President & Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)
Lavinia Limón has more than 30 years of experience working on behalf of refugees and immigrants. Prior to joining USCRI in August of 2001, Ms. Limón was Director of the Center for the New American Community, a project of the National Immigration Forum. During the Clinton Administration, Ms. Limón served as the Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Department of Health and Human Services, designing and implementing programs to assist newly arriving refugees in achieving economic and social self-sufficiency. She served simultaneously as the Director of the Office of Family Assistance for four years, helping to devise policies and strategies for implementing national welfare reform. Ms. Limón was previously the Executive Director of the International Institute of Los Angeles.
Vice President & Chief Financial Officer
Lee Williams joined USCRI as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in August 2009. In this role, he has direct management responsibilities for USCRI’s operations, including programs and services through its Refugee Services and Immigrant Services Divisions, Field Office operations, Development, Communications, Advocacy, and Finance/Accounting teams. Prior to joining, he was the Executive Director of the International Institute of Akron, a USCRI partner agency serving the refugee and immigrant communities of northeast Ohio. Mr. Williams’ early career was in financial services, where he focused on global securities and markets with the Morgan Stanley Trust Company, Deutsche Bank Global Institutional Services, and Capco. Mr. Williams holds a Graduate Certificate of Non-Profit Management from Case Western Reserve University, a Master's degree in International Management from The Thunderbird School of Global Management, and a Bs.L. from Georgetown University in Arabic.
Director of Programs
Ms. Berhane oversees USCRI’s national programs that provide services across the U.S. to refugees, asylees, Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrants, victims of severe forms of trafficking, and unaccompanied alien children. Previously, Ms. Berhane worked as the Director of Refugee Services Division that included the Reception and Placement, Matching Grant, and Preferred Communities programs. She also worked as a Senior Program Officer serving as the primary point of contact for USCRI's Reception and Placement program and managed the daily activities of the program prior to becoming the Director of Refugee Services Division. She has over ten years of refugee-related experience and knowledge in the areas of overseas refugee assistance, processing, and the U.S. Refugee Resettlement programs. Prior to joining USCRI, Ms. Berhane served as the Senior Program Associate with Ethiopian Community Development Council in Virginia, coordinating an annual national conference on African refugees; public education and outreach on refugee issues; and providing grants management and technical assistance to community-based organizations and resettlement sites. She holds a B.A. in Economics with a minor in Marketing from Old Dominion University.
Director of Government and Community Relations
Stacie Blake has responsibility for building and maintaining strong and positive relationships with government, elected and community supporters. From 2002-2005 she led the USCRI Vermont field office welcoming hundreds of newly arrived refugees and their families. She was recognized by the Vermont Legislature with a Joint Resolution of Appreciation for her work with refugees and immigrants across the state. She led the Florida Center for Survivors of Torture for three years and developed and launched the National Partnership for Community Training-a research based collaborative to share best practices for communities with limited resources for torture survivors. Prior to rejoining USCRI she was the Executive Director of Community Tampa Bay promoting a vision of ending discrimination. Ms. Blake holds two degrees from the University of Vermont and was elected twice as a member of the Mount Mansfield Union School District. She is a graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute and Leadership Florida.
Director of Business Development
As the Director of Business Development, Mr. Limón is responsible for developing new business opportunities for the benefit of the USCRI Field Offices and Affiliate Agencies. Discretionary and fee for service programs are vitally important funding sources, which facilitate the delivery of robust and comprehensive services to our clients. Co-branding with business corporations is an emphasis for the business development program, leading to additional job opportunities for refugees and immigrants. Mr. Limón is also involved with negotiating with vendors who provide various services to the USCRI Network. Mr. Limón has over 25 years of experience in business management, investment banking, financial services, telecommunications and customer service. Mr. Limón's previous work experience includes ownership and operation of two businesses, a financial services company, and a hospitality business in San Clemente, California. Mr. Limón has designed and managed several international communications projects in Africa, South America, and Asia.
Director of Management of Information Systems
Mr. Pak is responsible for the ongoing maintenance, development, and support of network and computing platforms and for the design and management of Internet and network security. From 1993 to 1997, Mr. Pak worked as a Network Engineer and System Integrator at various companies including Technology Automation Management Inc., Comstor Inc., and RHI. He completed Local Area Network study at Computer Learning Center in 1994 and has completed various IT training and certifications including MCSE, CNE, CCSA. Mr. Pak studied Music Composition at the University of New Orleans. He previously lived in Seoul, South Korea and speaks English and Korean.
Director of Administration
Ms. Seiler implements the personnel policies and the overall administration of the agency. During her career, Ms. Seiler has served as an Executive Assistant to the International Finance Corporation in Washington D.C., Gulf & Western Engineering and Advanced Technology in Pennsylvania, the United Nations Environment Program in Geneva, Switzerland and Nairobi, Kenya, and The Franklin Mint in London. Ms. Seiler graduated from North-East Essex College. She has lived in Germany and Japan, is a naturalized American, and speaks French and German fluently.
FIELD OFFICE DIRECTORS
Director of Detroit Field Office
In July 2007, Tawfik Alazem joined USCRI as the Director of USCRI’s newly opened Detroit, Michigan field office in Dearborn. Since that time, Mr. Alazem has been responsible for the operational and personnel management of the field office. Mr. Alazem administers the Reception and Placement (R&P), Matching Grant (MG), and Secondary Migration to Stability (SMS) programs and oversees office operations and programs delivery to immigrants and refugees who settle in the greater Detroit, Michigan area. Before joining USCRI, Mr. Alazem held several management positions in finance, marketing, sales, and general business management. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Eastern Michigan University. He is fluent in Arabic.
Director of International Institute of Erie
Prior to joining the International Institute of Erie in April 2012, Dylanna served as the Director of Community Assistance and Refugee Resettlement for the Northern Area Multi-Service Center (NAMS), and as Director of Refugee Resettlement and Educational Programs at the International Institute of Akron (IIA). Throughout her career, Dylanna has carried out a broad range of administrative functions, including grant-writing, program evaluation, fiscal management, volunteer management, and program development. Dylanna earned her BA in English from Kent State University, where she also received certification in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) and completed post graduate coursework in conflict management. She is proficient in Spanish and intermediate in Turkish.
Director of Vermont Field Office, Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program
Amila Merdzanovic joined USCRI/VRRP as a field office Director in April of 2014. Most recently, she graduated from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University with a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy, concentrating in International Organizations and Forced Migration. Prior to pursuing graduate studies, Amila worked at VRRP where, over the course of nine years she assumed progressively more responsibility. Amila was resettled in Vermont as a refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995. She holds an undergraduate degree in International Relations from Mount Holyoke College. Her interests span across disciplines including forced migration, human rights and conflict resolution. Amila is fluent in Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, and has basic knowledge of Russian. (802-654-1700, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Director of Albany Field Office
Ms. Peckenpaugh is the Director of USCRI's Albany field office, which resettles approximately 400 refugees annually, arriving mainly from Burma, Iraq, Bhutan, and various African nations. Prior to joining USCRI, Jill was the Director of Program Management at Cross-Cultural Solutions, an international non-profit volunteering organization. Ms. Peckenpaugh has over 20 years of experience in organizational development, specializing in multicultural populations in both the for-profit and nonprofit sectors; this experience serves her well in leading a diverse team of 12 staff members managing seven different federal and state-funded programs. She holds a M.S. in Training and Development from Lesley University, and a B.A. in International Relations from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Director – Des Moines Field Office
Robert Warwick joined USCRI in June 2014. Prior to that Robert worked as Executive Director for the International Rescue Committee’s Maryland refugee, asylee and immigration programs. Robert also has more than 18 years of experience working with refugees and displaced communities overseas in various emergency and development settings including Eritrea, Sudan, the DRC, west Africa, East Asia and the Middle East. During Robert’s tenure as Executive Director in Maryland, he successfully led the Maryland Public Private Partnership program providing one-stop services to more than 1,000 refugees and more than 600 asylees annually including expanding R&P and employment services as well as public health, youth, immigration, extended case management services.
Abdirahman “A.J.” Ahmed joined USCRI in May of 2010 as Matching Grant Program Officer. Prior to joining, A.J. worked for the Catholic Family Center in Rochester, NY as a Job Counselor and most recently as a Matching Grant Program Specialist in charge of all MG cases in the agency. He lived in Cairo, Egypt, for over nine years, and spent time in East Africa and the Middle East. A.J. holds a Bachelor’s in Communications with a focus on Informatics from the University at Buffalo and two certificates from Millard Fillmore College in System Design and Analysis, and Network Management. He is fluent in Arabic and Somali.
Program Officer - Reception and Placement
Katherine Berube joined USCRI in March 2014 as a Reception and Placement Program Officer, with a focus on Cultural Orientation. Prior to joining USCRI, Katherine served as an Education and Employment Specialist for Lutheran Social Services’ Refugee Resettlement Program in New Hampshire. Katherine also worked as a Resettlement Case Manager for the International Institute of New Hampshire, and as an ESOL Instructor for The Adult Learning Center. She received a Bachelor of Science in Human Services from Springfield College. She has also received certifications in Immigration Counseling and Teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).
Associate Director – Community Integration
Ms. Bracy works as the Associate Director for Community Integration overseeing USCRI’s Matching Grant and Preferred Communities programs. Prior to working in this capacity, Ms. Bracy worked for two years as a Senior Program Officer in the Matching Grant program, and two years as a Program Officer in USCRI's Reception and Placement program. Before joining USCRI, she worked for the International Institute of New Hampshire (IINH) where for over four years she served in multiple positions - Site Director, Director of Resettlement and Social Services, and Employment Coordinator. While employed at IINH, she served on multiple advisory boards and committees, and received the “40 under Forty” award for leadership. She holds a B.A. in Women’s Studies from the University of New Hampshire and has completed Master's level coursework at the School for International Training where she focused on Intercultural Service, Leadership and Management.
Program Officer - Reception and Placement
Ms. Corio is a Program Officer for the Reception and Placement Program, focusing on pre-arrival allocations and placement. Prior to joining USCRI, Anna served as a Field Team Leader with Church World Service/Resettlement Support Center Nairobi, the Kenya-based overseas processing entity contracted by the U.S. State Department, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration to process refugees throughout sub-Saharan Africa for resettlement through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. She has seven years of experience in social services, refugee resettlement, and public health serving at domestic and international community organizations working with immigrants and refugees in Chicago, Denver, on the U.S./Mexico border, and East Africa. Prior to attending graduate school, Anna worked as a Housing Advocate at Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights in Chicago, Illinois where she assisted low-income, disabled individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Anna earned a B.A. in Anthropology with a minor in Spanish at DePaul University and received her M.A. in International Development with a certificate in Humanitarian Assistance at the University of Denver's Joseph Korbel School of International Studies. She is currently obtaining a certificate in International Migration Studies from Georgetown University.
As Office Manager, Ms. Corneliusen provides general office support to all staff at USCRI headquarters by ensuring the smooth operation of all administrative functions. Before working at USCRI, Ms. Corneliusen worked for 10 years in film production in Canada and Germany, primarily as a producer's assistant, documentary researcher and graphics designer. While living in Germany, she also worked for the US Army’s Civilians on the Battlefield program as a translator. While living in Canada, she volunteered with Vancouver Rape Relief. She speaks German as well as basic French and Spanish.
Pro Bono Coordinator - Immigrant Children's Legal Program
Michelle Dinits serves as Pro Bono Coordinator for the Immigrant Children’s Legal Program at USCRI. She identifies and recruits pro bono attorneys to represent immigrant children nationwide, as well as coordinates and facilitates trainings for attorneys and other service providers. Prior to joining USCRI, Michelle was a fellow in the Client Services Department of Polaris Project, providing comprehensive services to survivors of human trafficking. While at the New York Association for New Americans, she provided legal services to clients seeking asylum and those self-petitioning under the Violence Against Women Act. She has also worked with Amnesty International and the U.K. Labour Party. Michelle received her Juris Doctor from Cardozo School of Law in New York, with a concentration in International and Comparative Law. She holds a B.A. from Binghamton University, with a major in Philosophy, Politics and Law, and a minor in International Studies.
Program Assistant - Reception and Placement
Phanuelle is responsible for travel coordination as R&P Program Assistant at USCRI. She previously interned with USCRI’s Immigrant Children’s Legal Program, taught ESL to refugees and immigrants in Michigan, and served as the fundraising coordinator for a Haitian orphanage. Phanuelle earned B.A. degrees in Sociology, Political Science and Spanish from Calvin College in Michigan and completed the Philip G. Hubbard Law School Fellowship Program at the University of Iowa College of Law. She has studied in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, and she speaks French, Spanish, and Haitian Kreyol.
Mrs. Garner focuses on USCRI’s field offices’ financial operation as part of the Finance team. Before joining USCRI in 2001, Mrs. Garner worked at the local television station, WTTG-Fox Channel 5 as the Assistant Account Executive for 6 years. Mrs. Garner has worked in the accounting field in the public and non-profit sectors for over 18 years.
Associate Director of Compliance
Ms. Gesa is responsible for implementing fiscal compliance policies of the agency. Before USCRI, Anne worked in various capacities in audit, general accounting and grant fiscal management in the non-profit and public sectors for over 15 years. Ms. Gesa holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Accounting from Georgetown University, she is originally from Uganda.
Maureen Gibbons Varela
Program Officer- National Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program
Maureen Gibbons Varela is a Program Officer for the National Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program (NHTVAP). She is responsible for recruiting and maintaining relationships with partner service providers, offering training and technical assistance, and monitoring and oversight of program implementation by partners. Prior to joining USCRI, Maureen worked on the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) hotline, fielding crises calls, assessing situations for indicators of human trafficking, and coordinating appropriate responses to tips. Maureen’s background is in human rights, particularly women’s and children’s rights. At the Women’s Development Research Centre (KANITA), in Pulau Pinang, Malaysia, Maureen conducted independent field research on the impact of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) on the efforts of women’s rights NGOs across the country. At Firefly Children’s Network, Maureen developed an expertise on the political and social factors that contribute to the warehousing of children in Russian orphanages. Maureen earned her B.A. at Boston College, and her M.A. in International Relations at American University, where her thesis analyzed the systematic use of gender based violence during conflict.
Program Officer - Reception and Placement
Jason Gillespie joined USCRI in November 2012 as a post-arrival Reception and Placement Program Officer. Prior to joining USCRI, Jason served as Employment Manager for Lutheran Social Services’ refugee resettlement program in Silver Spring, Maryland. Jason has worked as a life-skills and language instructor for refugees and immigrants domestically and abroad. He received his Master’s degree in Conflict Resolution with a certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies from Georgetown University where he focused on refugee and immigration policy. He speaks intermediate Spanish.
Francis Gortaire Valencia
Intake Specialist - Immigrant Children's Legal Program
In her position within USCRI’s Immigrant Children’s Legal Program, Francis is responsible for intake of unaccompanied immigrant children for the purposes of obtaining them pro bono legal representation. The majority of the telephonic intake interviews with the children are conducted in Spanish which is Francis’ first language. She holds bachelor’s degrees in International Affairs, Humanities and Social Sciences from Florida State University.
Ankur has expertise in database design and programming including installation, configuration, maintenance, monitoring, and troubleshooting. In addition, he has more than 2 years of experience in SQL Server Development and in developing large-scale, performance critical client/server and web applications using Microsoft Technologies like ASP and VBScript, and solutions with Microsoft .NET using Visual Studio.NET 2000/2003/2005/2008, ASP.NET,VB.NET and C#.NET with SQL Server 2005/2008, Oracle 9i and Access. Ankur previously worked at Dekatron Corporation as .NET Developer, USAC as Software Developer and Conjoint Systems Pvt Ltd as Software Developer. Ankur received a Bachelor of Engineering, Computer Science from Oriental Institute of Science and Technology.
Program Officer – Reception and Placement
Ms. Hailu works as a Program Officer for the Reception and Placement Program. She supervises the USCRI Reception and Placement processing unit, which supports the successful generation of family reunification cases and the resettlement of refugee cases. Prior to joining USCRI, she worked with Doctors Without Borders, first as a logistics administrator and later as a project coordinator. Over the past six years, she has been posted in several South Asian countries, including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Ms. Hailu speaks Tigrinya.
IOM Senior Loan Specialist
A member of USCRI's IOM (International Office of Migration) Loan Collection Department, Ms. Hudgens handles incoming and outgoing collection calls. She assists in educating refugees about how credit works and the importance of establishing and maintaining good credit. Ms. Hudgens previously worked at Woodward and Lothrop for 25 years, in Collections.
Program Assistant - Reception and Placement
Fadhail Ibraheem serves as R&P Program Assistant at USCRI and is responsible for assurances. Ms. Ibraheem has been working in the field of refugee resettlement since 2007. MS. Ibraheem worked for the International Institute of Erie (IIE), where she served refugees for over six years in multiple position, including : Refugee Service Coordinator, Medical Coordinator, Housing Coordinator , Case Manager, Job Developer and Coordinator of MG program. Prior to joining USCRI Erie, Ms. Ibraheem worked as a chemistry teacher in Iraq for nine years and as a Clinical Chemist in a Baghdad hospital. Fadhail holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Baghdad University and a Diploma in Clinical Chemistry. She is Fluent in Arabic.
Elvira Ismagilova is responsible for monthly general ledger journal entries, accounts payable and receivable, sub-ledgers and other general accounting duties. Prior to her current position, Elvira worked in the hospitality management industry. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Tatar State University and she is currently completing a Certificate Program in Accounting. Elvira is a CPA candidate and is fluent in Russian and Tatar.
As Development Associate for USCRI, Ms. Koris is responsible for proposal and grant development for field office programs that serve resettled refugee and immigrant populations across the country. Prior to joining USCRI, Ms. Koris worked as a Program Assistant for AMAR International Charitable Foundation, providing project management support for gender based violence and women's empowerment programs in the Middle East. In 2010 she served as a community organizer with grassroots refugee and immigrant women's groups in Massachusetts and implemented a women's health education and advocacy campaign for indigenous migrants in the area. She also spent seven months in Lima, Peru and completed independent research on indigenous social exclusion, human rights violations, and urban development in Latin America. Andrea speaks fluent Spanish and has a working knowledge of French. She earned a B.A. in Theology and Peace and Conflict Studies from the College of the Holy Cross.
Advocacy Officer – Government and Community Relations
Prior to joining USCRI, Ms. Lopez worked as a Policy Analyst for Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa on issues of gangs and immigration. Ms. Lopez was also a Policy Advocate with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of L.A. In 2006 she clerked for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica and served on the ACLU of Southern California’s Board from 2008-2012. She is a volunteer Mexico Country Specialist with Amnesty International USA. Ms. Lopez has a JD from Santa Clara University School of Law and attended the Institut International des Droits de L'homme, in France where she studied human rights law. She has a BA in History from Cal State, Sacramento and is a native Spanish speaker.
Program Officer - Matching Grant
Ruslan Maksutov works as a Program Officer for the Matching Grant program. Mr. Maksutov has been working in the field of refugee resettlement since 2008, in the roles of Case Manager, Job Developer, and coordinator of the Matching Grant Program at USCRI Albany. Prior to joining USCRI, he held positions with international organizations and research institutions, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation Europe (OSCE) and Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), addressing regional cooperation, security and human rights issues. His research on regional security and peace-building efforts in Central Asia was published in 2009 by the Institute of International Affairs Centre for Small State Studies at the University of Iceland. He has management experience as Vice President of a nonprofit organization and Marketing Director of Neotech, Ltd. Mr. Maksutov has a B.A. in American Studies from the American University in Central Asia and an M.A. in Political Science from OSCE Academy. He is an accomplished linguist, speaking Russian, Turkish, Kyrgyz, and Polish.
Junior System Administrator
Jishnu Mangal is the Junior System Administrator at USCRI. Before joining USCRI, Mr. Mangal worked as a System Analyst in the Department of Social Services, Prince Georges County, Maryland. Mr. Mangal holds a Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical and Electronics from SNM Institute of Management
and Technology, Kerala, India. He is fluent in Malayalam and Tamil and is also familiar with Hindi and Brazilian Portuguese.
IOM Loan Specialist
A member of USCRI's International Office of Migration (IOM) Loan Collection Department, Ms. Mani handles new, active, and delinquent loans, as well as incoming and outgoing collection calls. She also works closely with customers, replying to all requests. She assists in educating refugees about how credit works and the importance of establishing and maintaining good credit. She speaks fluent Khmer.
Sarah Joined USCRI as a junior accountant in May 2010 and has held several roles in the accounting department. She is currently responsible for USCRI’s federal grants accounting, she also supervises accounts payable and payroll. She has experience in budgeting, financial reports, training, accounts payable and receivable, and monitoring the day to day accounting activities of several field offices. She speaks French, Arabic, and English.
Associate Director of Development
Ms. McLaughlin joined USCRI as an experienced grant writer and external relations professional for international organizations. Prior to assuming the role, she was the Development and Communications Manager at an agency focused on citizen diplomacy where she managed federal and foundation grants, sponsorships, external communications, and edited all printed materials. She has also volunteered in camps with refugee women and has researched refugee identity in the West Bank. Ms. McLaughlin holds a B.A. in Theology with a minor in French from Saint Joseph’s University, an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from Arcadia University, and has studied Gender and Peacebuilding at the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica. She speaks intermediate French and has studied Arabic.
Research Assistant - Refugee Services Division
Mr. Meagher joined USCRI in October 2013. Prior to this Mr. Meagher worked as an Assistant Project Manager and Research Specialist at the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery, working primarily on projects dealing with psychosocial programming in the Great Lakes region of Africa. During this time he also held adjunct professor positions at James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University, teaching public policy and political theory. He has also worked as an Allocations Processor for the Refugee Processing Center. He earned a Master of Public Administration degree in 2010 (Concentration: Management in International Nongovernmental Organizations,) and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Justice Studies (Concentration: Global Policy) in 2008. Both degrees were earned at James Madison University. He speaks intermediate level Spanish.
Maria Gabriela Mena
Program Assistant - Post Release Services
Gabriela is a Program Assistant for Post Release Services in the Immigrant Services Division. She provides administrative support at headquarters and to the case managers in the field. She previously interned for The Immigrant Services Division in the legal services program. In addition, Gabriela worked as a Volunteer Legal Assistant at Mil Mujeres Legal Services, Development and Communications Intern at The Hovde Foundation, and interned for the International Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Gabriela received a dual B.A. in International Relations and French from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is multi-lingual and speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian.
Associate Director - National Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program
Ms. Moreno is the Associate Director of the National Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program. In this capacity, she is responsible for overall management, implementation, service delivery, and reporting for USCRI’s National Human Trafficking Victims Assistance Program across 29 states, including American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. Ms. Moreno has a diverse background in law, working in immigration law for the last seven years, with a concentration in human trafficking and related crime victim issues pertaining to immigrant populations and unaccompanied immigrant children. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Incarnate Word College and a Juris Doctorate from St. Mary’s University, School of Law. She is fluent in Spanish.
Associate Director - Post Release Services
Tiffany Nelms is the Associate Director for Home Study and Post Release Services. In this capacity she oversees USCRI's social service and home assessment program for unaccompanied children nationwide. The program has served over 1,000 children since 2011 and strives to ensure that all children are in safe and stable placements and well-connected in their communities. Additionally, Ms. Nelms has presented on migration prevention and unaccompanied children in the US and Latin America.
Ms. Nelms has worked with unaccompanied children in various capacities including direct service, advocacy, and program management in social service and shelter care settings. In addition to her work with unaccompanied children, she has worked with immigrant survivors (women and children) and perpetrators of domestic violence. Ms. Nelms also spent a year in Venezuela serving at-risk youth through a mobile school and equine therapy program. She received her M.S.W. from the University of Maryland and her B.S.W. from Salisbury State University. She is fluent in Spanish and has traveled extensively in Latin America.
Program Officer - National Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program
Rissa Obcemea is a Program Officer for the National Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Program under the Immigrant Services Division. She is responsible for coordinating case management services to survivors of trafficking around the country. Ms. Obcemea has worked with case management issues for five years providing direct services and developing programs. She has also worked on human trafficking issues for four years, beginning with a Fulbright grant to the Philippines to research counseling availability for trafficking victims. Her previous work involved managing programs for domestic violence, human trafficking and torture survivors. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA and Masters of Science in Social Work from Columbia University School of Social Work in New York, NY. Ms. Obcemea is a licensed social worker in Virginia.
Program Assistant - Reception and Placement
Willis Orlando serves as R&P Program Assistant for USCRI. Prior to holding this position Willis worked as a volunteer refugee mentor, Reception and Placement intern and on-call case aide at USCRI’s Albany, NY field office. He has spent significant time tutoring ESOL students for Literacy Volunteers and volunteering for various causes in Southern Africa. Willis holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the State University of New York at Albany.
Web and Database Developer
Khoi has overall 5 years professional experience in the IT Industry using advanced C#, ASP.NET, ADO.NET, VB.NET, VB 6.0, Classic ASP, Web Services with SOAP, SOA and IIS. In addition, he has extensive experience with database backup routines, maintenance plans, recovery and disaster planning, and maintaining integrity of databases; general server maintenance for database and web servers. Performing system analysis, performance tuning, and optimization on both the server and application levels. Moreover, he has experience in .NET Framework 4.5, 4.0, 3.5 like LINQ, AJAX, WCF, WPF, MVC; professional development of Database application using ODBC, OLEDB, ADO, MS Access, MS SQL Server, Transact-SQL, Oracle 9i and PL/SQL, LINQ. Khoi holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Winona State University, Minnesota and Bachelor Degree in Computer Information Systems from Lotus University, Vietnam. He speaks English and Vietnamese.
Program Assistant - Preferred Communities
Sarah Phillips joined USCRI in January 2014 as a Program Assistant with Refugee Services. Prior to joining USCRI, Sarah served as a consultant at the Youth HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Ekwendeni, Malawi. Her other international experiences include internships with the U.S. Foreign Service in Brussels, Belgium and Milan, Italy, and with the Barenboim-Said Foundation in Seville, Spain. She earned an MBA in International Organizations from the University of Geneva and a Masters of Public and International Affairs in Human Security from the University of Pittsburgh. Sarah speaks Spanish and Italian.
Reception and Placement Program Officer
Kristin joined the USCRI team in August 2014 as a Reception and Placement Program Officer. Prior to joining USCRI, Kristin served with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ national office in Washington, DC as the Preferred Communities Program Coordinator and a Children’s Services Specialist for UAC and URM foster care programs. Kristin began her work with refugee populations in 2009 at Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, TX, serving as an R&P Case Manager. She learned the resettlement world quickly, providing direct case management and welcoming over 100 new arrivals in her first year at Catholic Charities. Kristin’s passion for refugees and other migrants was developed during a year spent teaching in Thailand. While a proud native of Texas, Kristin has an adventurous and inquisitive nature that has led her to devote her skills to serve her global neighbors. Kristin holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a Master’s degree in Social Work, both from Baylor University.
Ms. Robinson is responsible for managing various human resources functions along with regulatory and legal compliance. Ms. Robinson previously worked for Illume Communications as Project Coordinator, American Friends Service Committee as Program Assistant and The Dalai Group as Business Development Intern. Ms. Robinson received a Graduate Certificate in Leadership of Non-Profit Organizations from the College of Notre Dame in Maryland. She also received a B.A. degree in International Studies from Towson University in Maryland. She has studied in Guanajuato, Mexico and is proficient in Spanish.
Referral Coordinator - Post Release Services
Andrea Rojas works as Referral Coordinator for USCRI’s Immigrant Services Division coordinating home study and post release services for unaccompanied children. Andrea has worked with immigrants and refugees in various capacities including as Post-Release Services Manager for Mary’s Center and Program Coordinator of the Cuban/Haitian Refugee Program for USCRI NC. She managed programs for Exil Center, a non-profit based in Barcelona, designing, developing, and implementing social support programs for refugees and immigrants. Andrea also served as a volunteer coordinator of The Latino Community Empowerment Fund, a non- profit micro finance fund based at the University of North Carolina that provides small business training to local Latino community members. Andrea holds a law degree from the Catholic University of Valparaiso in Chile, a Masters of Criminal Justice from the University Autonomous Barcelona, and a certificate in Non-Profit Management from Duke University.
Associate Director of Interpreter Services
Cecilia Salazar has 14 years of experience in leading Interpretation and Translation programs for healthcare systems. She lived in the Midwest for 20 years prior to moving to DC and joining USCRI. Ms. Salazar was the Director of cultural competence for a healthcare system where she worked 12 years. She led programs with emphasis on cultural competence as an important part of hospital quality and patient safety. She was born and raised in San Luis Potosi, Mexico where she studied at the University of San Luis Potosí, BS - Chemistry & Biology and partial studies at the School of Medicine. She continued such combination of linguistics and medicine as a fellow at the Health Research and Educational Trust-American Hospital Association in Chicago for Cultural Competence Leadership fellowship. In addition to her curricula, University of San Francisco Curriculum Development for Cultural Competence in the Health Care. Cross Cultural Health Care Program- Medical Interpreter’s Training of Trainers -Santa Rosa, CA. Cecilia is fluent in Spanish.
Program Officer - Post Release
Amy Schafer is a Program Officer for Post Release Services with USCRI’s Immigrant Services Division. She started with USCRI in 2011 as a Post Release Case Manager with the USCRI, providing services to vulnerable unaccompanied immigrant children in the United States. Prior to joining USCRI, she worked for the State of North Carolina in the Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Wake County 4-H Youth Development, and a local nonprofit Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Wake County. Ms Schafer’s work has focused primarily on serving high risk, high need latino families. She worked in under served communities providing workshops to families, informing them of resources to support families, and creating opportunities for the youth to become proactive, productive members of their communities. She has served on the Wake County Gang Prevention Partnership, MentorWake, and Alianza Latina Pro-Educacion en Salud. She has also worked overseas in the Dominican Republic focusing on community health, nutrition, and education. She also speaks Spanish.
Associate Director - Resettlement
Lindsey Sharp is the Associate Director of Resettlement, serving as the primary point of contact for the program. Prior to joining USCRI, Ms. Sharp worked at the U.S. Refugee Processing Center, coordinating a Department of State resettlement benefit program for Iraqi and Afghan recipients of Special Immigrant Visas. She previously worked at the International Rescue Committee in New York as the Resettlement Department Manager. Ms. Sharp holds a B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Peace and Global Policy Studies from New York University, and an M.A. in History from Hunter College. While completing her M.A. thesis, she spent several months in Nicaragua, volunteering and teaching at an elementary school. She has traveled extensively in Central and South America, and is proficient in Spanish.
Anna Rose Siegel
Since 2006, Anna has raised funds for, developed programs for, and advocated on behalf of refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants. Ms. Siegel spent three years in Israel where she worked for the African Refugee Development Center. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology, Politics, and Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh and a M.A. in Conflict Resolution and Mediation from Tel Aviv University. Ms. Siegel also studied in Brazil, South Africa, and New Zealand. She speaks Hebrew and has a working knowledge of French.
Business Development Program Assistant
Faye Steinhauser fosters and creates new business opportunities for the USCRI Field Offices and Affiliate Agencies. Additionally, she develops business corporation relationships to create employment opportunities for refugees and immigrants. Prior to joining USCRI, Faye was a development consultant with Advocates for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (ASTT) and served as Cultural Orientation and Financial Literacy Instructor at the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Additionally, she managed a community literacy program for non-native English speakers and has years of experience in English language tutoring. Before her career in the non-profit sector, Faye managed customer accounts and worked in accounts receivable in a Fortune 500 logistics corporation. Faye earned her Bachelor degree at Penn State University and her Master degree in International Communication from American University. She speaks Spanish and Arabic.
Associate Director – Field Offices
Serban Popescu is the Associate Director for the Field Offices at USCRI. Serban previously worked in USCRI’s Reception and Placement program, first providing support as a Program Specialist in the pre-arrival team by processing assurances, travel notifications, and family reunification applications; later as a Program Officer in the post-arrival team, coordinating monitoring and evaluation activities, developing and providing training webinars, and assisting the Director in the financial management of the program. Serban began employment with USCRI as an Administrative Assistant, coordinating human resources for USCRI headquarters and field offices, and providing primary support to the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to joining USCRI, he was a Woodrow Wilson International Scholar researching the impact of EU conditionality on fledgling democracies. Serban received an M.A. in Nationalism Studies from the Central European University and a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Bucharest. Serban speaks French and Romanian
Eric J. Tijerina
Associate Director - Immigrant Children's Legal Program
Eric J. Tijerina, J.D., M.B.A., is the Associate Director, Immigrant Children’s Legal Program. Prior to joining USCRI, Mr. Tijerina served as Director of Legal Programs at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), with offices in San Antonio, Austin, and Corpus Christi, Texas. He served as chairperson of the State Bar of Texas Crime Victims subcommittee from June 2012 through June 2014 and was a Task Force member of the Alamo-area Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Mr. Tijerina previously served stints as lead attorney for the Legal Orientation Program at the Political Asylum Project of Austin and as a Supervising Attorney and Clinical Fellow at the St. Mary’s University School of Law Immigration Clinic. Prior to commencing a career in law, Mr. Tijerina served for ten years as senior brand manager and business consultant at The Topps Company, Inc. in New York City, where he oversaw the production and profit/loss of several key brands. Mr. Tijerina holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Business Administration from Texas Christian University, and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from St. Mary’s University School of Law.
Program Assistant – Reception and Placement
Mr. Vanca began his employment with USCRI as R&P Program Assistant specializing in the processing of refugee assurances. He is currently working in the R&P family reunification program where he is responsible for processing of Refugee Interest Forms, Lautenberg and Iranian AORs. He also provides back-up to R&P pre-arrival processing unit. Mr. Vanca holds a B.S. from Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University where he majored in International Politics with a focus on trans-state actors. He focused on history and current affairs of the Islamic World and on immigration and integration of Muslims in Europe and in the United States. Prior to joining USCRI, Mr. Vanca worked as a research assistant in Streit Council, as an assistant to the press secretary in the Embassy of the Czech Republic, Washington, D.C. and he also interned with the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Before coming to the United States Mr. Vanca worked as a journalist for the Czech newspaper, Lidove Noviny, covering world and international news. Mr. Vanca is a native of the Czech Republic and he is fluent in Czech and Slovak and proficient in Arabic and German.
Program Officer - Matching Grant
Virginia Weyer joined USCRI in April 2012 as a Program Assistant with the Reception and Placement Program. She currently serves as a Program Officer with the Matching Grant Program. Before joining USCRI, Virginia worked as an Administrative Assistant with the IRC Resettlement Office in Silver Spring, MD. Before holding this position, Virginia spent nine months volunteering in fundraising and project development in Nairobi, Kenya. She also worked as a Reception and Placement Intern with the IRC and as the Development Assistant at another DC based non-profit organization. Virginia has a B.A. in International Studies from American University.