Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The 2nd Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards Ceremony

Left to right: Leadership Award-Lucia Maldonaldo; Institutional Award: International Prep Academy for Newcomers, Champaign School District, Unit 4; Distinguished Service Award-Bob Kirby; Community Organization Award-New Americans ESL at First Presbyterian Church in Champaign; Business Leadership Award-Sister, Sister African Hair Braiding; Student Leadership Award-Alberto Lara Valdivieso 

On September 12, 2015, the CU Immigration Forum hosted the 2nd Immigrant Welcome Awards Celebration at the Crystal Lake Boathouse in Urbana. 

The CU Immigration Forum would like to thank the City of Champaign and the City of Urbana for sponsoring the event, for all of the talented performers, and everyone for coming out in support of making the Cities of Champaign and Urbana more immigrant friendly place.

At the celebration, attendees got together to play the More Than One Story card game to learn more about each other and as a starting point for discussing the importance of awakening empathy and compassion for our unique experiences.

CU Immigration Forum President Tom Garza then announced that the cities of Champaign and Urbana signed a joint proclamation honoring September 12 at Immigrant Welcome Day and in dedicating their cities to becoming a Welcoming City as part of the Welcoming America initiative for cities and counties across the United States. Urbana City Council Member Charlie Smyth attended the event and read the proclamation.

 More information about Welcoming America can be found here.

The CU Immigration Forum's Immigrant Welcome Celebration recognizes the contributions of individuals and organizations that have created a welcoming atmosphere for immigrants in the Champaign-Urbana community. CUIF is proud to celebrate the accomplishments of the following individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions, taken risks, and have provided leadership for the wellbeing and success of immigrants in Champaign County.

Congratulations to the 2015 Immigrant Welcome Award Winners!

Student Leadership Award - student who has shown promise as an important leader in immigrationissues, locally or beyond

Alberto Lara Valdivieso – a University of Illinois student who has engaged the Latino/a community both on and off campus. He is an exceptional student and a role model for many. Alberto recently started a project at Champaign School District Unit 4, called Nuestra Raises Latinas, to motivate Latino/a immigrants to pursue higher education. In addition, he is member of the La Casa Cultural Latino Youth Conference Committee, a program that brings more than 200 Latino High School Students to campus during the Spring semester.  He is also a volunteer for La Casa’s Pen Pal program where he engages K-5 students to practice their Language Art skills for the Dual/Bilingual program in Champaign and Urbana.

Business Leadership Award - A business that contributes to the local immigrant community through advocacy, donations or in-kind services and/or a locally owned immigrant owned business that has contributed to the local economic development of CU.

Sister Sister African Hair Braiding - Since 2005, Sister Sister has trained immigrants in the skill of African hair braiding. Most of the immigrant trainees are from the Congo and several other French speaking African countries. The owners, Fanta and Suke, enable the trainees to both draw on skills from their home countries and learn to develop styles that cater to U.S. tastes. Sister Sister offers a high quality hair braiding service and a supportive entry point for new immigrants to adapt to a new place and be gainfully employed.

Institutional Award – Local government or other large community institution, which has made significant changes in response to the growing immigrant population.

International Prep Academy for Newcomers, Champaign School District, Unit 4 - The newly created Newcomers classroom housed at Columbia School serves children from 4th to 8th grades who are learning English and often times having to catch-up with academic basics. Student comes from very diverse circumstances and countries. Effective teaching requires not only assessing the academic strengths and weakness of students, but also developing a relationship with many families and working with social service and other resource providers to make sure the students have everything they need to succeed in school.

Community Organization Award – A Nonprofit or community-based organization, which demonstrates exceptional commitment to serving and advocating for local immigrants

New Americans English as a Second Language at First Presbyterian Church Champaign  - The New Americans ESL program offers formal English Classes for immigrants, refugees and international visitors of all faiths and all nations. The curriculum focuses on life skills, jobs and acculturation for students with beginning to high intermediate proficiency. This is a free community program, childcare is provided during classes, and it is all funded by private gifts. During the period September through June 183 students enrolled representing 33 countries (Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, China, Colombia, Cuba, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Morocco, Palestine, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Russia, Somalia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Vietnam). One paid teacher and 27 community volunteers make this all possible.

Leadership Award – An individual who has been a strong leader in the immigrant community.

Lucia Maldonado – works as a liaison for the Latino families in the Urbana School District. Lucia is a tireless leader and dedicated advocate for the local immigrant community. She works countless hours supporting immigrant families in Urbana schools, making the children and families get the information they need to successfully navigate their lives in a new country. For several years now she has coordinated visits of the Chicago based Mexico and Guatemala Consulates. Additionally, she has served on several local organization boards that serve our community. She cares for each and every family as if they were her own.

Distinguished Service Award – An individual who has demonstrated long-term commitment to the local immigrant community.

Dr. Bob Kirby  - As a lay leader at First Presbyterian of Champaign, he has encouraged members of his congregation to be actively involved in immigration justice and advocacy issues – holding ESL classes at the church and helping immigrant individuals and families, organizing panels and screening documentaries on the need for immigration reform, leading delegations of church members to work with immigration rights groups assisting immigrants on the Mexican border, and raising funds for various local initiatives. His church each year collects coats and other winter gear for families assisted by the East Central Illinois Mutual Assistance and Refugee Center. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

[June 2015 Newsletter] Immigrant Friendly Nominations, @ the Urbana Market, Volunteer Drivers Needed, & More!

2015 Welcoming Week in Champaign-Urbana

During the week of September 12-20, 2015Welcoming America and its partners across the country will host National Welcoming Week, a nationwide event that will highlight the contributions of immigrants to American communities. Throughout the country, these events will bring together immigrants and U.S.-born community members in a spirit of unity.

The CU Immigration Forum is organizing welcoming events in Champaign-Urbana including an Immigrant Friendly Awards Ceremony, a soccer game, musical performances, the More Than One Story game, and more!

Learn more and be a part of the event planning! Join the Immigrant Friendly working group on Monday, June 29 at 5pm at the Channing Murray Foundation, at the corner of Oregon and Matthews in Urbana, IL.

(Go through the west side entrance where the Red Herring restaurant is located and walk through the door to the left of the lobby.)

for more information.
The Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum is hosting our 
2nd Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards!

*Nominations are now being accepted* 

Deadline: August 15, 2015.

Pictured left to right: 
Pastor Guy Lombela, Ricardo Carillo, Guadalupe Abreu accepting on behalf of ECIRMAC, Allison Peraz Briseno, and Father Tom Royer.
Immigrant Welcome Awards recognizes the contributions of individuals and organizations that have created a welcoming atmosphere for immigrants in the Champaign-Urbana community. 

We are seeking nominations for individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions, taken risks, and have provided leadership for the wellbeing and success of immigrants in Champaign County.

1. Click on the nomination form link 
2. Scroll down and fill out the form below. 
3. Call or text Stacy at 217-369-1168 if you have any questions or need to submit your nomination in hard copy.

2014 winners: 
- Student Leadership Award - Allison Perez Briseno 

- Business Leadership Award - Rick's Bakery 

- Leadership Award - Guy Lombela

- Distinguished Service Award - Father Tom Royer (Retired St. Mary's Church)

- Community Organization Award - East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center

Selection and Ceremony
A committee of community representatives will select awardees.

 An awards ceremony, with music and refreshments, will be held on September 12, 2015. All community members are invited.

Please mark your calendars:
Immigrant Welcome Awards Celebration
Saturday, September 12, 2015
Location and Time: TBD

We look forward to seeing your nominations!
Thank you!
CU Immigration Forum

Calling all volunteers!
Spend part of your Saturday at Urbana's 
beautiful Market at the Square!


Come and spend a portion of your Saturday morning with the C-U Immigration Forum at Urbana's beautiful Market at the Square.

 Volunteering at the market is a fun way to connect with people in the community and share information about the mission of the CU Immigration forum and current activities.

Time slots are for one hour increments and we are looking for 2 people to be at the booth at a time.

Don't be put off if someone has already signed on a slot that you want, come on anyway. On the other hand, if you see a blank spot, fill it and that motivates others to join you. 

Be well and be part of the movement! 
Relief for 
Refugee Children
A Call For Volunteer Drivers, Navigators!

Over the past few months, you have given generously for unaccompanied minors in CU to be able to pay for the cost of legal representation. Your continued generosity has meant that we have been able to successfully coordinate the legal help several children needed to attend their hearings in Chicago during the month of June. With your continued support and our search for as many forms of relief as possible, more children can safely find the care and refuge they need and deserve in Illinois. 

It would have also been very difficult to make sure that the children could attend legal appointments in Chicago without the help of volunteer drivers who dedicated their time to safely guide and transport by car and public transportation

The need for volunteer drivers is great. Email us atinfo@cuimmigrationforum.orgfor more information or justsign up today on the volunteer driver interest form and we'll get back to you about being an on-call volunteer driver. 

We know of at least 45 unaccompanied refugee children from Central America who are living alone here in Champaign-Urbana. These children in CU go to high school, have one or two evening and night jobs, all while navigating the transportation system, not only locally but to and throughout Chicago in order to attend legal hearings to find relief and stay in country.

There are many barriers that hinder or prevent these children from making it to their meetings-the care and guidance of an adult, money, language and cultural barriers. 
Event Sponsorships
Congolese Community of Champaign County Benefit Concert

THIS SATURDAY: Join us for a benefit concert featuring a musical performance by visiting Congolese artist, Jean-Rene Balekita. 

Conduis-Moi by Jean Rene Balekita
Conduis-Moi by Jean Rene Balekita

When: Saturday, June 27, 2015 
Doors open at 6pm. Performance at 7pm

Where: University YMCA,
1001 S. Wright Street, Champaign, IL
(Corner of Wright & Chalmers on the U. of I. Campus)

Free parking is available.
Near Transit Plaza bus stop, Armory & Wright bus stop, and Wright & Chalmers bus stop.

Admission: ($10 at the door) 

All proceeds to support an emergency fund for local Congolese families. Co-sponsored by the University YMCA and the Congolese Community of Champaign County. 

Like us on Facebook Join the event on facebook.
Benefit Concert Flyer (pdf)

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice - and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Next Meeting Time!

July 14 at 5pm

@ the University YMCA 
1001 S. Wright Street, Champaign, IL

-Free Parking after 4pmduring summer hours behind the University YMCA building.

-Parking lot on 6th between Daniel & Chalmers - Free after 5pm

-Parking garage on 6th & John - Free after 5pm.

Click on the calendar to view upcoming events and meeting times.


Like us on Facebook   Visit our blog  

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

April 27 law clinic, everyone welcome.

Please print flyers, make copies, and distribute as needed to welcome your community.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

March 2015 Newsletter
Still image taken from the film "Which Way Home," a documentary which follows several unaccompanied child migrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. on a freight train they call "The Beast." This film shows the personal side of immigration through the eyes of children who face harrowing dangers.

The Voices of C-U Migrant Children 
Who Live Alone Here 

Currently, there are several unaccompanied minors in Champaign-Urbana who are facing the stress of approaching immigration court dates and paying for legal representation. The strength and bravery of unaccompanied minors should not go unnoticed. These students are determined to receive an education and provide for their families, which is their human right.

Please take a moment to read the experiences of unaccompanied children who live here right in CU:

"Every day I tell myself that it is ok to suffer a little bit here.  The desert was very cold. I spent 3 nights there. That was really bad. This now, being mistreated and abused, having a little pain is not bad compared to spending the night in the desert"

"One day my dad and I were just walking downtown in Guatemala when suddenly a group of men just came out of nowhere and killed another man. Right there in front of us. My dad got really scared for me. I think that's the day he decided to send me here".

"It took me  months to get here. I was 14 years old when I left my house and I was 15 already when I got here.  I was traveling with a group but then we got separated and I stayed alone until I found another group"

"I got on top of the train! Everyone knows about the train! I got very tired. It was too many hours on top of that train and the movement makes you sleepy. But everyone tells you not to fall asleep because then you fall and you die. It is hard not to fall asleep!"

"I like the school. I don't want to stop coming to school. This is where I eat. This is where I learn and my teachers help me.  I don't have any other place. My school is my place."   

"My only concern right now is my appointment next year with immigration. I'm afraid of what they are going to tell me. I still don't have a lawyer. What do you think they are going to tell me?  Only 13 more months for my next appointment. I can't get that out of my mind."
Last fall, the Immigration Forum held a forum to raise awareness about the issues and experiences that Unaccompanied Minors face. We will continue our work to raise awareness and to raise funds to provide assistance to Unaccompanied Minors.


For more information, here's a good article that answers lingering questions about unaccompanied minors:  

Immigrant Friendly CU 

The CU Immigration Forum's Immigrant Friendly C-U Committee is working with University of Illinois students from the Department of Urban & Regional Planning to learn about businesses owned by residents born in other countries.
So far, the students have interviewed over twenty Urbana business owners born from all around the world, including Mexico, England, Iran, Germany, El Salvador, Korea, China, Mali, Thailand, India and many more countries. We've learned that the foreign-born population is an important part of the local economy. Additionally, many contribute time and resources to local community events and programs. Complying with the myriad of government regulations can be a challenge, especially when English is the second language.
If you are interested in learning more about this project, listen to FM 104.5 on Monday nights from 7-8pm, CUIF's Radio Show.
Taped portions also replayed on CUIF TV, UPTV Channel 6 Friday at 6:30pm each week and can also be found on YouTube. We look forward to finishing our study. The students will make a final presentation in early May. 
For more information, contact Professor Stacy Harwood,

UI students, Kyoungjae Park and Roman Yanke with Host Tom Garza (and CUIF president) at 104.5 FM Studio. Estudiantes de UI, Kyoungjae Park y Roman Yanke con el presentador (y presidente de CUIF) Tom Garza  en el estudio 104.5 FM.

CU Immigration Forum
Radio & TV Show

CU Immigration episode #3
CU Immigration episode #3

Host Thomas Garza of the CU Immigration Forum and guests Maria Alanis from the Champaign Schools and Sol Angel Tindera of the International Prep Academy 

On Bilingual Education

CU Immigration Forum TV on

Late on February 16, 2015, Federal judge Andrew Hanen ruled that the Obama administration has to temporarily halt implementation of its executive actions on immigration. 

This lawsuit is nothing more than a partisan political attack on President Obama's executive action on administrative relief. But even though the judge's order might temporarily delay the implementation of deferred action programs like expanded DACA and DAPA, it will not stop them. 

The Department of Justice filed an emergency request to stay the judge's order this week. This emergency request could be decided potentially in a matter of days, and could result in allowing expanded DACA and then DAPA applications to proceed. 

In the meantime, we will continue educating, preparing, and planning for administrative relief.

Here are five things you should know about the status of the expanded DACA and DAPA programs in regards to the lawsuit:


1) Do not worry! Remember that this decision does not repeal, but only delays, expanded DACA and DAPA.

2)The decision is not permanent. We are confident the higher courts will reject this lawsuit since it has no legal merit.

3) Prepare for expanded DACA and DAPA. Continue to gather your documents and save money as the application fee is $465.

4) Current DACA remains unchanged. The decision only affects the announcement made in November 2014, NOT the 2012 DACA program. 

5) Get involved and stay informed. Visit for more information and updates. Sign up for text alerts by texting READY to 630-524-4106

Extended DACA
The White House is also expanding the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  Currently this program only covered youths who arrive in the US before June 15, 2007.  The expansion:
  • moves the cutoff date to January 1, 2010.
  • removes the upper age limit, which currently limits DACA eligibility to only those youths who were born after June 15, 1981.
  • Finally, DACA coverage would last three years, not two.  
This action could benefit as many as 300,000 immigrant youth. Not in effect yet because of the immigration lawsuit.

Existing DACA requirements:
You can apply for DACA if you:
  • Were under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012;
  • Came to the United States before reaching your 16th birthday;
  • Have continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, up to the present time;
  • Were physically present in the United States on June 15, 2012, and at the time of making your request for consideration of deferred action with USCIS;
  • Had no lawful status on June 15, 2012;
  • Are currently in school, have graduated or obtained a certificate of completion from high school, have obtained a general education development (GED) certificate, or are an honorably discharged veteran of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States; and
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor,or three or more other misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

Are you a permanent resident interested in becoming 
a U.S. Citizen? 

Are you interested in volunteering to help others go through the process of naturalization?

Citizenship Means: New Opportunities, a United Family, and Better Jobs

On March 21, The Refugee Center, The University YMCA, CU Immigration Forum, and The Immigration project are co-sponsoring a free Citizenship Workshop. This workshop is part of The New Americans Initiative, a not-for-profit partnership with The State of Illinois (more information about this partnership is provided below).

Citizenship Workshop
What is a Citizenship Workshop?

The Citizenship Workshop (Free)
Saturday, March 21, 2015
At the Urbana Free Library
210 W. Green Street | Urbana, IL 

Assistance includes conducting one-on-one consultations to assist people in the 
completion of the N400 application, in available application financing, and in getting 
connected to community resources.

For more information, download:

The New Americans Initiative, a non-profit partnership with The State of Illinois, provides FREE* services such as:

· Presenting information on the naturalization process
· Providing a checklist of the documents needed
· Assisting with the completion of your application
· Helping you file for an "application fee" waiver, if you are eligible
· Providing advice and assistance until your oath ceremony
· Having an attorney review your application and provide legal assistance
*This excludes the $10 postage fee for The Immigration Project to submit your application.
Questions? Contact NAI/University YMCA at or NAI/ECIRMAC at
CU Immigration Forum 
General Meeting

Learn more. Get involved. 
Join us for our next meeting! 

When: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 at 5pm
Where: University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright St., Champaign (corner of Wright & Chalmers)

Join us for our next meeting on Tuesday, April 14 at 5pm at the University YMCA. Help us plan for events and action items and directly serve our Immigrant Families in Champaign-Urbana. 

The Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum is a group of immigrants, students, clergy, service providers, labor union representatives, residents and community organizations concerned about the progress and plight of immigrants in the Champaign County community (Central Illinois). The C-U Immigration Forum meets regularly (on the second Tuesday of each month) to discuss immigration-related issues and events in our community and works to:
  • Celebrate the diversity and culture that immigrants contribute to our community;
  • Educate the public about issues that affect local immigrant communities;
  • Advocate for the rights of immigrants and encourage their full participation in civic, cultural, social and political life in our community;
  • Promote permanent and positive changes that will improve the quality of life for immigrants in our community; and
  • Organize for policies that lead to just and humane treatment to all immigrants that are part of our community. 
For more information, call 217-979-0255 or