Speakers (M-O)

Theresa Mah is a Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives who has represented the 2nd district since January 2017. Mah is the first Asian-American elected to the Illinois General Assembly. As a child of immigrants, Mah has fought tirelessly for working families, focusing on education, job growth, and immigration reform. As a former senior policy adviser to Gov. Pat Quinn, Mah’s leadership helped to create job and education opportunities for working families including many immigrants. Mah was on faculty at the University of Chicago and as an effective advocate, rallied the Chinese American community to push for single district in the last round of redistricting to gain a more unified voice. Mah also successfully advocated for a new, state-of-­the-art public library branch and field house in Chinatown and lobbied to successfully restore the 31st Street bus route. As a Local School Council member at Thomas Kelly High School, Mah’s leadership has transformed the lives and improved the academic outcomes of Hispanic and Asian-American students.

Jason Mathis serves as executive director of Salt Lake City’s Downtown Alliance and leads policy initiatives for immigration and urban development for the Salt Lake Chamber, Utah’s largest business organization. He currently serves on the boards of the National Immigration Forum, the US Global Leadership Coalition, and the Utah AIDS Foundation (among others.) He is the recipient of the Professional Communicator of the Year Award from the Public Relations Society of America and the 40 Under 40 Award from Utah Business Magazine. In 2013 he was named a White House Champion of Change for helping to draft The Utah Compact.

Kica Matos  is the Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice at the Center for Community Change (“CCC”).She has extensive experience as an advocate, community organizer and lawyer. At CCC, Kica has been a national advocate for immigration reform and coordinates the work of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, the nation’s largest network of immigrant rights organizations.  She has a B.A. from Victoria University (New Zealand), an M.A. from the New School and a J.D. from Cornell Law School.

Michelle Maziar serves as the founding Director of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs for the City of Atlanta,and the Director of Welcoming Atlanta, a public-private initiative which seeks to grow an inclusive, diverse metro-Atlanta. At Welcoming Atlanta, Michelle leads strategic visioning for creating an inclusive region with the support of diverse stakeholders from across  metro Atlanta.  At the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Michelle leads policy and programmatic initiatives as they relate to public safety, civic engagement, and economic empowerment. Michelle is a graduate of Harvard Graduate School of Education where her research focused on education equity for immigrant youth and families.

Janie McDermott is the Program Manager for Apprenticeship for Baltimore Alliance for Careers in Healthcare. Previously, she served in the White House Office of Management and Budget as the Confidential Assistant to the General Counsel. Prior to that role, she worked with Heads Up America, the outreach and advocacy wing of the College Promise Campaign. Janie attended the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs and Political Science.

Margie McHugh is Director of the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. Ms. McHugh’s work focuses on education quality and access issues for immigrants and their children from early childhood through K-12 and adult, post-secondary and workforce skills programs. She also leads the Center’s work seeking a more coordinated federal response to immigrant integration needs and impacts.

Hannah Miller Smith is the Manager of Community Engagement for Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest in Northern Arizona. In this role, Hannah coordinates volunteers and connects community members with opportunities for engagement with refugees. She oversees the refugee co-sponsorship program in which faith and community groups support a refugee family for their first several months in the United States. Hannah began working with Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest in 2014, first as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer and then as staff. She has her BA in International Politics with a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies from Juniata College.

Eva A. Millona is Executive Director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA) and co-chair of the National Partnership for New Americans (NPNA). She joined MIRA in 1999, and is one of New England’s most highly quoted immigration experts. Prior she directed the refugee resettlement program in Central Massachusetts, and in her native Albania, she practiced civil and criminal law, serving on Tirana’s District Court from 1989 – 1992, as the youngest district judge ever appointed in the nation. Ms. Millona is also the co-chair of the MA Governor’s Advisory Council on Refugees and Immigrants and serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Adamou Mohamed is the Grassroots Organizer with the Immigration and Refugee Program at Church World Service. In his role, Adamou has led many refugee leadership development, community organizing and advocacy workshops and coordinates refugee and immigrant advocacy efforts in key states. Adamou holds an MA in International Studies from NC State University, Raleigh. He led the Welcoming Greensboro Initiative, and served as the Chair of the International Advisory Committee under the Human Relations Commission in the city, and is a member of the Immigrant Rights Working Group of Guilford County.

Ben Monterroso, founding Executive Director of Mi Familia Vota, is a dynamic leader and advocate who has dedicated his career to empowering and engaging the Latino community in the democratic process. At Mi Familia Vota, Ben has developed the organization into a leading Latino civic engagement organization in the country and shown that political empowerment of Latinos has the potential to force change for generations to come.

Yaheiry Mora is the Senior Advocacy and Elections Specialist, CASA de Maryland Yaheiry Mora focuses in state policy and advocacy work in Maryland. In her role, she also manages and designs voter engagement programs in immigrant communities in Maryland and northern Virginia for both CASA de Maryland (C3) and its C4 sister organization CASA in Action. Yaheiry comes from the labor movement, previously serving as a political organizer at SEIU Local 32BJ in New York City. She is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and resides in Maryland.

Bob Moses was born and raised in Harlem, NY, where he attended public schools. He received a B.A. in Philosophy from Hamilton College in 1956, and received an M.A. in Philosophy from Harvard University in 1957. Moses directed the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s Mississippi Voter Registration Project from 1961-1964; was co-Director of the Council of Federated Organizations 1962-1964, and was a lead organizer for the 1964 Mississippi “Freedom” Summer Project, parachuting Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to 1964 National Democratic Convention in Atlantic City.

Moses taught mathematics at the Samé School in Tanzania, East Africa from 1969 – 1976, when he returned to the United States and re-entered the doctoral program in Philosophy at Harvard.

A MacArthur Foundation Fellow 1982-1987, he used his fellowship to begin the Algebra Project, which uses mathematics as organizing tool for quality education for all children in America. With support of the National Science Foundation the Algebra Project works with middle and high school students who previously performed in the lowest quartile on standardized exams, proposing that they attain a high school math benchmark: graduate on time in four years, ready to do college math for college credit.  

Moses is co-author with Charles E. Cobb, Jr., of the book Radical Equations—Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project (Beacon Press, 2001); and co-editor with Theresa Perry, et al., of Quality Education as a Constitutional Right-creating a grassroots movement to transform public schools (Beacon, 2010). Moses was the Distinguished Visitor for the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University 2011-2012, and has been an adjunct lecturer at NYU School of Law from 2012 - 2016. He has served on the Education Advisory Committee of the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute from 2004 to the present. In May 2016, the University of North Carolina press published Dr. Laura Visser-Maessen’s book, Robert Parris Moses – a life in civil rights and leadership at the grassroots.  He has received numerous honorary doctorate degrees, has delivered keynote speeches and workshops nationwide, and has served as principal investigator on eight National Science Foundation mathematics education research awards to date; currently NSF INCLUDES Design and Development Launch Pilot award # 1649342 and NSF INCLUDES Conference award # 1650533.

Bitta Mostofi is the Acting Commissioner, NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. After graduating law school from DePaul University in Chicago, she practiced civil rights law with a particular focus on the discriminatory impact of immigration practices on Muslim or Middle Eastern immigrants. Shortly thereafter she joined Safe Horizon and continued her legal practice representing immigrant crime victims, asylees, and others in both affirmative and defensive petitions before the immigration court. In 2014 Bitta joined the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs to spearhead the IDNYC outreach campaign. She currently serves as Acting Commissioner for MOIA.

Yonous Muhammadi is a defender of refugee rights in Greece, where he secured asylum after fleeing Taliban abuses in Afghanistan. Muhammadi has been targeted for his work, including being jailed by the Taliban in Afghanistan. As president of the Greek Forum of Refugees(GFR), Muhammadi ensures that the needs and rights of asylum seekers, migrants, and refugees are at the heart of high-level debates in Greece and elsewhere in Europe. He also serves as an ambassador for White Ribbon, one of the world’s largest male-led campaigns to end violence against women. This September, Yonous was named the 2016 Recipient of the Alison Des Forges Award for Extraordinary Activism by Human Rights Watch.

In her role as director of integration programs at the National Immigration Forum, Jennie Murray brings years of experience working at the intersection of immigration services and the private sector, as well as in refugee resettlement and career pathway support. Murray leads the New American Workforce citizenship and English-language training initiative and the newly formed Corporate Roundtable for the New American Workforce. Before joining the Forum in 2013, she served as the director of programs at Jubilee Jobs and lead Outreach at Catholic Charities Washington, D.C., Refugee Center.  Raised in Los Angeles and Nashville, Murray graduated from Union University and earned her master’s from Wesley Theological Seminary.   

Winona Nava took the helm of Guadalupe Credit Union in Santa Fe, NM, as President/CEO in 1991.  The credit union has earned a reputation in Northern New Mexico as a pioneer in serving low-wealth individuals and a go-to resource for financial education. Nava serves on the CUNA Board of Directors.  Nava is also current Chair of the National Credit Union Foundation. She previously served as Chair of CUNA’s Hispanic Outreach Committee, where she helped forge a valuable relationship with the Network of Latino Credit Unions and Professionals (NLCUP.)  As a result of these efforts she was awarded NLCUP’s Leadership and Support award in 2011.

Otoniel “Tony” Navarrete was born in Arizona to immigrant parents. As Deputy Director of Promise Arizona, he works advancing policies that strengthen families and civic participation. Tony was inspired early in life to promote social justice, including breaking the cycles of poverty through community development at Neighborhood Ministries. He moved to New York to work on housing and jobs issues, returning home after learning his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Today, she is in remission. Tony is committed to engaging statewide in public policy making, while fighting to advance comprehensive immigration reform. As a member of the State Legislature, Rep. Navarrete champions education, jobs development, and criminal justice reform.

Julie Nelson is the Senior Vice-President of Programs at the new Race Forward (a union of two leading racial justice non-profit organizations: Race Forward and Center for Social Inclusion). She is also the Director of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE) and a Senior Fellow at the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at the University of California, Berkeley. GARE is a national network of government working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. Nelson is the former Director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights where she provided vision and hands-on leadership for Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative. She has 25 years of experience working for local, regional and federal government, including with Seattle’s Human Services Department, Administrative Services and the utilities; Housing and Urban Development; and Pima County Community Services in Tucson, Arizona. She has a Masters Degree in Economics from the University of Washington, and has served on the boards of many non-profits and is involved with groups working for racial equity.

Jorge Neri was born in Mexico City and raised by his mother in the neighborhood of Little Village in Chicago, Illinois. Jorge began his career as an organizer with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIIR) in Chicago and most recently worked in the Office of Public Engagement of the White House under the Obama administration and as Nevada State Director for Secretary Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Since 2001, Adelina Nicholls has overseen, coordinated, and carried out the efforts of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) to develop grassroots leaders and organizations within Georgia’s Latino immigrant communities in order to defend and advance Latinos' civil and human rights. Originally from Mexico City, Adelina studied sociology at the Autonomous National University of México (UNAM), where she later taught courses in sociology, social theory, social research techniques, and methodology in the Political and Social Science College. In 1999, Adelina co-founded and served as President of the Coordinating Council of Latino Community Leaders of Atlanta—the organization out of which GLAHR grew. In this role, Adelina facilitated community organizing workshops and leadership development trainings for Latino immigrants, as well as coordinated a campaign that acquired over 30,000 signatures to demand for undocumented immigrants’ right to obtain driver’s licenses. Adelina later served as a lead organizer for the First Latino March for Dignity in Georgia, during which more than 5,000 people gathered to demand driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants. She was also a spokesperson  and co-organizer of the March 17 Alliance for Immigration Reform (Alianza 17 de Marzo), which took place on April 10, 2006, and mobilized more than 70 thousand people. Since 2001 to this date (2016) Adelina has dedicated to facilitate the creation of Comites Populares around the state and developed within a collective leadership among immigrants in the state of Georgia in the struggle for Human Rights, and since 2007 Adelina has continued her organizing efforts as the Executive Director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights. Adelina has received recognition as well as a number of awards for her work in community organizing and human rights, including the MALDEF Award Community Service (2001), the ACLU Georgia Civil and Human Rights Award (2008), Mundo Hispánico’s Best Organization of the Year (2013), a national recognition on 2015 with the U.S. Human Rights Movement Builders Award, and in 2016 she was recipient of the 2016 Daniel Levi Award for and outstanding work for social justice and in defense of the immigrant’s rights.

Mustafa Nuur is a refugee from Somalia. He became a Director of Marketing at E-Impact Marketing LLC, a Marketing and Web Development company that works with more than 14 companies nationwide. He currently serves as the Spokesman/ Deputy chairman for the Somali community of Lancaster, PA. He coaches refugee youths and speaks with religious and school groups about their roles in welcoming refugees. He attended a White House Refugee Integration event in 2016. He is a recipient of the 2016 Award for Pennsylvania's Refugee Rising Star at the Annual State Refugee Consultation. Mustafa recently won the top prize with his business model of selling cultural experiences in Lancaster's Great Social Enterprise project.

Jason Odhner is a street-medic, Registered Nurse, health-justice organizer & proud PACHista who has lived in Phoenix Arizona almost all his life. Jason is a co-founder of the Phoenix Urban Health Collective (PUHC) and of Phoenix Allies for Community Health  (PACH).  His  favorite things include community building, radical hospitality, immigrant health work, and living in Central Phoenix (the best place to live in the world).

Folabi Olagbaju is Director for Outreach at Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, where he leads the organization’s external relations with Lutheran congregations, migrants, and refugees, engaging them on key priority advocacy issues. He has been with LIRS since the fall of 2012, when he joined as Director for Grassroots Mobilization. Prior to joining LIRS, Folabi was Director of Amnesty International USA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Office where he managed the regional field program work and translated AIUSA’s human rights agenda into a grassroots membership organizing plan and transformative human rights victories. Earlier, he worked in the U.S. labor movement as a Research Organizer with the Service Employees International Union where he helped low wage workers organize unions and negotiate collective bargaining agreements. Folabi holds a doctorate in political science from the George Washington University.

Myrna Orozco immigrated from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico, to the United States with her family at the age of 4. Before joining Church World Service as their Sanctuary Communications and Organizing Associate, Myrna served as the Associate Director for the United We Dream Network (UWD). She is currently Board President for the Immigrant Justice Advocacy Movement, the only immigrant-led, interfaith community organization solely focused on immigration issues in the Kansas City area. She is a recipient of various awards including the prestigious Ohtli Award from the Mexican Consulate and the First Annual John Backer Award from Church World Service for outstanding advocacy for immigrants’ and refugees’ rights. Myrna currently resides in Houston, TX.

Kim Owens is Executive Director of Year Up Arizona, which launched in January 2015 in partnership with Maricopa Community Colleges. Prior to joining Year Up, Kim served as Vice President of Workforce Solutions and Vice President of University of Phoenix’s Community College Center of Excellence. There, she led efforts to form collaborative partnerships with more than 500 community colleges and 250 companies across the country to help fulfill their shared mission of building a globally competitive workforce. She brings more than twenty years of leadership experience in higher education, technology healthcare and hospitality.

Meredith Owen is Policy Counsel for Church World Service, Immigration and Refugee Program. In this role, Meredith advocates to strengthen immigrant and refugee rights in the United States and overseas. Meredith previously served as Policy Associate for the Alliance to End Slavery & Trafficking (ATEST), a coalition that advocates for solutions to end human trafficking and modern slavery around the world. She also worked for Human Rights USA, where she engaged in civil litigation on behalf of survivors of human trafficking and gross human rights abuses. Meredith received her law degree from Washington College of Law and her master’s in International Affairs from American University.

Ayse Özbabacan works for the Department for Integration Policy of the City of Stuttgart, where she supports the City in implementing the goals of the Stuttgart Pact for Integration. She is also the coordinator of the European Cities Network CLIP (Cities for Local Integration Policies of Migrants). For the last year and a half, she has been working on the extension of the network and on supporting the CLIP research group to conduct migration-specific case studies. Ms. Özbabacan is multilingual, speaking German, English, French, Dutch, Kurdish, and Turkish. She has degrees in European studies and law and a Masters degree in European culture from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.