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Tahirih Justice Center staff at 2023 Journey to Justice event

June is Immigrant Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the strength and resilience of immigrants and the many contributions immigrants have made to our country.

At Tahirih, we celebrate our immigrant heritage and diverse identities every day. Did you know that 29% of Tahirih staff identify as immigrants, 41% have immigrant parents, and 12 different languages are spoken within our team? Many of our Board members, local advisory council members, and supporters also identify as immigrants. Our beautifully diverse identities and beliefs are essential to our work supporting immigrant survivors of gender-based violence.

We asked our staff and Board members to reflect on what their immigrant heritage means to them and how it gives meaning to their work with Tahirih.


Portrait image of Elaine de Leon smiling

“My immigrant heritage reminds of strength and resilience. It took a tremendous amount of courage for my mother to leave her home and go somewhere she wasn’t wanted just to have a chance at a better life for herself and her children. Surviving and thriving in a society that wasn’t made for you, or that doesn’t value you or want you to succeed takes superhuman strength. I see that in my family, my community, and in the survivors we serve at Tahirih.” – Elaine de Leon Ahn, Director of Communications


“My immigrant heritage is a celebration of the past generations and path they paved for me. It is a torch I carry with a great deal of pride as I hope to continue to pave the path for future generations. It is a reminder that identity is unified by its diversity of traditions, cultures and experiences that shape my uniqueness while also providing me with common experiences relating to other immigrants.” – Anuscé Sanai, Managing Attorney, Tahirih Greater DC-Baltimore


“My parents raised me with a deep connection to our cultural roots, immersed in South Indian food, music, dance, values, and traditions. I often felt unwelcome in the U.S., but I knew I was home when I walked in the door and smelled my mom’s cooking or got scolded in our mother tongue. I find beauty in the complexity of holding my immigrant heritage with love alongside my identity as an American.” – Archi Pyati, Chief Executive Officer


“I’m a first-generation American (and the oldest of 4 daughters) born to Baha’i refugees from Iran. My parents instilled a real love for the Persian culture in me – of the food, music, and language – for which I’m so grateful. But I also won the lottery being born here with all the opportunities that this country afforded me. I often think about how different life for me and my sisters would have been had we been born in Iran as Baha’is, perpetually persecuted, unable to go to college, barred from owning a business, without rights to our own freedom of expression. Those realities give my work as a Tahirih board member incredible meaning – I feel so fortunate to support this incredible organization and its staff as they help refugee women and girls who are pursuing a better life.” – Shabnam Mogharabi, Tahirih Board of Directors


My immigrant heritage is a celebration of rich cultural vibrancy and diversity. My culture has taught me to be resilient and courageous when navigating unfamiliar landscapes while making sure to celebrate traditions, music, and cuisine that added flavors and colors to my life and has given me a sense of belonging in a home away from home.” – Payal Sinha, Managing Attorney Tahirih San Francisco Bay Area


“Being a first generation, third culture kid of a West African Lebanese mom and British dad has caused me to love and appreciate the rich diversity of this world. I learned from my parents and respective ancestral histories the importance of working towards equality, justice and unity for all. For me, my immigrant heritage means I am a citizen of the world.” – Natasha Piette Basheer, Development Manager, Tahirih San Francisco Bay Area


“My immigrant heritage inspires my resilience in the face of adversity. It fuels my passion for healing intergenerational trauma with fierce determination, relentless comedy, and profound love for my ancestors and my descendants. And of course – black and white cookies, cholent, and poppy seed hamantaschen.” – Irena Sullivan, Senior Immigration Policy Counsel


“As a first generation American, I greatly benefitted from the decision my parents made all those years ago to leave their homeland (India) and forge a new life for their yet-to-be born children in America. They came to this country in the last 1960s at a time when our immigrant stories were celebrated and our differences were what made each community stronger. I was raised to cherish my heritage as I learned the customs and cultures of all around me.

America’s pot is melting. Over the years it has felt as though the very differences that make our communities stronger have been challenged and vilified. I channel the memories of a time when we genuinely felt stronger together and think of those moments as I support the many brave clients of Tahirih.” – Rishi Varma, Tahirih Board of Directors


“I’m grateful for my West Indian heritage. It has given me perspectives and experiences which are rooted in a deep love for the diversity of people and culture. This will always stay with me.” – Vanessa Wilkins, Executive Director, Tahirih Atlanta