Several speakers at the City Council meeting on Tuesday said Esai Navarro, the inaugural Director of the City’s Office of New Americans, had been fired.
City officials said, "We don’t discuss HR decisions for individual employees out of respect for all involved.
"The administration places the highest priority on our Office of New Americans and ensuring it has a leader who serves our immigrant community while building strong coalitions with a wide range of partners and advocates. "
The speakers spoke in support of Ms. Navarro, saying she had been active in helping community members and in proposing a series of programs that allegedly had been blocked.
Mayor Tim Kelly said at her appointment:
Established in October 2021 as part of the mayor’s One Chattanooga plan, the Office of New Americans helps connect migrants and refugees in Chattanooga with the resources and opportunities they need to thrive, including translation services, citizenship application processing, and referrals for wraparound services. As director, Navarro will help shape the office’s services and programs to ensure all migrants who choose to relocate to Chattanooga are welcomed with compassion and support.
“Esai’s extensive background and expertise in serving our country’s immigrant community make her uniquely qualified to lead our Office of New Americans,” said Mayor Kelly. “It was clear she was the right person for the role from quite literally her first day on the job, when she rose to the task of coordinating a multi-agency response to support the migrants passing through Chattanooga on buses from Texas. While that particular situation has resolved, I have every confidence in Esai’s ability to help ensure our migrant community is welcomed and empowered to thrive and prosper in our city.”
A native of Clarksville, Tn., Navarro has served the tens of thousands of residents who make up the Chattanooga immigrant community for over 15 years through the development and implementation of innovative programs, curriculums, and policies focused on cultural competency, education, digital equity, civic engagement, small business development, criminal justice, and immersion services. She brings an expansive network of local and nationwide diverse partnerships spanning several sectors to her work with the City, along with an unmatched heart for her community that aligns with the values of Mayor Kelly’s One Chattanooga plan.
Among her many accomplishments, Navarro created the award-winning Uno X Uno Immigrant Youth Library Program, one of the Urban Library Council’s Innovative Initiatives in the Anti-Racism, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Division. She also founded ALAS, an education equity centered nonprofit working to empower immigrant and under-resourced youth to achieve their educational and/or career goals. Her leadership experience extends to rapid response and disaster recovery operations, as evidenced by her work during 2020’s Easter Tornados and COVID-19 response, when she was a key figure in advocating for the inclusion and culturally relevant response and recovery for Chattanooga immigrants.
Prior to joining the Office of New Americans, Navarro consulted with higher education, grassroots community groups, non-profit organizations, and businesses to assist them in connecting with the Latinx community. She remains active in the community, continuing her work with multiple nonprofit organizations to help bridge the gaps of marginalized communities across the city.