Track Co-Leads

Each year, the NIIC Tracks are built by a dedicated team of more than 30 leaders from across the country, all experts in the field. Their work together is also informed by Working Groups of more than 25 additional NIIC Stakeholder entities and the input of the NIIC Call for Proposals. Meet the NIIC 2018 Track Co-Leads:

Eleanor Acer is the director of Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection program, where she oversees Human Rights First’s research and advocacy relating to refugee protection, asylum, and migrants’ rights. Eleanor advocates, speaks and writes regularly on issues relating to the human rights of refugees and migrants, including legal representation, detention, U.S. asylum law and policy, U.S. global refugee protection and resettlement policies, and protection from xenophobic and bias-motivated violence. She works closely with Human Rights First’s pro bono legal representation team, conducts field research, has authored numerous reports and articles, and has testified before the U.S. Congress.



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 8 years of experience working on immigration issues, including local, state and federal policy, national organizing and advocacy, program design, and service delivery.

Vernice Arahan is the Program Officer of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. In this role, Vernice provides logistical and outreach support for the Federation’s various initiatives to promote and enhance the financial capability and access to safe financial products of unbanked and underbanked communities. Prior to the Federation, Vernice worked with the Bureau of Space and Design and Office of Refugee and Immigrant Affairs in the New York City Human Resources Administration as well as the Asian & Asian American Center at Cornell University. Vernice is a graduate of Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art, and Planning with a B.S. Urban and Regional Studies and concentrations in Asian American Studies and Inequality Studies.

Vernice Arahan - Federation (2).jpg

Screenshot 2018-10-10 14.20.39.png

Yanira Arias, a native of El Salvador and a TPS holder, is the National Campaigns Manager for Alianza Americas. She leads the TPS advocacy, house-to-house outreach, SOMOS / We Are anti-racism programming, and other key campaigns. She also brings more than a decade of experience in the field of public health, with special expertise in community mobilization and participation, community organizing, and capacity building to address health disparities and social justice issues. Yanira graduated from the University of El Salvador in 1996 with a focus on journalism. Yanira is based in the Bay Area of northern California.

Abbas Barzegar, Ph.D. is the Director of Research and Advocacy at the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University’s Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, and a term-member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has published widely across print and broadcast media outlets, and is the is the co-author of Islamism: Contested Perspectives on Political Islam (Stanford, 2009). His work has been supported by The European Union, The British Council, The US Institute of Peace (USIP), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), among others.

Screenshot 2018-10-09 22.04.55.png


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 over 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.

Ben D’Avanzo is the Senior Policy Analyst at the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum. He develops policy positions, leads advocacy projects and provides strategic advice around issues that include health access, public health, and data equity. Ben works with policymakers and organizational partners to ensure the voices of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities are heard in federal healthcare debates. Ben previously worked at Families USA and has a Master’s of Public Administration from George Washington University.


Bo Daphant.JPG

Bo (BoThai) Daraphant is a NAKSEC fellow. He graduated with a B.A. in International Studies from University of California, Irvine, and is an artist, designer, activist, and an entrepreneur. He has worked on climate refugee stories project, founded an Undocumented Art Collective at UCI, and created a creative project telling stories 16 of undocumented Asian American Pacific Islanders through artworks, writings, and poetry called Bowtie & Friends. Currently, he is managing his own clothing line and is an ambassador/representation for an artist platform start up.

Pablo DeFilippi is the SVP of Membership and Network Engagement for the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions. DeFilippi has more than 20 years of experience in community finance, working with regulated financial institutions both in the domestic and international arena. DeFilippi has implemented, promoted or expanded a number of important initiatives aimed to expand access to affordable, responsible and sustainable solutions to meeting the financial needs of low- and moderate-income consumers. DeFilippi leads the national expansion of Juntos Avanzamos, which seeks to increase access to affordable and responsible financial services for Hispanics and immigrants through credit unions.



Catrina Doxsee is a Research Assistant at the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy. She conducts research and policy analysis to promote the successful long-term civic, economic, and linguistic integration of immigrants and refugees with a focus on adult education and workforce development policy. Catrina holds an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and a B.A. from the University of Chicago.

George Escobar, as CASA’s Chief of Programs and Services, oversees CASA’s service programming which includes legal assistance, naturalization support, employment, workforce development, education, case management, and health education initiatives. CASA is the Mid-Atlantic Region’s largest immigrant-serving and advocacy organization. Programs within George’s portfolio are charged with providing services that address disparities and create pathways to success for members while introducing them to CASA’s power building and leadership development initiatives. George has over 15 years of experience working for both the public and non-profit sectors designing and leading a variety of programs targeting the Latino and immigrant community.

Screenshot 2018-10-10 10.36.58.png

Marita Etcubanez.jpg

Marita Etcubañez is the Director of Strategic Initiatives Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Marita manages varied projects including supporting anti-hate efforts, naturalization assistance in the D.C. metropolitan area, and the production of demographic reports on Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations. Marita came to AAJC with more than ten years of experience in legal services. She has worked with the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center in Washington, D.C., the Homeless Persons Representation Project in Baltimore, and Texas Rural Legal Aid. Marita received both her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Michigan.

Paul Feltman is Deputy Executive Director for Global Talent Policy and Programs and Director of the Global Talent Bridge program for World Education Services (WES), a non-profit organization that helps immigrants gain recognition of their academic qualifications earned abroad. He oversees outreach, education and training programs, establishes strategic partnerships, and shapes policy initiatives designed to help immigrants successfully integrate into academic and professional settings in the U.S. and Canada.



Deepa Iyer is a Senior Fellow at Race Forward, where she focuses on racial equity and solidarity practices. Iyer is the former executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and the author of We Too Sing America, a non-fiction book about post 9/11 America. Iyer hosts a monthly podcast called Solidarity Is This, works closely with Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities and organizations, and regularly speaks and trains stakeholders on Islamophobia, racial justice, and solidarity frameworks and practices.

Amaha Kassa is founder and Executive Director of African Communities Together, a membership organization of African immigrants and their families with chapters in New York and Washington, DC. Amaha has worked as a labor and community organizer since 1994. Previously, he was Executive Director of East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy in Oakland, California. He earned his law degree from UC Berkeley and his Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard Kennedy School. Amaha is an immigrant from Ethiopia.



Jordyne Krumroy is Regional Manager at Welcoming America, where she provides technical expertise to municipalities and nonprofits conducting welcoming work in the southernmost states. She also manages the One Region Initiative, a program that established the nation’s first major metro welcoming region. She has also worked in sustainable transportation, housing, and youth development for grassroots organizations. As a board member for El Refugio, she is committed to advocating alongside those in removal proceedings at Stewart Detention Center. Jordyne holds a B.A. in Sociology and Spanish from Appalachian State University and a Master of Social Work from Georgia State University.

Bonnie Kwon is Director of Network Innovation on APIAHF’s Policy & Network Innovation team. In her role, she deepens advocacy capacity for community-based organizations and individuals to fight for health equity. As an organizer and strategist, Bonnie utilizes storytelling, cultivates leaders and builds relationships to move hearts and minds. Before APIAHF, Bonnie fought for immigrant and workers’ rights and served in the Obama Administration, advising officials on engagement strategies with AA and NHPI communities.



Gabrielle Lessard is a Senior Policy Attorney on the Access to Healthcare and Protecting Immigrant Families teams at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC). A public interest lawyer for over 20 years, Gabrielle served as NILC’s first Health Policy Attorney from 2001-2005 and rejoined the organization in 2013. Gabrielle has also been the Legal Director of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, a lecturer at UC Berkeley Law School and an independent attorney and consultant to tax-exempt organizations. She received a juris doctor degree, with honors, from the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Julio Lopez is the Co-Director of Community Dignity Campaigns at the Center for Popular Democracy were he supports our affiliates in building campaigns around Puerto Rico and immigration. Originally from Puerto Rico, Julio moved to New Orleans after law school were he served as law clerk for the Orleans Public Defenders and as a project officer Independent Police Monitor. In 2012, he moved to Connecticut where he became an organizer with SEIU NE 1199. Before joining CPD Julio was the founding organizer of Make the Road CT that has become one of the most respected immigrant rights organizations in Connecticut.

Julio Lopez.jpg

Margie McHugh_headshot.jpg

Margie McHugh is the Director of the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, a national hub for leaders in government, community affairs, business and academia. Ms. McHugh’s work focuses on education quality and access issues for immigrants and their children from early childhood through K-12 and adult, postsecondary and workforce skills programs. She also leads the Center’s work seeking a more coordinated federal response to immigrant integration needs and impacts, and more workable systems for recognition of the education and work experience immigrants bring with them to the United States.

Ben Monterroso is a social justice leader and advocate who has been championing issues from labor rights to immigration reform for decades. An immigrant himself, Ben began his career in the labor movement in 1979 as a member of SEIU and janitor in Los Angeles, California. He become a key leader in the campaign against California’s Prop. 187, and also co-founded the historic, non-partisan national citizenship campaign “¡Ya Es Hora!”. Ben is currently the Executive Director of Mi Familia Vota, a national civic organization that promotes social and economic justice through citizenship workshops, voter registration, and voter participation.

Screenshot 2018-10-10 10.44.47.png


Apolonio (Polo) Morales is proud to serve the immigrant community as the Political Director for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA). He is a former labor organizer for the California Nurses Association/United Steelworkers' Healthcare Workers Alliance, community organizer for both Contra Costa Interfaith Supporting Community Organization (CCISCO), and former Director of Berkeley Organizing Congregations for Action (BOCA). As the PICO National Network Immigration Lead Organizer for the Campaign for Citizenship, he supported faith-based community organizations across the country. Currently, he coordinates the California Table for Immigration Reform, a collaboration with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM).

Lisa Sherman Nikolaus is the Policy Director at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC). Prior to joining TIRRC, Lisa was the Advocacy Officer at Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, a network of human rights and humanitarian organizations. Lisa was also a researcher based in Senegal on West Africa at Amnesty International, where she was responsible for investigating, advocating, and campaigning to end human rights violations in the region. Lisa holds a Master’s degree in Conflict, Security, and Development from the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. Lisa is a proud Guatemalan-American.



William Oh is the Youth Organizer at HANA Center in Chicago. His life’s mission is to fight for a just world where everyone can claim full citizenship and grow up with health, love, and dignity. Through his work, he seeks to be part of a compassionate social justice that heals and restores. He studied Social Anthropology and Ethnicity, Migration, & Rights with a focus on Asian American studies at Harvard.

Sookyung Oh leads organizing and campaign work with Asian American communities in Virginia for NAKASEC, where she previously coordinated national immigrant rights campaigns. She has also worked at the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) as a Public Policy Analyst and The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis in Richmond, VA as a State Policy Fellow. She started working in Korean and Asian American communities at the Jaisohn Center and Asian Americans United in Philadelphia. Currently, she is on the board of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table and the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights. She is a 2nd generation Korean American and enjoys comic books and the D.C. blues scene.

2018 headshot.jpg

Maki Park is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Migration Policy Institute’s National Center on Immigrant Integration Policy, where her work focuses on early childhood policies affecting children of immigrants and refugees as well as Dual Language Learners (DLLs) in the United States and internationally. Previously, Ms. Park worked as Director of Outreach and Program Manager at WorldTeach, based at Harvard's Center for International Development, where she oversaw recruiting and admissions operations and managed the organization's program in Guyana. She has also worked as an education consultant in Malawi and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Turkmenistan.



Betsy Plum is the Vice President of Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), where she oversees efforts to create public policies that expand basic rights for immigrants and ensure immigrants can build truly thriving and fulfilled lives in New York State. Since joining the NYIC in 2013, Betsy has led several initiatives and campaigns, including the NYIC’s “This is Our New York” campaign. She sits on the board of directors of Central American Legal Assistance and Voices in Action in America, and is a graduate of Bard College and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Eréndira “Ere” Rendón is the Vice President of Immigration Strategy and Advocacy at The Resurrection Project. Ere has served as the organization’s lead strategist and manager on local and statewide campaigns impacting the lives of immigrants, playing a leading role in the successful passage of many pro-immigrant legislations in Illinois including Driver’s Licenses for the undocumented and the renewal of Illinois’ All Kids healthcare program. Ere is an undocumented immigrant with DACA protection from Oaxaca, Mexico. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Civic Leadership Academy at the University of Chicago.



Liza Ryan is the Organizing Director at MIRA Coalition and works with the 140+ member organizations to advance pro-immigrant policy through capacity building, education and community engagement. Before joining MIRA, she worked with the East-West Center, a diplomatic think tank in Honolulu, Hawai’i, where she organized and coordinated fellowships for high-level media, political leaders, and educators on global affairs and media development, including U.S. relations with the Muslim-majority world. Liza holds a Master’s degree in Diplomacy and Strategic Studies from Hawaiʻi Pacific University and an undergraduate degree in Intercultural Studies and Language from the University of the Nations, Amsterdam.

Lindsay Schubiner directs Western States Center’s program to counter the dangerous ascension of white nationalism and hate violence across the country. She previously led advocacy efforts against anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim bigotry at the Center for New Community. Lindsay has served as a Congressional staffer handling housing, health, and immigration policy, and managed advocacy for sexual health and rights at American Jewish World Service. She has advocated for driver’s licenses for all DC residents, regardless of immigration status, and to stop deportations. Lindsay holds a Master of Science degree from the Harvard School of Public Health.


Screenshot 2018-10-10 14.20.31.png

Amy Shannon currently serves as Alianza Americas’s Senior Advisor, providing strategic and programmatic analysis and guidance. She has worked extensively in philanthropy, both as a consultant and as a program officer in the Environment Programs at both the C.S. Mott Foundation, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. She holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School, where she conducted research on rural financial systems, sustainable enterprise, and social marketing. Amy has lived and worked extensively in Latin America, and now resides in Chicago, IL.

Stacey Simon is Director of IMPRINT, a coalition of organizations based at World Education Services (WES), active in the emerging field of Immigrant Professional Integration. With a growing network of partners, WES works across sectors to influence national and local policy developments and to promote the integration of foreign-trained immigrants. To this role, Stacey brings broad experience in international educational exchange and both here and abroad, having directed programs at New York University, One To World and World Learning. Her credentials include a Master of Arts in Teaching (ESL), an undergrad degree in Japanese Studies, and a certificate in not-for-profit management.



Madison Suh is currently a Youth Organizing Fellow with HANA Center in Chicago. He studied healthcare management and policy at Georgetown University and is particularly interested in the socioeconomic determinants of health and education. With six years of experience as an educator through STEM education, afterschool programs, and Americorps, and several years in the non-profit sector, he is passionate about using data as an advocacy tool, the power of storytelling, and working to secure human rights for all.

Rebecca Telzak is the Director of Health Programs at Make the Road New York (MRNY). Under Becca’s leadership, MRNY’s services have expanded to include health insurance enrollment, food stamp enrollment, community health worker training, food pantries, urban farming and LGBTQ health services. Prior to working at MRNY, Rebecca received a Fulbright scholarship to Argentina and lived in Nicaragua working at a women's sewing cooperative. She helped start a workers’ center in Michigan and worked on issues related to immigrant rights. She has a BA from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Baruch College.

BECCA TELZAK 0797_MRNY_Staff_Portraits_12-2017.JPG


Margalit Tepper is the Integration Projects and Policy Lead at MIRA Coalition, where she works on early childhood, K-12, and adult education policy issues and impacts on immigrant and dual-language learner populations. She has previously worked in refugee resettlement case management, taught ESOL and computer courses, and volunteers with African Bridge Network, a workforce development organization for high-skilled immigrants. Margalit holds a B.S. in Human Development, a certificate in Refugees and Forced Migration from York University Toronto, and an M.S.W. from Boston College, where she wrote and researched for the School of Social Work’s Immigrant Integration Lab.

Nadia El-Zein Tonova serves as the Director of National Partnerships for ACCESS, the nation’s largest Arab American community organization.  Prior to serving in this role, she was the Director of the National Network for Arab American Communities for seven years, where she created and launched the campaign to Take On Hate. Ms. Tonova has led a variety of policy advocacy and grassroots campaigns on immigrant rights, civil liberties and human rights, and civic engagement issues. She currently serves on the boards of Michigan United and Mothering Justice. She is a proud wife and a mother to three beautiful children.

Nadia Tonova 2018 headshot.jpg


Emily Tucker is the Senior Staff Attorney for Immigrant Rights at the Center for Popular Democracy, where she focuses on severing the relationship between immigration enforcement and the criminal justice system. Most recently, Emily served as Director of Policy and Advocacy at Detention Watch Network (DWN), advocating with members of Congress and high level officials at the Department of Homeland Security and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement to push the Network’s priorities for reform of the detention and enforcement regime. Emily graduated with a JD from Boston University, an MA from Harvard University and a BA from McGill University.

Jennifer Wang is the Deputy Director of Programs and in senior leadership at the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), where she is responsible for guiding, implementing, and evaluating the organization's programmatic and policy strategies. Prior to joining NAPAWF, Jennifer has held senior roles at TICAS and Young Invincibles, and began her career at NARAL Pro-Choice America. She has developed an expertise in a variety of policy areas including reproductive health, higher education and student debt, predatory lending, and workforce development. Jennifer has degrees from UCLA and a J.D. from the University of Iowa College of Law.

Screenshot 2018-10-10 14.27.32.png

Rich Whipple Headshot.JPG

Richard Whipple is the Deputy Director of the SF Office of Civic Engagement of Immigrant Affairs (OCEIA), where he currently oversees the department’s programs, including immigrant assistance initiatives; workforce and professional development programs; and the immigrant integration community grants portfolio. In his nine years at OCEIA, Rich has helped launch several landmark initiatives including the SF Pathways to Citizenship Initiative and two professional development programs for immigrant and low income residents. Before joining OCEIA, Rich spent five years in public education as a Behavioral Health Specialist. Rich earned his Masters in Public Administration from the University of Southern California.