tags: Press Releases

America’s Voice and America’s Voice Education Fund Announce Vanessa Cárdenas as New Executive Director

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Acting Deputy Director Vanessa Cárdenas Replaces Retired Founder and Executive Director Frank Sharry; See HERE for a Bio and Headshot of Cárdenas 

Washington, DC – The Boards of Directors of America’s Voice and America’s Voice Education Fund are thrilled to announce that Vanessa Cárdenas has agreed to serve as the next Executive Director of AV and AVEF. Cárdenas, who currently serves as Acting Deputy Director of AV and AVEF, will replace the retired Frank Sharry, the visionary founder of America’s Voice and America’s Voice Education Fund.

“Frank Sharry’s contributions to this movement cannot be overstated and Vanessa Cárdenas is the ideal candidate to shape the next chapter of America’s Voice in our growing and diversifying field,” said Henry Fernandez, long-time Chair of the AV and AVEF Boards of Directors. “Under her leadership, AV and AVEF are well positioned to remain formidable advocates for immigrants and to help the broader pro-immigrant movement use communications and advocacy to build the power necessary for change.” 

“This is a pivotal moment for the immigration issue, and the task ahead is both daunting and exciting,” said Vanessa Cárdenas. “Republicans have made attacking immigrant communities their central message while Democrats have so far failed to shepherd broad, concrete legislative accomplishments on immigration across the finish line. We know that policy change is needed and that Americans support our vision for legalizing immigrants and legalizing immigration. Only a sustained, effective push from immigrants, advocates and the rest of the American people will result in significant policy victories.”

At the beginning of her career, Cárdenas worked with Sharry at the National Immigration Forum, where she was a leader on communications and press engagement in Spanish and English. Since then she has contributed her vision and talents to the Biden campaign, the Center for American Progress, World Wildlife Fund, and EMILY’s List, as well as consulted with organizations like LULAC.

Her immigration story starts with her family’s migration to New York City. She was born in Brooklyn, NY to a single mom who, given the challenges of raising a child by herself in a strange and unforgiving city, went back to her native Bolivia where Vanessa was raised by her mom and grandparents. When she was 14 years old, Vanessa and her mom once again migrated and came back to the U.S., this time to the Washington, DC area where her extended family had moved in pursuit of better jobs, safer neighborhoods, and affordable housing. Vanessa started her activism in high school in Northern Virginia, and is the first in her family to go to college. 

“I am fighting for families and communities like mine where native born citizens, immigrants without status and immigrants with status mix and share common dreams for a better and more inclusive country,” Cárdenas said. “I am proud to follow in the footsteps of Frank Sharry, who has been my friend and mentor for years, and humbled to take on the challenge of leading the organizations he founded and shaped.”

According to Frank Sharry, founder and retired Executive Director of America’s Voice and America’s Voice Education Fund, “I had the honor of hiring Vanessa right out of college at the National Immigration Forum, and since then have watched her rise with awe. When AV and AVEF needed help with a new administration and Congress in 2021, we reached out to her and hired her as a consultant to serve as Acting Deputy Director. She has done a terrific job. I know she will be an excellent Executive Director, and that AV 2.0 will have a bright future under her leadership.”

AV and AVEF Board Member Ben Monterroso, Integrated Voter Engagement Director of Poder Latinx, added: “Frank Sharry, through his vision, hard work and the organizations he founded, strengthened our movement and challenged us to communicate more, more strategically and with more clarity. AV and AVEF are his legacy, but a new generation of immigrant leaders is stepping up to take the movement even farther and Vanessa is the perfect example. She is the right leader for the right moment at the right organization to help us all succeed in our mission to improve the country and improve the welcome for immigrants.” 

“Replacing a founder of an indispensable organization often raises a dilemma – should we honor America’s Voice’s rich tradition or shift direction? With Vanessa Cárdenas we can do both. A proven, skilled communicator, Vanessa can build on our core strengths while pursuing new ideas. We couldn’t be luckier to have her,” said AV and AVEF Board Member Charles K. Kamasaki, analyst, advocate and author.

“At a time when we need our best leadership to move us forward, I am thrilled that Vanessa has stepped up to lead one  of the most important immigrant rights organizations in the country. Her experience working in the most renowned progressive organizations while always grounded in our community will serve America’s Voice and the immigrant rights movement well,” said Yadira Sanchez, Executive Director of Poder Latinx.