President and Chief Executive Officer
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.
Senior Vice President for Global Engagement
Mr. Eskinder Negash is a recognized Senior Executive leader and brings over 35 years of proven not-for-profit management experience working on behalf of refugees and immigrants and managing non-profit social service agencies. Mr. Negash served as Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the largest government funded refugee resettlement organization in the world, within the Administration of Children and Families, at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2009 - 2015. With a budget of over 1.5 billion, the Office of Refugee Resettlement plays a critical role in providing essential services to a wide range of vulnerable people through the Resettlement Program, Rescue & Restore anti-trafficking campaign, and the Unaccompanied Children's Program. Under his leadership, ORR has served more than 400,000 refugees, 150,000 asylees, 125,000 Cuban and Haitian Entrants, nearly 21,000 Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa holders, 3,200 Victims of Trafficking, over 32,000 U.S. repatriates, and almost 116,000 unaccompanied children. Altogether, that is more than 850,000 people, in six years.
Prior to his appointment by the Obama Administration, he served as the vice president and chief operating officer of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), a non-governmental, not-for-profit international organization dedicated to addressing the needs and rights of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide. Before joining USCRI, Mr. Negash served as vice president and chief administrative officer of the International Institute of Los Angeles for 15 years. Mr. Negash also served as a board member with several non-profit organizations, including two years as chair of the Joint Voluntary Agencies Committee of California, chair of the California State Refugee Advisory Council, and board member of Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA). In 2009, Mr. Negash received an Outstanding American by Choice award from DHS U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which recognizes naturalized U.S. citizens who have made significant contributions to both their community and their adopted country. In 2010, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) honored Mr. Negash as one of ten distinguished men and women whose stories of hope and transformation epitomize the refugee journey.
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Lee Williams joined USCRI as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in August 2009. Prior to joining, he was the Executive Director of the International Institute of Akron (Ohio), a USCRI partner agency, for two years. Mr. Williams’ early career was in client services and international banking. He was Vice President of the Morgan Stanley Trust Company, Vice President of Deutsche Bank Global Institutional Services, and Managing Principal of Capco – a capital markets company. 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 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.
IDA Coordinator and MG Assistant
Originally from Blacksburg, Virginia, Grace is the IDA program coordinator and the Match Grant assistant. Grace graduated from Duke University in May 2014, where she earned a B.A. in public policy and ethics with a concentration on refugee and migration studies. In 2011, Grace co-founded and directed a tutoring and mentorship program for refugee youth in Durham that continues to serve over 60 students weekly. She has worked locally and internationally with diverse refugee populations, including Iraqi and Syrian refugees in Jordan and Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. Grace also studied in Cusco, Peru and Granada, Spain in order to improve her Spanish. At Duke, Grace received high distinction for her thesis concerning refugee experiences of resettlement and conceptions of self-sufficiency.
Feven Fessehaye as an Eritrean refugee resettled through USCRI, North Carolina in the later part of 2009. Coming as a refugee, Feven’s passion is working with new arrivals and to better understand refugees’ experiences. Feven's prior experiences include work as an interpreter and administrative assistant with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kenya from 2007 to 2009 and as an interpreter with United Nations Mission Between Eritrea and Ethiopia (UNMEE). Feven plans on pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Social Work. Feven is fluent im Tigrinya and Amharic.
Shatarra Gibson joined USCRI NC in December 2013 as Program Coordinator for the Refugee Saving and Development Program also referred to as the IDA program. Within a year, the IDA program used all available space for participants and continues to provide financial literacy education and asset acquisition assistance to over 200 participants. Shatarra has now accepted the positon of Program Coordinator for the Refugee Childcare Microenterprise Program in which she will continue provide financial literacy and entrepreneurial training to refugee women and assist them in becoming licensed to operate home-based child care facilities. Shatarra holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies, focusing in global political studies and social and economic justice. During her studies, she traveled abroad to Jordan and participated in an exchange program in Malmö, Sweden, where she studied International Conflict and Resolution. In 2009, she became an AmeriCorps*VISTA, working with various at-risk populations in New Orleans, Louisiana including at-risk youth, homeless, mentally ill, and incarcerated and formerly incarcerated persons and their families. In 2010, she was promoted to Program Coordinator of a civic justice program that provided rehabilitative services to formerly incarcerated persons though AmeriCorps service opportunities and confronted barriers to employment, education, housing, and public assistance.
Program Assistant - Post Release Services
Mr. Lenin Izaguirre joined USCRI as a Case Aide for the Cuban-Haitian program in July 2013. In November 2013, Lenin accepted a Program Assistant position with the Post Release Services team. After graduating from Mount Olive College with Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, he worked at North Carolina State University, providing support to migrant students and helping them to develop skills that meet their assessed educational needs. Lenin is originally from Honduras and he arrived in the United States in 1994. He is fluent in Spanish.
Judith is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but she immigrated to the United States in 1999 where she attended high school and later Wake Tech Community College. After spending many years in the food service industry, Judith was hired by USCRI in 2009 as an interpreter. By 2011 Judith had assisted in nearly all programs at the Raleigh field office, including the immigration assistance program for which she received training. Due to her extensive knowledge and experience in refugee resettlement processes and the provision of services, Judith was hired as a case aide for the Refugee Childcare Microenterprise Program in 2015. Judith looks forward to assisting people to become entrepreneurs which provide childcare within the community. Judith is also dedicated to helping people who are refugees that see to be integrated into American society. Judith fluently speaks French, Lingala, and Swahili.
Nicole Netzel is a Post Release Services Case Manager serving unaccompanied immigrant children and their families. Before her work with USCRI, she worked in Chicago, Illinois for 3 years as a Case Manager for a refugee resettlement agency. While completing her Master's degree at DePaul University in Chicago, Nicole researched resettled refugees and how proximity to refugees from the same country of origin affects assimilation into the host community. She first became interested in the refugee and immigrant populations through her time spent in Ecuador with the Peace Corps. Nicole is bilingual in English and Spanish.
Cuban Haitian Program Coordinator
Prior to joining USCRI, Dawn worked as a Program Supervisor for the Guardian ad Litem Program in Cumberland County, NC, as a court appointed child advocate for abused and neglected children in the Foster Care System. She has served as the US Associate Peace Corps Director in St. Lucia, her home country, responsible for the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of all Peace Corps projects and as the direct supervisor for all Peace Corps volunteers on the island. During her 20 year career as an educator, she co-founded a private high school and learning center in St. Lucia. Dawn is fluent in Creole (French patois), has a strong knowledge of French, and is familiar with Spanish. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor in Laws (LLB) degree from the University of London distance program and anticipates graduating in June, 2015. Her Bachelor of Science Degree is in Psychology and she is a graduate of Duke University Paralegal Program in Durham, NC. Dawn is currently a member of the Justice for Immigrants Committee at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh, NC.
Case Manager: Post Release Services
Kim Phistry joined USCRI in November 2014 as a Post Release Services Case Manager serving unaccompanied immigrant children. Prior to working with USCRI, she assisted families facing foreclosure in Chicago, IL as a housing counselor. She developed a passion for refugee and immigration work while completing her undergraduate degrees in International Studies and Sociology at DePaul University in Chicago and working at a refugee resettlement agency helping individuals and families to access services and transition to their new home. Kim is bilingual in Spanish and English.
Originally from Canada, Nicole has many years’ experience working with children, resettled refugee communities, and economically disadvantaged people. Nicole received her B.A. in French from the University of North Carolina at Asheville and her M.S. in Global Affairs and Human Rights from New York University. Prior to joining USCRI, Nicole worked as Program Administrator and Grant Writer with the Kramden Institute in Durham, NC. Her nonprofit work began while an undergraduate student when she worked with economically disadvantaged single mothers with the YWCA of Asheville. Nicole lived in New York for four years. She taught ESL as a teacher’s assistant in one of New York City’s public schools; and worked for the Institute of International Education issuing Fulbright Scholarships to African students wishing to attend US universities. Nicole’s first passion is working with refugees, her thesis was on Education in Refugee camps and she was employed at Art for Refugees in Transition as its US Program Manager developing its programs, donor database, and volunteer program. Additionally, she resettled refugee youth with the IRC in New York.
Ann Rodriguez joined USCRI in June of 2015 as a legal assistant for the Legal Services Program. Before joining USCRI, Ann worked as an immigration paralegal for a private law firm in downtown Raleigh. Ann developed a passion for immigrant rights working as an ESL teacher in rural North Carolina. She has a bachelor's degree from James Madison University in International Relations and Spanish. She has lived and studied in Barcelona, Spain and Salamanca, Spain and speaks Spanish and English.
Program Officer - Post Release Services
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.
Kevin joined USCRI NC in April 2015 as a Staff Attorney for the Legal Services Program. Before coming to USCRI, Kevin worked as an Associate Immigration Attorney with Melo & Hurtado, PLLC, a private firm in Raleigh, NC. Kevin has worked extensively with local immigrant populations in North Carolina, focusing on family-based and humanitarian immigration representation. He is admitted to the State Bar in North Carolina, as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Kevin is also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Kevin earned a J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law, and B.A.s in Political Science and Romance Languages, also from the University of North Carolina. Kevin has previously lived in Mar del Plata, Argentina, and Morelia, Mexico, and speaks Spanish.
Interpreter Services Representative
Mustafa received his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from AL-Mustansyriah University in Baghdad, Iraq. He has worked as an Interpreter for the US Armed Forces, Department of Defense and General Dynamics working on land system in Iraq. Additionally his duties included helping the local Iraqi’s and training the Iraqi army on the use of heavy duty combat machines. Mustafa later worked as a Field Engineer for General Dynamics performing advanced maintenance training for the Iraqi army. Mustafa came to United States through the SIV program and was resettled by USCRI NC. Mustafa worked as an on call Interpreter working with refugee new arrivals who speak Arabic. Mustafa will begin working full time as the Language Services Representative in the Interpreter program. Mustafa has a wide knowledge in sales, small businesses developments and marketing.
Veronica Kemeny - Weinstock, MSW, LCSW
Veronica is the lead clinician for the OAK grant funded mental health program entitled, Nuevo Comienzo (New Beginning) which provides trauma-informed community-based counseling services to unaccompanied Latino immigrant children. Before joining USCRI in September 2015, she was employed at Boston's Children Hospital in various roles including domestic violence advocate, clinical social workers and mental health clinician. All of her clinical experience during and since her MSW, has been with the Latino immigrant population and Veronica is passionate about providing cutting-edge and compassionate mental health services to this population. While completing her Master's degree in Social Work at New York University, Veronica interned in the New York City Department of Education as a bilingual school social work intern in an East Harlem middle school and also provided in-home therapy services through the Child Center of New York. Veronica is bilingual in Spanish and bicultural as well.
Marielena "Lena" White
Case Manager - Post Release Services
Lena White is a Post Release Services Case Manager serving unaccompanied immigrant children and their families. Before her work with USCRI, she worked in Memphis, Tennessee teaching Pre-Algebra to urban eighth graders while being a member of Teach for America’s teaching corps. While completing her undergraduate degree in Sociology and International Studies at Butler University in Indianapolis, Lena worked in the state grant program of a refugee resettlement agency. She first became interested in refugee and immigration work through teaching ESL to Indianapolis residents and is pleased to continue advocating for immigrant children. Lena is bilingual in English and Spanish.