The Future of Refugees in Utah

Refugee Symposium_Utah Council for Citizen DiplomacyThursday, 2.16.2023
1:00 PM - 5:30 PM 
Utah Cultural Celebration Center
1355 W 3100 S, West Valley City

This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Click the link below.

Utah Council for Citizen Diplomacy presents The Future of Refugees in Utah Symposium, which welcomes leading global experts to explore critical questions about the future of refugee resettlement and integration.

With a focus on the vetting process of refugees, the benefits refugees contribute to host communities, and how host communities and refugees can work together to strengthen integration and opportunity, this symposium is a unique opportunity to bring together Utah’s nonprofits, businesses, policymakers, faith leaders, service providers, students, and you to hear about the latest research and policy initiatives, examine the intersectionality of these topics, and explore possible solutions to some of these challenges.

With an anticipated attendance of more than 200 individuals, The Future of Refugees In Utah Symposium will strengthen the collective impact by bringing together people who work with refugees. Furthermore, by attending this event, you will benefit by:

  • Expanding your knowledge of the subject
  • Obtaining new tools, resources, and best practices regarding refugee resettlement and integration
  • Meeting and networking with those working on refugee integration
  • Engaging in immediate call-to-actions that funnel you passion into action

Be sure to check back soon, as we regularly update our program agenda.



1:00 PM       

World Affairs Symposium: The Future of Refugees in Utah

Aden Batar, Director of Refugee Resettlement, CCS

Sarah Cross, Deputy Assistant Secretary, PRM Bureau, U.S. Department of State
Eskinder Negash, President & CEO, United States Committee on Refugee & Immigrants
Jennie Murray, CEO, National Immigration Forum

2:00 PM                                                  Break
2:15 PM Asha Parekh will discuss the current status of refugee resettlement in Utah*
2:45 PM Deputy Assistant Secretary Sarah Cross will speak about migration reform, President Biden’s priorities for refugee
resettlement, and how host communities can increase community involvement in welcoming new Americans.*
3:15 PM                                                 Break
3:30 PM Eskinder Negash will discuss elements of a healthy refugee-host community integration process.*
4:00 PM Jennie Murray will discuss the economic benefits of refugees to a host community.*
4:30 PM Networking Reception
   * Each session will be followed by an audience Q&A


Guest Speaker: Sarah Cross

Sarah Cross_Utah Council for Citizen DiplomacySarah Cross, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugee, and Migration for the U.S. Department of State

Sarah Cross serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) overseeing the Office of Refugee Admissions. Prior to returning to public service, Sarah served as Advocacy Director for the International Migration Initiative at Open Society Foundations, where she led the Program’s efforts to rebuild U.S. refugee protection.  From October 2016 through November 2017 Sarah served as Director for Refugee and Migration Policy at the National Security Council, overseeing interagency coordination around refugee resettlement and U.S. engagement in multilateral fora on international migration policy.  During her first tenure in PRM, from 2008-2016, Sarah served as the Bureau’s strategic planner, most recently leading the Bureau’s efforts to prepare for President Obama’s Leaders’ Summit on Refugees.

Before coming to the State Department, Sarah worked with a number of advocacy and social service organizations, both domestically and internationally.  From August 2020 to January 2021, Sarah served on the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition Team.  She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Bowdoin College; a Master’s Degree in Forced Migration from Oxford University; and a Master’s Degree in International Relations from Georgetown University.

Guest Speaker: Eskinder Negash

Eskinder NegashPresident & CEO, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) 

Eskinder Negash is President and CEO of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), an organization founded in 1911 to protect the rights and address the needs of persons in forced or voluntary migration worldwide and support their transition to a dignified life. Mr. Negash is a recognized senior executive leader and brings nearly 40 years of proven non-profit management experience on behalf of refugees and immigrants.

Prior to joining USCRI, he served from 2009-2015 as Director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the largest government-funded refugee resettlement organization in the world. With a budget of over $1.5 billion, the ORR 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 served more than 850,000 people in six years.

Under Negash’s leadership, ORR 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, totaling more than 850,000 people during his six years of service.

Prior to his appointment by the Obama Administration, Mr. Negash served as the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of USCRI for seven years. He also was the Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of the International Institute of Los Angeles for 15 years. Mr. Negash 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 the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

In 2016, Mr. Negash served in the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee for Public-Private Partnership considering the formulation of U.S. polices, proposals, and strategies for developing public-private partnership that promote shares value with the private sector worldwide. In 2009, Mr. Negash received an “Outstanding American By Choice” award from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security, 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.

Guest Speaker: Jennie Murray

Jennie Murray_Utah Council for Citizen DiplomacyJennie Murray, President & Chief Executive Officer, National Immigration Forum

As President and Chief Executive Officer, Murray leads the Forum, focused on ensuring immigrants and all Americans are supported through programs and policies that allow us to thrive.  Formed by her experiences in an immigrant family, throughout her career she has focused on ensuring immigrants have the services and skills they need to succeed while the country has the immigration system needed to prosper. She is pleased to return to the Forum, after 8 years of former service, where this unique blend is the focus everyday. Murray brings two decades of experience to this role, having worked at the intersection of immigration services and the private sector, as well as in refugee resettlement and workforce development, all while creating and driving policy change to support robust and dignifying immigration policies.

Before returning to the Forum, Murray served as the Executive Vice President of Programs at Upwardly Global, where she supported Upwardly Global in scaling its nationally-recognized job coaching and skill-building programs to job seekers and corporate partners across the country. Also, while serving at Upwardly Global, she supported the nation’s effort to evacuate 90,000 Afghan evacuees, launched a 50+ company Corporate DEI Working Group focused on inclusion Immigrants and Refugees, and helped to establish a workforce development plan with public and corporate partners in Poland to help with resettlement of over 3 million displaced Ukrainians.

In her previous role, Murray developed and led the New American Workforce at the National Immigration Forum, an umbrella of immigrant worker upskilling and support programs offered at over 500 companies, such as citizenship legal services and our English-language training program, English At Work. In addition, she formed and led the Corporate Roundtable for the New American Workforce, co-founded by Walmart and Chobani. This collection of the nation’s largest corporations develops and implements best practices for immigrant integration at the worksite and advances legislative advocacy initiatives to support new Americans.

In 2014, Murray’s program, New American Workforce, was recognized by the Obama White House for excellence in Immigrant Integration and 5 members were awarded the Champion of Change award for their participation.   

Before joining the Forum in 2013, she directed programs at Jubilee Jobs and at Catholic Charities Washington, D.C., Refugee Center. Raised in Los Angeles and Nashville, Jennie earned her bachelor’s degree from Union University and her master’s degree from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. Currently, Jennie lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and their son.

Guest Speaker: Aden Batar

Aden Batar_Utah Council for Citizen DiplomacyAden Batar, Director of Migration and Refugee Services at Catholic Community Services

Aden Batar is the Director of Migration and Refugee Services for Catholic Community Services (CCS). He is the first former refugee to ever hold such a position in Utah. He has worked in this field for more than 20 years. He serves on the Utah State Refugee Board of Advisors, the University of Utah Alumni Board, and the Utah Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission. He is the former President of the Utah Islamic Society. He is also the founder of Somali Community Services of Utah. He holds a Law Degree from Somali National University and Masters of Public Administration from the University of Utah. He is an Immigration attorney by training. Batar is a former refugee from Somalia that was resettled through CCS in 1994. He speaks Somali, Italian, Some Arabic, and Kiswahili.

Guest Speaker: Asha Parekh

Asha Parekh_Utah Council for Citizen DiplomacyAsha Parekh, Director of Refugee Services Office at Dept of Workforce Services  

Asha Parekh currently serves as the Director of the Refugee Services Office within the Department of Workforce Services for the state of Utah. During her tenure, she started the Utah Refugee Center, a unique public-private partnership that provides employment support and offers community space to build refugee community capacity in Utah. Asha also started the Salt Lake Area Family Justice Center at the YWCA Utah in 2007 to better assist victims of violence in one location.

In 2021 Asha was selected as Utah Business Women of the Year. She serves on the United Way Board and University Neighborhood Partner Board and serves on the Intermountain Equity Advisory Council.

Tabling Opportunities

If you are interested in sharing information about your organization and would like to table at this event, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Number of tables is limited.

Sponsors & Partners

Details coming soon.

Upcoming Symposium

Save the date, Tuesday, May 23, for our next World Affairs Symposium: Bridging the Religious Divide


Event Information

Event Date Feb 16, 2023 1:00 pm
Event End Date Feb 16, 2023 5:30 pm
Individual Price Free & open to the public
Location Utah Cultural Celebration Center
Categories World Affairs Symposium Series

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