Mission & Approach

Our work aims to prevent the growing marginalization of new immigrants and refugees and facilitate their successful integration into American life, while continuing to maintain their cultural heritage.

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We have designed a holistic integration model that aims to guide new immigrants towards social and economic self-sufficiency. It seeks to identify newcomers soon after they arrive, introduce them to American systems, address cultural and language barriers, and offer them a path towards citizenship and advancement. Our approach helps families and youth incorporate the best of both worlds while still maintaining cultural ties and pride in their heritage.

CIANA is intended to act as an agent of social change, and has been recognized locally and internationally for its reach into marginalized immigrant communities. It aspires to become a model of immigrant integration services that can be replicated nationally and globally. 


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“Before I came to CIANA, I was having a bit of a difficulty at school with some classes. I just needed an extra boost of confidence and CIANA gave me that exactly. As soon as I met them I knew I was going to be comfortable. Now my grades are better than ever and I feel more motivated.”

—  Albert Molina, Middle School Program


CIANA in the News

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Intern and Volunteer Testimonials

"At CIANA, it seems like you really value integration but I also see that it’s a strength that all the clients have different cultural backgrounds. CIANA isn’t asking them to forget their home country or their language. It’s really celebrated."


-Nima, Casework Intern

"I enjoy the fact that you can see people asking questions and trying to pick up new language skills, and you see them conversing with one another and helping each other out. I think CIANA provides a nice setting for them to try and improve their skills and transition."


-Nikhil, ESL Instructor

"I really like that CIANA is small and feels very much like a family. It’s cool to see how many interns and volunteers are here. In that aspect, you know everyone you’re working with has the same passion and mindset toward the overall goal to help immigrants."


-Miles, Grants Intern

Read more about our staff, intern, and volunteer insights and experiences on the Humans of CIANA section of our blog.




2006 – 2008

CIANA is founded, obtains seed funding and moves to Astoria. Opens its Newtown Avenue site in June 2008.​​

2008 – 2012

2013 – 2015

CIANA expands its programs with increased funding from NYC government agencies.

CIANA adds a young immigrant legal services program (DACA), and grows its volunteer-staffed elementary after school program.


2017 – 2018

CIANA launches new programs including a Middle School After school Program (SONYC), a new legal immigration program, and a Mommy & Me parenting program.

CIANA expands its immigration legal services, youth education programs, and social media presence, and accelerates shift to a private funding model due to increasing demand for services and limited governmental support.


CIANA expands its staff, receives awards from the competitive Communities of Color Stabilization Fund (CCNSF) and Complete Count Fund, and establishes a new civics-focused ESOL curriculum.


CIANA brings New York City closer to a complete count in the 2020 Census. Thanks to grants awarded from the NYC Test & Trace Corps and NYC Care, CIANA nearly triples its staff and launches efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and enroll New Yorkers in free and low-cost healthcare-- all while moving our usual programs and services to an online setting.

2021 - 15 Years Since Founding

CIANA continues preventing the spread of COVID-19 and enrolling eligible New Yorkers in healthcare, in addition to educating the public about COVID vaccines. All of CIANA's legal and case management services and educational programs take place virtually with record-high engagement.

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Board of Directors

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Derek Sam

Board Chair

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Austin Moukattaf

Board Treasurer

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Joe DeMaria

Board Member

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Ariela Steinberg

Board Member

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Emily Levitt

Board Secretary

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Sophie Norman

Board Member

Emira Habiby Browne

CIANA's Founder and CEO

Emira Habiby Browne has over 25 years of experience in social services, with expertise in family and children services, immigrant integration, and cultural competency. She is a Palestinian-American who was born and raised in the Middle East, speaks Arabic fluently, has traveled extensively, and lived in several countries in Europe and the Middle East. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Sociology from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. She has pursued Doctoral studies at the London School of Economics/University of London, and at the Hunter College School of Social Work/CUNY.

In 1993, Emira founded the first Arabic-speaking social services organization in New York City to address the needs of the Arabic-speaking immigrant community.

In 2006, Emira founded CIANA as a wider and more inclusive organization that serves new immigrants from the greater Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. 

In 2004, 2006, and 2011, Emira was selected by the USDOS Bureau of International Information Programs to present her immigrant integration model to government interlocutors and community leaders in several cities in Spain, Italy, Poland, and Germany. 

Emira has served on several advisory boards and task forces on immigrant issues, and has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards in recognition of her contributions to the immigrant community and the service of others.

Meet the Team

Jump to:

Legal Services

Dinneen Cato

Director of Legal Services




Sophie Riina

Education Programs Director

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Jose Velasco

SONYC Middle School

Program Coordinator

Case Management

& Outreach


Venus Alfaro

Case Management Supervisor


Micah Dicker

Social Media Specialist & Outreach Worker


Joe Nasser

Case Manager &

Outreach Coordinator

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Mohamed Alharbi

Outreach Worker &

Case Manager

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Tomoyo Sakai


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Vanessa Camano



Rownoka Ashakhan

Outreach Worker & 

Case Manager


Justin Yanqui

Outreach Worker & Case Manager

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Mahbub Khuda

Outreach Worker & Case Manager


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Grethel Calero


Volunteer Management