Longtime champion of Northwest refugees promoted to agency-wide advocacy role
A widely respected spokesman for refugees, immigrants and other vulnerable people will step into a new job, a capstone to his nearly four-decade career at Lutheran Community Services Northwest.
Salah Ansary, currently the Senior District Director of Multicultural Community Services, will serve as the agency’s lead proponent for government resources and public policy reform.
Effective after the hire of a new District Director, Ansary will become the Senior Director of Legislative Advocacy and Government Affairs.
For the longtime Portland resident, it’s a fresh opportunity to harness the experience and influence he’s built since immigrating from Afghanistan in 1978, ahead of the former Soviet invasion. He welcomed his mother and siblings to Portland as refugees in 1981, and he came to work at LCSNW as a refugee program manager in 1984.
“Ever since I left Afghanistan, I have not stopped advocating for refugees,” Ansary said. “I have always woven that responsibility into my job and in all of the work that we do in the mission of “health, justice and hope.” Those are profound words, and I take them very seriously.”
In the newly created position, Ansary will help raise significant resources while elevating LCSNW’s profile in political circles, according to David Duea, the agency’s President and CEO. Duea called the job change “a crowning achievement and a way to preserve everything that Salah has helped build … Salah has credibility in Oregon, Washington, and Washington, D.C.”
Ansary’s advocacy work spans decades. In the early 2000s, he spoke before a U.S. Senate committee in support of public benefits for Ukrainian and other refugees. In December, he gave testimony at the Oregon State Capitol favoring an $18 million emergency allocation for Afghan refugee programs. The emergency spending provision, which Ansary wrote about in an Oregonian op-ed, won bipartisan legislative approval. Similarly, he testified to Washington state budget writers in February, urging them to set aside $30 million for refugee resettlement.
The job change means Multicultural Community Services will be looking for the next transformative leader. Under Salah’s leadership, MCS has grown to a budget of over $8 million with 126 employees.
Duea said the search will be national and could take as long as three to six months. “I want a really thoughtful transition to the next leader. Salah will remain in his current duties until that time,” Duea said.