secretary to Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). Shanna earned her B.A. with high distinction from The University of Michigan and her J.D. with honors from The George Washington University.
  • Vanessa Sandoval, Program Director, Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network, CA -- Vanessa Sandoval joined SIREN as the Director of the Policy Advocacy program where she has worked vigorously to promote comprehensive immigration reform, and protect immigrant rights on a local, state, and national level. Vanessa earned her juris doctorate from Golden Gate University, School of law and has continuted to serve the immigrant community as the Director of Immigration Legal Services. Vanessa is passionate about creating and preserving policies and laws that protect and empower the immigrant community.
  • George Escobar, Director of Health and Human Service, CASA de Maryland -- Mr. Escobar oversees the majority of CASA’s social service programming which includes legal assistance, naturalization support, financial literacy, case management, health navigation and health education initiatives. Programs within George’s portfolio are charged with providing services that address disparities, reunite families separated by unjust immigration policies and place community members in a stable situation, setting them up for success and introducing them to CASA’s power building and leadership development opportunities so CASA members can participate in collective actions meant to create positive social change and address the root causes impacting the circumstances in which they find themselves.
  • Mohan Kanugo, Director of Engagement, Mission Asset Fund, San Francisco -- Mohan Kanungo is the Director of Engagement at Mission Asset Fund. Mohan joined MAF in 2013 to lead programs that financially empower youth. Since then, his role has expanded to explore potential partners for MAF’s social-loan programs across the country. Mohan's experience with labor, law and non-profit management, have addressed various aspects of financial and social inclusion impacting veterans, immigrants, survivors of domestic violence and low-income families.
  • Jennie Murray, Director of Integration Programs, National Immigration Forum, Washington D.C. -- Jennie Murray is currently the Director of Integration Programs at the National Immigration Forum. At the Forum Jennie leads the integration initiative, New American Workforce, which is a national program that brings citizenship services to the worksite; linking legal service providers with the private sector. This program not only brings integration services to the worksite but also serves as a catalyst for encouraging the private sector to identify the vast importance of their foreign-born workforce as well as aiding them to support these employees.
  • Eduardo Pena, Assistant to the Director, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union -- During the last 16 years at the UFCW, Eduardo has dedicated his efforts to improve the working conditions of workers across the U.S. and has been involved in some of the largest labor fights for food industry workers in the last decade. He is currently oversees the implementation of the UFCW’s Union Citizen Action Network (UCAN) program. Some of Eduardo’s work was highlighted in the documentary Food, Inc., as well as in many national publications.
  • Krystina Francois, KMD Consultant Group- Catholic Legal Services Miami -- Krystina is multi-lingual, multi-cultural and globally minded capacity builder, as a result of life experiences in New York, Haiti and Miami. Krystina served as a Public Ally, an AmeriCorps fellowship which places young leaders with local nonprofits to reach efficiency and scale, during which time she founded and managed Florida New Americans, the Florida Immigrant Coalition's naturalization and immigrant integration initiative. In 2014, she founded KMD Consultant Group where she continues her work through capacity building consulting for businesses and organizations like Catholic Legal Services of Miami.
  • Christine Chen, Staff Attorney, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles -- Christine Chen is a Staff Attorney for Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA's Citizenship Project, where she provides assistance, outreach, and legal representation to immigrants applying for naturalization and DACA. Previously, Christine has provided services to domestic violence survivors as well as helping immigrant victims of crimes apply for various forms of immigration relief including T-visas, U-visas, and asylum.