Carnegie Corporation of New York Honors 34 Distinguished Immigrants Whose Contributions to Our Democracy Inspire Us All

Philanthropic foundation established by Scottish immigrant Andrew Carnegie celebrates the essential role of naturalized citizens in American life

Immigrants develop vaccines, protect our country, conserve our environment, report the news, make us break out in song, teach our children, and are essential leaders in our communities. Meet the 2022 Class of #GreatImmigrants from Carnegie Corporation of New York. (Photo: Business Wire)

NEW YORK--()--Carnegie Corporation of New York announced its annual list of Great Immigrants today, honoring 34 naturalized citizens whose contributions and actions have enriched and strengthened our society and our democracy. Each Fourth of July since 2006, the philanthropic foundation has invited Americans to celebrate these exemplary individuals by participating in its online public awareness campaign Great Immigrants, Great Americans, #GreatImmigrants.

The 2022 Class of Great Immigrants is comprised of naturalized citizens from 32 countries and a wide range of backgrounds. This year, the Corporation is highlighting the work of immigrants who have been leaders in their local communities through their work in education, the arts, law enforcement, public service, health care, and small business ownership, as well as for their contributions as advocates for education equity, climate change, food security, and the homeless.

Other honorees are national leaders in their fields, including two Nobel Prize laureates, a COVID-19 vaccine developer, a university president, an expert on nuclear threat reduction, a leading researcher on disabilities, the global CEO of the professional services firm Deloitte, the winningest coach in the history of U.S. women’s soccer, a principal dancer for American Ballet Theatre, and celebrities such as tennis star Steffi Graf, TV host and food expert Padma Lakshmi, actress and director Julie Delpy, and rock 'n' roll legend Neil Young.

Among the community leaders:

Bertine Bahige (Democratic Republic of Congo): Wyoming’s 2021 National Distinguished Principal, he was kidnapped and forced to become a child soldier, eventually resettling in the U.S. and going on to a career as a beloved educator.

Jorge Cavero (Bolivia): Physician and founder of Cavero Medical Group, a community health care center serving a Latino neighborhood in Chicago, he is an advocate for better medical care in underserved urban and rural locations.

Fabienne Doucet (Spain): Executive director of New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, she focuses her research on ways to improve educational opportunities for immigrant students and children of color.

Daniel Finn (Ireland): A Roman Catholic pastor, he cofounded the Irish Pastoral Centre in Boston, Massachusetts, where he has spent decades helping new immigrants from diverse backgrounds acclimate to life in the U.S., learn English, and acquire citizenship.

Jesus Garza (Mexico) Elected as the centrist mayor of Arcola, Illinois, he is known for his strong community ties and for his reputation as a successful small business owner — qualities that helped him win election in a predominantly white, conservative community.

Aquilino Gonell (Dominican Republic) Congressional Gold Medal recipient and U.S. Capitol police officer, he sustained significant injuries during the January 6, 2021, attack and has been a vocal public advocate for accountability in its aftermath.

Nicole Hernandez Hammer (Guatemala) A labor and climate organizer for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), she is a scientist with expertise in rising sea levels and an advocate for climate change adaptation and mitigation in low-income communities of color.

Lina Hidalgo (Colombia) The first woman elected as judge and chief executive of Harris County, Texas, serving on the governing Commissioners Court, she is credited with making voting easier and fostering more inclusive public meetings and policymaking.

Arrey Obenson (Cameroon) President and CEO of the International Institute of St. Louis, a center for immigrants, he is a leader in the integration of newcomers to America, including Afghan refugees, and a proponent of immigration as an engine of economic growth.

Tashitaa Tufaa (Ethiopia) Owner of a large school transportation services company in Minnesota and a former civil servant, he came to the U.S. as a refugee, earned a graduate degree, and went on to become a successful entrepreneur and major employer.

Karen Zacarías (Mexico) An award-winning playwright, she founded the Young Playwrights’ Theater, a community-focused organization that teaches playwriting in Washington, D.C., schools, helping young people realize the power of their own voices.

The Corporation’s Strengthening U.S. Democracy program supports immigrant integration through a portfolio of grantees focused on immigration policy reform. Citizenship is the ultimate goal of integration, and among the Corporation’s long-term priorities is encouraging eligible immigrants to naturalize. For more than a decade, the Corporation, in collaboration with other philanthropic partners, has supported the New Americans Campaign, which is led by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center. To date, the campaign and its national network of nonprofit partners have helped more than 540,000 lawful permanent residents (LPRs), known as green card holders, apply for citizenship. Services include low-cost application assistance in multiple languages and an online process. More information is available at

According to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, there were 9.2 million LPRs eligible to naturalize in 2021. Their pathway to citizenship is not easy, given the complex nature of the naturalization process and processing delays, which were exacerbated by the pandemic. As a result, the Migration Policy Institute, a Corporation grantee, reports that the number of lawful permanent residents who were naturalized in 2020 marked a low point for the last decade. The Great Immigrants campaign aims to raise awareness among LPRs, the general public, and policymakers.

“Our Great Immigrants Great Americans event each year is a reminder of the proven economic and societal benefits of encouraging immigrants to seek citizenship and become actively involved in our democracy,” said Geri Mannion, managing director of the Corporation’s Strengthening U.S. Democracy program and a naturalized citizen of Irish descent. “The pandemic added new challenges to the federal immigration system, including a backlog of applications and the inability to hold naturalization oath ceremonies. Through philanthropic collaborations and the work of nonprofit service providers, we aim to make the process easier and more accessible to millions of eligible immigrants.”

Our annual recognition of outstanding immigrants is a tribute to the legacy of Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish immigrant who, like these honorees, found success as an American and gave back to his adopted country. Carnegie founded more than 20 philanthropic organizations, including Carnegie Corporation of New York, a grantmaking foundation established in 1911 to advance the causes of democracy, education, and international peace.

Since 2006, the Corporation has named nearly 700 Great Immigrants, forming one of the largest online databases of its type. The 2022 honorees mark the 17th class, who will be recognized with a full-page public service announcement in the New York Times on the Fourth of July, as well as through tributes on social media. Please join the celebration by sharing via Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter using the hashtag #GreatImmigrants.

See the complete list of the 2022 class of Great Immigrants.

Hakki Akdeniz (Turkey) Owner, Champion Pizza, and Advocate for the Homeless

Michael Amiridis (Greece) President-Elect, University of South Carolina

Bertine Bahige (Democratic Republic of Congo) Wyoming National Distinguished Principal, 2021

Maria Elena Bottazzi (Italy) Professor and Associate Dean, Baylor College of Medicine

Jorge Cavero (Bolivia) Physician and Professor, University of Illinois College of Medicine

Ibrahim Cissé (Niger) Professor of Physics, MIT, and MacArthur Fellow

Herman Cornejo (Argentina) Principal, American Ballet Theatre, and UN Messenger of Peace

Bita Daryabari (Iran) Philanthropist, Entrepreneur, and Computer Scientist

Julie Delpy (France) Award-Winning Actress, Director, and Screenwriter

Fabienne Doucet (Spain) Educational Equity Advocate and Professor, New York University

Jill Ellis (England) Soccer Coach and President, San Diego Wave Fútbol Club

Daniel Finn (Ireland) Pastor and Chaplain and Cofounder, Irish Pastoral Centre, Boston

Lorena Garcia (Venezuela) Chef and Founder, Chica Restaurants

Jesus Garza (Mexico) Mayor, Arcola, Illinois

Aquilino Gonell (Dominican Republic) U.S. Capitol Police Officer and Congressional Gold Medal Recipient

Steffi Graf (Germany) Tennis Champion, Olympian, and Grand Slam Winner

Siegfried Hecker (Poland) Nuclear Scientist and Director Emeritus, Los Alamos National Laboratory

Nicole Hernandez Hammer (Guatemala) Environmental Scientist and Climate Justice and Labor Organizer, SEIU

Lina Hidalgo (Colombia) Judge and Chief Executive, Harris County, Texas

Jorge Labarga (Cuba) Justice, Florida Supreme Court

Padma Lakshmi (India) Host and Executive Producer, Top Chef and Taste the Nation

MJ Lee (South Korea) White House Correspondent, CNN

Polina Lishko (Ukraine) Professor, University of California, Berkeley, and MacArthur Fellow

Malinda Lo (China) Novelist and National Book Award Winner

Syukuro Manabe (Japan) Professor, Princeton University, and Nobel Laureate

Karen Nakamura (Indonesia) Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

Arrey Obenson (Cameroon) President and CEO, International Institute of St. Louis

Toyin Ojih Odutola (Nigeria) Visual Artist

Ardem Patapoutian (Lebanon) Professor, Scripps Research Institute, and Nobel Laureate

Karl Racine (Haiti) Attorney General, District of Columbia

Punit Renjen (India) Global CEO, Deloitte

Tashitaa Tufaa (Ethiopia) Owner, CEO, and President, Metropolitan Transportation Network

Neil Young (Canada) Musician, Grammy Winner, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee

Karen Zacarías (Mexico) Award-Winning Playwright and Founder, Young Playwrights’ Theater

About Carnegie Corporation of New York

Carnegie Corporation of New York was established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mandate, the Corporation’s work focuses on the issues that Carnegie considered of paramount importance: education, international peace, and a strong democracy. @CarnegieCorp


Celeste Ford | Director of External Relations
Carnegie Corporation of New York | 646.772.7917

Release Summary

Carnegie Corporation of New York announces annual list of Great Immigrants — 34 naturalized citizens whose contributions strengthen our democracy.



Celeste Ford | Director of External Relations
Carnegie Corporation of New York | 646.772.7917