Speakers (A-B)

David Adame, President/CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa, Inc. (CPLC) leads the largest non-profit charity in Arizona and the third largest Hispanic community development corporation in the country.  He has previously worked at JP Morgan Chase, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Fannie Mae, and McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc. At CPLC, David has raised more than $250 million and completed 12 real-estate development projects across Arizona valued at more than $60 million.

Seema Agnani is the Executive Director of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (National CAPACD), a coalition of over 100 community-based organizations in 21 states and the Pacific Islands. The coalition improves the lives of over two million Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who live in poverty by providing voice, tool, and shared knowledge to drive change.  Prior to joining National CAPACD, Seema served as the Founder and Executive Director of Chhaya CDC, an organization that works with immigrant New Yorkers on housing justice and economic development issues. Seema is from the Chicago metro area where her parents emigrated from India, and earned a Masters in Urban Planning and Public Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Fatema Ahmad is the Deputy Director of the Muslim Justice League, an organization that educates, organizes and advocates for human and civil rights that are violated or threatened under national security pretexts. She’s a former engineer turned community organizer with experience fighting racism and islamophobia in North Carolina with Muslims for Social Justice and AFSC. She led a rally and counter-protest that successfully shut down a white supremacist anti-Muslim march in Raleigh, NC.

Suzanne Akhras Sahloul is the founder & president of the Syrian Community Network. She is also the founder of Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) Midwest Foundation, having served as its president from 2004- 2006. She has a bachelors degree in history and education from the University of Illinois in Chicago (UIC), a Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) from Lewis University, and is currently pursuing a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership at the Kellogg School of Management.

Stephen R. Alderson, Dean of Adult and Continuing Education; MA, University of Illinois at Chicago; Project Director for CYBER ESL 2014 - 2017; Stephen has worked at Instituto del Progreso Latino since 1995 bringing innovation and creativity to Instituto programming and assuring program compliance for state, federal, and local funding agencies. Has helped to plan and shape CYBER ESL at Instituto in various distance education pilots and pioneering efforts since 2010. Member of the Illinois Community College Board Adult Education and Family Literacy Advisory Board.

Muna Ali holds a Ph.D in anthropology from Arizona State University. Her upcoming book, Young Muslim America, explores issues of identity, American-Muslim cultural practices/expressions and intra-community relations among second and subsequent generations of Muslim Americans (the offspring of converts and immigrants). She is particularly interested in how these younger Muslims define self and community, how they negotiate fissures and fault lines across ethnicity, race, class, gender, and religious interpretation within their communities. Dr. Ali’s research interests include immigration, Arab Americans, Western Muslims, religion in the public sphere, and culture and health.

Erika Almiron is the Executive Director of Juntos, a Philadelphia Latino Immigrant rights organization. Born in South Philly to immigrant parents from Paraguay she has has worked on social justice issues for two decades focused on organizing campaigns/coalitions at the intersection of criminalization, policing and over-incarceration by expanding sanctuary city policies, fighting to shut down detention centers and ending the school to prison/deportation pipeline. In 2017 she received the Legacy of Leadership Award from Bread and Roses Foundation.

Aparna Ananthasubramaniam, Mission Asset Fund Director of Research and Technology, joined MAF in 2014 and runs the organization’s research initiatives and technology projects, including the organization's social loan platform and mobile apps. Aparna holds a B.A. in Mathematics and an M.S. in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University.

Rev. Noel Andersen has served as the CWS National Grassroots Coordinator for six years, helping develop a national network of faith communities acting in solidarity with immigrants and refugees. He was also instrumental in creating a Leadership Development for Social Change project at CWS to train hundreds of refugees in advocacy community organizing. He has worked for a number of non-profit organizations in Central America and on the border focusing on community development, education, and community organizing. Noel is ordained in the United Church of Christ (UCC) and helps coordinate the National Sanctuary Movement.

Rich André is the Associate Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy, a bipartisan coalition of business and political leaders working to create sensible immigration policies. Prior to joining NAE, he was the NYCitizenship Program Manager and Cities for Action Coordinator at the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Rich has over 6 years of experience working on immigration issues, including local, state and federal policy, national organizing and advocacy, program design, and service delivery.

Sulma Arias is the Immigration Field Director of the FIRM Campaign at the Center for Community Change. For four years, she was the Executive Director of Sunflower Community Action in Kansas, a multi-racial grassroots organization dealing with issues of racial and economic inequality. Prior to Sunflower, Sulma was the Campaign Director for National People's Action's Immigrant and Worker Justice program, where she coordinated training and capacity building for 12 grassroots organizations in 10 states.

Melis Arı-Gürhanlı was the project coordinator of award winning iCount project (2013-2015), which raised awareness of the Finnish political process among immigrant populations and activated the political participation of immigrants. Following the project’s close, Moniheli's work continues via the "Our Election" national campaign, an advocacy effort designed to increase the participation of immigrant populations in Finland’s upcoming municipal elections. Raised in two different countries herself, Melis believes that participation in societal decision making is an essential part of immigrant integration. Melis is also active in advocating the rights of bi-cultural and bi-lingual families in Finland through chairmanship of the multicultural organization Familia ry.

Originally from Medellin - Colombia, Natalia Aristizabal Betancur, is the Co- Director of organizing at Make the Road New York where she currently supports the Immigrant Rights, LGBTQIA+ organizing and Leadership Development. She has organized and lead different campaigns at the city, state and national level Additionally she continues to work towards the intersections of Arts, Media and organizing, has developed curriculum for political education for youth and adults and led canvassing efforts to register and activate non-partisan voters. Natalia holds a dual Bachelor’s degree in Latin American Studies and Media Communication Studies from Queens College City University of New York.

Montserrat Arredondo Duran began her career in advocacy in 2010 when the infamous “show me your papers” bill SB1070 passed in Arizona. The unfortunate acts of discrimination towards her community lead her to study social work at Arizona State University where she graduated in 2013. Since then she has lead substantial campaigns like Prop 206 which recently passed and will give 5 million families a living wage. This year Montserrat became the Deputy Table Director at One Arizona, a coalition of nineteen organizations focusing on voter registration and civic engagement.

As a Director at the EdTech Center @ World Education, Alison Ascher Webber advises on how to leverage technology to increase outcomes in adult learning and workforce initiatives and leads field testing for the Employment Technology Fund. Alison helped grow Cell-Ed as its first Education Director and supported tech-enabled youth employment initiatives globally at Avasant Foundation. She was the first Executive Director of a training fund for immigrant building service workers in California. She serves on the Board of Building Skills Partnership.

Kristen Aster is the Associate Director for Policy and Advocacy, US Programs, at the International Rescue Committee where she is responsible for Congressional engagement, state-level policy strategy development, and strategic grassroots initiatives. Immediately prior to IRC she managed a coalition of San Diego organizations advocating on California state hunger and poverty policies. Kristen previously served as Associate Director of Refugee Council USA and worked in External Relations at UNHCR Washington. Kristen has a Master of Public Policy from Georgetown University.

Karla Avalos is the Senior Advisor, Office of Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. Born in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, Avalos has lived in Tucson her entire life. She graduated from the University of Arizona in 2008 earning a Political Science degree with a minor in History. She is a first generation college graduate. After completing an internship at the office of Congressman Raul Grijalva she decided on a career in public service. For 5 years, she has worked as Senior Advisor to Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild. 

Murad Awawdeh is the Vice President of Advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition. Murad leads the Coalition's Community, Political, and Member Engagement departments. Formerly, Murad was the NYIC’s Director of Political Engagement where he led the organization's Federal, State, and Local campaigns to push for a more inclusive New York. Through his work, Murad has been able to secure over $120 million in funding for low-income communities of color. He’s been featured in VICE, NY1, NY Daily News, Daily Beast, and Huffington Post. He was honored with the Brooklyn Do Gooder Award, Congressional Recognition, and State Senate and Assembly Achievement and Service Awards.

Mehrdad Azemun, National Campaigns Director, People’s Action. Mehrdad has over 15 years of experience running electoral and legislative campaigns with immigrant leaders at the local state, and national level. He currently oversees campaigns for People’s Action, an economic and racial justice organization working in 30 states. He has run the grassroots operations for 2 different national immigration reform campaigns. Before that, he was Organizing Director at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Mehrdad is an immigrant from Iran.

In 2001, Adam Babiker left Darfur in western Sudan. He was admitted as a refugee to the United States in 2006. Three years later, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a decorated soldier; in 2015, he was deployed to the Middle East as a linguist with the Department of Defense. Upon return, he assumed a new job as Recruiting Specialist for Worldwide Language Resources. He is a co-founder of Darfurian Association of Greater Houston, where’s he’s currently the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. He holds a BA of International Business from AIU and MA of International Relations from St. Mary’s University.

Pamela Barnhill is a second- generation hotelier, President and COO of InnSuites Hospitality Trust (NYSE: IHT), President and Founder of the InnDependent Boutique Collection technology platform, and founder of the InnDependent Lodging Executive Summit. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Independent Lodging Industry Association and the California Lodging Industry Association, and is an active member of Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association. Pam earned her MBA from Carnegie Mellon University in 2001. She is a published author, with articles in Hotel Executive, Hotel News Now, Lodging Magazine, and Hotel-Online.

Marleine Bastien is a graduate of Miami-Dade Community College and Florida International University with a Master's Degree in Social Work.   She is the founder, former president, and current Executive Director of Fanm Ayisyen Nan Miyami, Inc. {Haitian Women of Miami) an organization that provides desperately needed services to Haitian women and their families and to the community at large. She is the current Chair of the Florida Immigrant Coalition, and Vice-Chair of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition.

Ryan Bates is the founding director of Michigan United, the statewide coalition of 100 organizations working together for economic and racial justice.  Previously, Ryan worked with Reform Immigration For America, where he led organizing across the Midwest for comprehensive immigration reform.  With the Michigan House Democrats, Ryan oversaw 4 successful top-tier races for State House. Ryan has also been an organizer for the Michigan Raise the Wage Coalition, Environment Michigan, and the Gamaliel Foundation. He is a native of the Detroit-area and a graduate of the University of Michigan.  

Ellen Beattie is Senior Director, Program Quality & Innovation with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), where she oversees a portfolio of integration programs for New Americans across 28 US cities, among them economic empowerment and citizenship.  Prior to joining the IRC in 2003, she worked in community development with the United Nations Development Program, among others. Ellen holds a B.A. from Rice University, an M.S. in Regional Development Planning from Los Andes University and studied Development Sociology at Justus-Liebig University.

Becky Belcore joined NAKASEC’s staff as Co-Director as of January 2017.  NAKASEC’s mission is to organize Korean and Asian Americans to achieve social, racial and economic justice.  Prior to NAKASEC, she was the Program Manager of the AAPI Civic Engagement Fund, a national initiative which supports the year round civic engagement efforts of Asian American organizations, and an independent consultant for community-based organizations and foundations in the greater Chicago area. She previously worked as Lead Program Officer for Woods Fund Chicago where she coordinated grantmaking and special projects. She also spent 15 years mainly as a community and labor organizer, and worked as the Executive Director of the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center (KRCC), NAKASEC’s Chicago affiliate, and the Midwest Regional Coordinator for the Service Employees International Union. Becky also is a co-founder and member of the Adoptee Rights Campaign, and serves on the boards of the Hana Center and the Ella Baker Organizing Fund.

Dr. Sayu Bhojwani is the Founder and President of New American Leaders, which prepares immigrant leaders to use their power and potential in elected office. She served as New York City’s first Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs. Born in India, and raised in Belize, Dr. Bhojwani is a naturalized citizen. She holds a Ph.D. in Politics and Education from Columbia University and is the author of a book on multiracial democracy, forthcoming from the New Press.

At the age of six, Isela Blanc's family immigrated to the United States in pursuit of the American dream. Her parents encouraged, promoted, and supported their daughter’s pursuit of higher education and became the first in her family to attend a University. In 2016, she was elected to serve the community where she was raised. As an elected official, she became the first formerly undocumented woman to serve in the Arizona Legislature. Isela's experiences as an immigrant, a mom, and a caring community member are reasons why she is committed to advocate for better schools, youth programs, and equal access to services for those most in need.  

Heather Booth is a movement building strategist. She was the founding Director and is now President of the Midwest Academy, training social change leaders and organizers. In 2009, she directed the campaign passing President Obama’s first budget. She was the national coordinator for the coalition around marriage equality and the 2013 Supreme Court decision. She was strategic advisor to the Alliance for Citizenship. She has been a consultant to many organizations including the Voter Participation Center, Center for Community Change, and MoveOn. She is now the Field Director for Americans for Tax Fairness, opposing the proposed tax cuts.

Zrinka Bralo was a journalist in Bosnia before the conflict began, including five years at the National Radio in Sarajevo. After war broke out, she coordinated international media coverage from Sarajevo, working with some of the world's leading war correspondents. Since 2001, Zrinka has been the Chief Executive of Migrants Organise. She served as a Commissioner on the Independent Asylum Commission and still leads the process of implementation of its 180 recommendations. In September 2015, in response to the recent refugee crisis, she has lead civil society response in the UK and is a founding chair of the National Refugee Welcome Board.

Kate Brick is the Director of State and Local Initiatives at New American Economy, a bipartisan coalition of business and political leaders who support immigration reform. Kate has 10 years of experience working on immigration issues in the U.S., Mexico/Central America, and Europe through her time at Americas Society/Council of the Americas, Unbound Philanthropy, the Migration Policy Institute, and the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center. Kate holds an MA in International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a BA in Latin American Studies from The George Washington University.

Teresa Buczkowska was born in Poland and moved to Ireland in 2005. Teresa holds an MA in Ethnography and Social Anthropology from Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland. She works as the Integration Team Coordinator at the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI). Teresa and her team have been working with a range of like-minded organizations and partners to promote greater cultural, social, economic and political integration of people of migrant background living in Ireland.

Matthew Burnett served as Immigration Advocates Network (IAN)’s first full-time staff when it was formed in 2007. He received his B.A. cum laude from the University of Washington and his J.D. cum laude from Seattle University School of Law. Under his leadership IAN's work has received several Webby Awards and the American Bar Association's Award for Excellence in eLawyering. Matthew was named to the Fastcase 50, which honors the law's "most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, & leaders."

Jill Marie Bussey is Director of Advocacy with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC). CLINIC supports a network of over 330 community-based legal immigration services programs. All of these programs provide legal services to people seeking humanitarian forms of immigration relief, with over 70% providing services to TPS holders and their families. Jill has nearly 20 years of experience in the field of immigration and earned her JD with a concentration in business law, cum laude, from the University of Baltimore School of Law and her bachelor’s in law and society from American University. Jill is also actively engaged in her community, serving as chair of the Howard County Consumer Protection Board.