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Examining Afghan Evacuees' Resettlement: A Discussion with Local and National Leaders

Join the Crown Family School in an insightful discussion about the recently published Urban Institute report: 'Examining Afghan Evacuees’ Resettlement: Insights and Lessons for Future Humanitarian Populations, with two of the report authors and a panel of diverse experts. The report examines the experiences of 36 Afghan evacuees and how they fared a year and a half after arriving in the United States, and how the broader community and resettlement infrastructure in three study sites- Chicago, northern Virginia, and San Antonio responded to their complex needs. The report concludes with lessons that can inform a framework of proactive policies that better prepare the US government, resettlement agencies, and other groups to meet the needs of people more cohesively during humanitarian crises.

This in-person event is open to the public. 

A reception will immediately follow the discussion.


Jessica Darrow, Associate Instructional Professor, The University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice
Diana Guelespe,  Senior Research Associate, Urban Institute

Karina Lopez, Associate Director, Office of Welcoming Centers for Refugee and Immigrant Services  - Illinois Department of Health and Human Services
Mohammed Naeem, Deputy Director (Strategy and Partnerships), The American Immigration Council

Beatriz Ponce de León, Deputy Mayor of Immigrant, Migrant, and Refugee Rights (IMRR) for the City of Chicago

Sima Quraishi, Executive Director, Muslim Women's Resource Center

John Slocum, Executive Director, Refugee Council USA

Jessica Darrow, a female-presenting person, smiles towards the camera in a library.
Jessica Darrow, PhD

Jessica Darrow is an Associate Instructional Professor and directs the Kiphart Scholars Program in Global Health & Social Development at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. 

Jessica Darrow's research is focused on the institutional structures for refugee resettlement in the United States and how the politics of social policy and the social construction of the refugee identity impact these structures. Her research to date has grappled with how opportunities for a rights-based policy framework for refugees are constrained by the organizational-level pressures that refugee resettlement agencies face in the era of performance-based contracts for service delivery. Her current studies include an examination of how the refugee resettlement sector adapted to the Trump Administration's anti-immigrant and anti-refugee policies, what resistance to these policies looked like, and how the resettlement system is reconstituted in the aftermath; an analysis of the US-based response to the evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan with a focus on the experiences of community stakeholders, Afghan diaspora and evacuees, and legal aid organizations; and a holistic analysis of the system of care for unaccompanied minors in the United States.

Dr. Darrow received her A.B. from the University of Chicago and her A.M. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. Her practice experience includes five years as Executive Director of a small education-based non-profit organization operating in East and Southern Africa and over two decades of service with the Wieboldt Foundation engaged in supporting local grassroots multi-issue community organizing groups in the Chicago area. 

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Diana Guelespe, PhD

Diana Guelespe is a senior research associate in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute and a member of Urban’s inaugural 2022–24 Equity Scholars Program. Diana is a Chicago native and prior to becoming a sociologist she worked with immigrant and refugee communities at the local, state, and national level. Her areas of expertise include immigrant integration, well-being and access to community and government programs. Her qualitative research on mixed-status immigrant families and their daily challenge of driving without a license led to subsequent changes in state and local policies to improve access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants in Illinois and Washington, DC.

Diana received her BA in anthropology and MA in political science from Northeastern Illinois University, and a PhD in sociology from Loyola University Chicago.

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Karina Lopez

Karina Lopez is a dedicated professional with a wealth of experience fostering community support and aiding marginalized groups. As the former Director of the Office of Hispanic and Latinos Affairs (OHLA) at the Illinois Department of Human Services, she prioritized language accessibility to ensure all limited English proficient individuals had equitable access to crucial services across various departments. Before her role at OHLA, Karina was the Immigrant and Refugee Program Manager for the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Services. There, she was pivotal in assisting and managing the integration of Afghan, Ukrainian, and Venezuelan newcomers arriving in Illinois.


Karina's commitment to serving immigrant communities extends to her tenure as a Program Coordinator for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). She spearheaded extensive programs, including the New Americans Initiative (NAI) and Immigrant Family Resource Program (IFRP), emphasizing breaking down barriers for low-income immigrant families and individuals with limited English proficiency seeking public benefits. Having worked firsthand with asylum seekers and individuals arriving in Chicago and detained by the Department of Homeland Security at the southern border, Karina provided immediate assistance. She linked them with essential local resources to facilitate their integration into society.


Originally from Quito, Ecuador, Karina relocated to Illinois at 10, bringing a deep understanding of immigrant experiences. Her service as a Consular Agent for Immigrant Care Abroad at the Consulate of Ecuador in Chicago further solidifies her dedication to supporting and advocating for immigrant communities.

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Mohammed Naeem

Mohammed Naeem is a Deputy Director (Strategy and Partnerships) at the American Immigration Council. He served on the community advisory board of the “Examining Afghan Evacuees’ Resettlement” project conducted by the Urban Institute. Previously, Mohammed worked at More in Common, a multinational research organization. He began his career as a political organizer, leading movement- building efforts related to social and racial justice issues. He holds several advisory and board positions, including for the Ad Council, Refugee Council USA, UNHCR, and the United States Refugee Advisory Board. Mohammed is an alumna of Stony Brook University, the flagship of New York’s public university system, and lives in Queens, NY — “The World’s Borough.”

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Beatriz Ponce de León

Beatriz Ponce de León serves as Deputy Mayor of Immigrant, Migrant, and Refugee Rights (IMRR) for the City of Chicago. As the first person to hold this newly created position, Ms. Ponce de León works with the IMRR team to advocate for and to promote the advancement and integration of immigrants, migrants, and refugees into the life and vitality of communities across Chicago.

Born and raised in Chicago, Beatriz Ponce de León is the eldest daughter of immigrants from Michoacán, México. Growing up in a working-class neighborhood, she often saw her parents connect family members and neighbors to helpful people or resources. This inspired Beatriz to dedicate her career to working for the public good, expanding opportunities and resources that improve the quality of life for individuals and strengthen our communities.

For over 30 years, Beatriz has advocated for and helped create policies and programs that promote equity and racial justice and address the marginalization of people of color and low-income communities. She has built multi-sector coalitions, led community and organizational planning processes, implemented communications campaigns, operationalized new initiatives, and authored or contributed to numerous action plans and reports. These include “Language Education: Preparing Chicago’s Public School Students for a Global Community” as Director of the Bilingual Education and World Language Initiative for the Chicago Public Schools, “Strong Neighborhood High Schools for a Stronger Chicago” as executive director of the Generation All initiative at The Chicago Community Trust, “A Shared Future: The Economic Engagement of Greater Chicago and its Mexican Community” for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and several quality of life community plans for the LISC New Communities initiative.

For much of her career, Beatriz worked as a consultant in the public sector. This provided opportunities to develop expertise on various issues, including immigrant rights and integration, education equity, bilingual education and language diversity, adolescent rights, health care access, voter engagement, and community development.

Most recently, Beatriz worked for the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) where she held several roles including Assistant Director of the Division of Family and Community Services and Chief of Staff for the Division of Mental Health.
Beatriz has always aimed to engage the people most impacted by a new program or policy in the decision-making and has an especially strong commitment to partnering with young people and their allies in creating the opportunities and resources youth need to thrive.
Beatriz holds a BA in Sociology with a concentration in race, class, and gender from Yale University and has served on numerous boards throughout her careers including as an elected Local School Council member.

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Sima Quraishi

Ms. Sima Quraishi is the Executive Director of the Muslim Women Resource Center located in Chicago, Illinois. It is the only Muslim Women Organization in Illinois. Ms. Quraishi is also on the board of several community–based organizations.

Ms. Quraishi has attended several international women leadership conferences in Europe as well as in the US. Born in Afghanistan, She was raised in both Pakistan and Iran until she immigrated to the United States when she was 10 years old.


Ms. Quraishi received her BA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2002 and received a Master with honors in Community Development from North Park University in 2003. She is married with three children.

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John Slocum, PhD

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.

If you have any questions about access or to request a reasonable accommodation that will facilitate your full participation in this event such as ASL interpreting, captioned videos, Braille or electronic text, food options for individuals with dietary restrictions, etc. please contact the event organizer.