About

MISSION

RCUSA promotes efforts to protect and welcome refugees, asylees, asylum-seekers, and other forcibly displaced populations.

RCUSA is a diverse coalition advocating for just and humane laws and policies, and the promotion of dialogue and communication among government, civil society, and those who need protection and welcome.

RCUSA ACHIEVES THIS BY

Enhancing the capacity, voice and effectiveness of individual member organizations to work on a mutually agreed upon common agenda of protection and welcome.

Advocating in the US and around the world for the protection, welcome, rights and durable solutions for refugees and other populations who are forcibly displaced and at risk.

Building excellence in US refugee resettlement and integration efforts through the collaboration of member agencies.

history

RCUSA was formed in 2000, recognizing the need for increased coordination and cooperation among resettlement agencies. Over the years it has grown into a coalition of 33 US-based non-governmental organizations, dedicated to refugee protection, welcome, and excellence in the US refugee resettlement program.

Staff

John Slocum

Executive Director

John Slocum was appointed Executive Director of RCUSA in March 2022, after serving as Interim Executive Director since January 2021. John previously served as co-coordinator of the Repository of Documentation Relating to Disappearances in Mexico (RDDM) and as an independent consultant to foundations and nonprofits, providing strategic planning and executive recruitment services in the fields of migration, refugees, and human rights. From 1997 to 2016, he worked for the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, where he served as program director for grantmaking initiatives on global migration, the Central America-Mexico-U.S. migration corridor, and U.S. immigration policy. John also directed MacArthur’s Higher Education Initiative in Russia and its Research and Writing grants competition. He is a member of the advisory board for Justice in Motion, and a past board member of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees. John has a PhD in political science from the University of Chicago, taught at the University of Oklahoma, and has published articles and commentary on migration, philanthropy, and Russia.

Taif Jany

Director of Policy & Practice

Taif Jany is the Director of Policy and Practice for Refugee Council USA. Before coming to RCUSA, Taif served as a Policy Entrepreneur at Next100, a think tank for next-generation policy leaders, where he led a research initiative to amplify the contributions of immigrants to communities across the United States. Previously, Taif was the Policy Coordinator at the Young Elected Officials Network, where he led nationwide policy initiatives in coordination with 1,400 state and local elected officials. A native of Iraq, Taif experienced life as a refugee and asylum seeker before becoming a permanent resident of the United States. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Enabling Peace in Iraq Center, a nonprofit organization committed to lasting peace, human rights, and empowering communities in Iraq and the region. Taif holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and French from Union College.

Sarah Seniuk

Director of Advocacy & Communications

Sarah Seniuk serves as Director of Advocacy and Communications for Refugee Council USA (RCUSA). Her work within RCUSA includes spearheading the coalition's strategic messaging and campaigns work, and the creation and management of their anti-racism working group. Prior to joining the RCUSA team, Sarah worked as Program Associate for Muslim Advocates, where she utilized her advocacy, community organizing, and research skills to help combat anti-Muslim bigotry. Sarah earned an interdisciplinary Masters of Arts in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs with a focus on human rights and social justice from American University. She has a Bachelors of Arts from Eckerd College in Ancient Studies, with focuses on Anthropology and Religious Studies.

Emily Wood

Program Associate

Emily Wood serves as the Program Associate for Refugee Council USA. Before coming to RCUSA, Emily was the Site Supervisor for Migration and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities, Diocese of Arlington. Emily has worked directly with refugees and immigrants since 2016, where she began as a case manager at Journey's End Refugee Services in Buffalo, NY. Emily earned her bachelor's degree in International Relations from Oswego State University, and will graduate from the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University in May 2022 with a Master's of Arts in International Affairs.

Board

Scott Roehm

RCUSA Chair

Director of Washington DC Office, Center for Victims of Torture

Scott Roehm is the director of the Washington DC office for the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) and leads CVT’s federal advocacy work. CVT provides rehabilitation services, both in the United States and internationally, to refugees and asylum seekers who have survived torture. Prior to joining CVT, he was Vice President of Programs and Policy at The Constitution Project, where he oversaw the organization’s national security and criminal justice portfolios. Before joining The Constitution Project, Scott served as the special counsel for pro bono at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. In that capacity, he represented indigent defendants in federal civil rights and immigration cases and led Orrick’s participation in projects to address abuses arising out of U.S. counterterrorism practices, deficiencies in the immigration system, and a variety of international human rights matters. Scott has also worked with Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in Monrovia, Liberia and Greensboro, North Carolina. Scott holds a J.D. from Fordham Law School and a master’s in International Affairs with a specialization in human rights from Columbia University. He began his legal career as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable James Orenstein in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Melanie Nezer

RCUSA Vice-Chair

Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, HIAS

Melanie Nezer is Senior Vice President, Public Affairs for HIAS, the Jewish international organization for refugees. HIAS Public Affairs is responsible for presenting HIAS to the world and creating powerful and sustained support for HIAS’ work and for refugees, with the goal of achieving just and humane global refugee and asylum policies and ensuring that refugees and asylum seekers receive the services they need to rebuild their lives. Melanie is a longtime advocate for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, has provided pro bono legal assistance to detained asylum seekers at the US-Mexico border, and has visited many refugee communities around the world. Her 2019 Ted Talk, "The Fundamental Right to Seek Asylum," has been viewed over 1.3 million times.

Sarah Ivory

RCUSA Treasurer

US President, USAHello

Sarah joined USAHello’s Board of Directors in 2016 where she served on the programs committee and most recently in the role of Vice Chair. As a nonprofit leader who has spent over a decade working with and on behalf of immigrant and refugee communities in the US, the mission of USAHello resonated with Sarah immediately. Prior to joining USAHello, Sarah worked in the refugee and immigrant integration field in various capacities from a case manager helping the mostly newly arrived refugees access basic needs, to a BIA Accredited immigration legal services provider to starting and running her own resettlement program in Greensboro, NC. In her most recent role in the sector, Sarah worked at the national level leading CWS’s network of 8 direct resettlement offices along the East Coast.

Eleanor Acer

Board Member

Senior Director of Refugee Protection, Human Rights First

As the director of Human Rights First’s Refugee Protection program, Eleanor Acer oversees Human Rights First’s research and advocacy on issues 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, US asylum law and policy, US 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 US Congress.

Sharif Aly

Board Member

CEO Islamic Relief USA

Sharif Aly is the CEO of Islamic Relief USA (IRUSA), an international humanitarian relief and development organization that operates in 40 countries across the world and in the United States and has served in such capacity since August of 2017. As CEO, Sharif oversees a program portfolio of over $190 million in active programs dedicated to providing relief and sustainable development solutions to uplift people out of poverty. Sharif has also led IRUSA in expanding its national partner network with over 200 U.S. based community based organizations. An attorney by background, Sharif has worked in litigation prior to fully dedicating his career to the nonprofit sector. Sharif has experience in a wide range of areas, including, nonprofit law and management, and humanitarian policy, advocacy and public relations and communications. Sharif graduated with bachelor degrees in Philosophy, Politics and Law and Arabic from SUNY Binghamton and subsequently graduated from the Maurice Dean School of Law at Hofstra University. Sharif is certified in fundraising management through the Lily School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and holds multiple certifications in leadership and management. Sharif currently serves on the American Red Cross National Diversity Advisory Committee and is a member of the InterAction Board of Directors.

Denise Bell

Board Member

Partnerships Director, Welcome.US

Denise is the Researcher for Refugee and Migrant Rights, and was previously Senior Campaigner for Refugee and Migrant Rights, leading the implementation of Amnesty International’s welcome campaign on refugee rights. She came to AIUSA from the US Department of Justice, where she was an Attorney Advisor on the New York Immigration Court. She was a Sudan Country Specialist for AIUSA and the campaigner for its Darfur campaign. She has worked in various capacities on forced displacement issues since the mid-1990s, when she worked with refugees and IDPs in Croatia following the Dayton Peace Accord. She is barred in the state of New York and sits on the City Bar’s Immigration and Nationality Law Committee.

Tawnya Brown

Board Member

Senior Vice President of Global, Refugee and Immigrant Services at Bethany Christian Services

Tawnya Brown has worked in child welfare and refugee services for over 28 years. During her 10 years at Bethany Christian Services, she has served in several roles including as a Branch Director, Regional Director, National Development Director for Refugee Services, Vice President of Regional Operations, and now leads the Global, Refugee and Immigrant Services as Senior Vice President. Tawnya is a strategic leader in growing programs and services specifically designed to meet the greatest challenges facing children and families. She holds a Master of Social Work degree and is clinically licensed. She also provides consulting services through her personal business. She and her husband have two sons and reside in Maryland. In all things, Tawnya is motivated by her faith and seeks God’s purpose daily as she speaks up and stands for people in vulnerable situations around the globe.

Ann Buwalda

Board Member

Executive Director, Jubilee Campaign USA

Since 1991, Ann Buwalda has served as Executive Director of Jubilee Campaign USA, focusing on international religious freedom, advocating for the release of prisoners of conscience and for the resettlement of refugees, combating trafficking, and providing support to victims. Ann has been a practicing lawyer since 1992 and founded the law firm, Just Law International PC, in March 1996, a firm handling all aspects of immigration law including asylum and refugee cases. She aught a summer course in refugee and human rights law at Handong International Law School from 2002 to 2009.

Lourena Gboeah

Board Member

Chair and Delaware Delegate, Refugee Congress

Lourena Gboeah is a former refugee from Liberia, West Africa, and committed to serving the public through her volunteer, work, and educational experiences. She has 18 years of experience working with vulnerable and marginalized populations. Lourena is the Refugee Congress Delegate for the state of Delaware and was recently elected as Chair of Refugee Congress' Board of Directors. Lourena has worked extensively in the immigration/refugee resettlement space as a volunteer, intern, advocate and leader. In her last role, Lourena served as Program Coordinator for the Refugee Integration Support Effort (RISE) Program at Jewish Family Services of Delaware—the only refugee resettlement agency in Delaware. In her current full-time role as Associate Director of Student Services, Lourena serves young adults at Year Up Greater Philadelphia, whose mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by ensuring that young adults gain the skills, experiences, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through careers and higher education. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Jonah, their 3yr-old daughter, Moriah, and young-adult son, Junior. Lourena also creates and curates content to inspire millennial moms, wives, and professionals through her platform: The Married African Millennial Professional (TheMamp). Visit the blog here: www.themamp.com

Rekha Grennan

Board Member

Corporate Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility Consultant

Rekha Grennan has extensive global, cross-sector experience leading collaborations in government, start-up, non-profit and corporate enterprises for global development, global health and social impact. She is passionate about inclusive economic development. Rekha most recently served as Director of Corporate Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy at Cisco Systems Inc., where she supported several CEO-led initiatives to address local and global inequality. She recently returned to sustainability consulting and began work on a start-up in the Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) analysis space. Previously, Rekha held a variety of leadership roles at Pfizer, Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Inc., the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and the U.S. Agency for International Development. At Pfizer, she managed several signature initiatives including a $1 billion global disease elimination partnership with the World Health Organization. She was also the first employee of a successful bio-technology start-up pioneering commercial stem-cell banking. Rekha has a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and a degree from Boston University in International Affairs and Environmental Policy and Analysis. She is a former Term-Member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Erol Kekic

Board Member

Executive Director of the Immigration and Refugee Program, Church World Service

Erol leads the New York-based agency’s responsibilities as one of the 9 US refugee resettlement agencies that work in partnership with the US State Department. Erol guides the agency’s role as an outspoken advocate on behalf of fair, humane US immigration and refugee policies. Internationally, Kekic has led CWS’s role in humanitarian protection and development of durable solutions that bridge the gap between disaster relief and development, by helping displaced persons create life beyond mere subsistence. Before his appointment as director of the CWS Immigration and Refugee Program in 2008, Kekic served as associate director, coordinating the services of CWS’s nationwide network of local refugee resettlement affiliate agencies.

Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang

Board Member

Executive Director, BPSOS

Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang is the Executive Director at BPSOS. Joining BPSOS in 1988 as a volunteer, he has since built BPSOS from a small, all-volunteer organization into the largest Vietnamese-American non-profit organization with operations in a dozen locations in the United States and in three Asian countries and a vast Vietnamese-language mass media network. Simultaneously he has mentored or incubated over 50 faith-based and community organizations and secured $4 million to support their good work. For the past two decades he has launched many national and international initiatives. Starting in 2010 he has rallied Vietnamese-American leaders across the country for a ten-year initiative to advance the Vietnamese American community in the government, business and social sectors.

Hans Van De Weerd

Board Member

Interim Senior Vice President Europe, International Rescue Committee

Hans Van de Weerd is the Interim Senior Vice President of the International Rescue Committee, leading US programs in aiding those struggling and enduring through the world’s worst humanitarian crises. Van de Weerd has also has expertise in international business, crisis management, cross-cultural management and communications, and diplomacy.

Hardy Vieux

Board Member

Chief of Staff at Kids in Need of Defense

Hardy Vieux serves as chief of staff at Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). In that role, he aligns vision, strategy, and tactics in an organization dedicated to addressing the legal and psychosocial needs of migrant children. Hardy endeavors to harness time, information, and decision processes to enable KIND to focus on zealously advocating for the rights of refugee and immigrant children. Prior to joining KIND in May 2021, Hardy served as the senior vice president, legal, at Human Rights First, where he led the organization’s pro bono asylum representation team and its impact litigation efforts, having started that work in 2018. Since January 2017, Hardy has also served as a Towsley Foundation Policymaker in Residence at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. In that role, Hardy teaches a fall semester, graduate-level human rights law seminar at the policy school. In 2014, Hardy served as a policy fellow with Save the Children in Jordan, focusing on the problems of safeguarding and educating Syrian refugee children. Prior to living in the Middle East, he was in private legal practice focused on white collar criminal defense and complex civil trials. While in private practice, Hardy handled numerous pro bono matters, from litigation stemming from the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to juvenile detention impact litigation and asylum representation. Before moving to private practice, Hardy was a criminal appellate defense counsel in the United States Navy’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, where he served as counsel on a death penalty case and national security matters, among others. Since leaving the JAG Corps, Hardy has served on the board of the National Institute of Military Justice, a nonprofit dedicated to the fair administration of justice in the armed forces. Hardy is a 1997 graduate of the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and Law School, where he served as a co-founder and editor-in-chief of the Michigan Journal of Race & Law. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy Studies from Duke University, later serving on the board of visitors of the university’s public policy school.

How We Work

Learn more about how Refugee Council USA achieves its mission through collaborative working groups.

Learn More