Monday, August 14, 2017

Submit your nominations today for the 4th Annual Welcome Awards!

Now Accepting Your Nominations 
for the 4th Annual Welcome Awards!
The Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum is hosting the 4th Annual Welcome Awards! This year we are excited to announce a new collaboration with the cities of Champaign and Urbana. As part of this new partnership, the Champaign-Urbana International Humanitarian Awards (CUIHA) will now be included in the Immigrant Welcome Award Ceremony. 

The CU Immigration Forum is now accepting your nominations in consideration of the individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions, taken risks, and have provided leadership for the well-being and success of immigrants in Champaign County. To view the award categories and to nominate, please fill this short form using the following link: CU Immigration Forum will accept your nominations through September 1, 2017.

The award recipients will be officially recognized at the 4th Annual Welcome Awards Ceremony and Celebration from 2pm-4pm on Saturday, September 23, 2017 at the Muslim American Society Center. Event goers can expect food and fun for the whole family as we recognize and celebrate the individuals and organizations that have created a welcoming atmosphere for immigrants in Champaign County, Illinois.  For more information about the event including past award recipients, visit:

This event is part of Welcoming Week (September 15-24), a national week of events that works to bring communities bring together, immigrants and U.S.-born residents in a spirit of unity and to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone. For more information about Welcoming Week, visit Welcoming America's website at:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Join us in support of immigrants at the July 4 parade

In an effort to demonstrate local support for immigrants in our community, the
C-U Immigration Forum is organizing a huge participation in the July 4th Freedom Parade. 

Our goal is to have 500 people march with us in the parade.  If you are free to join us, please do so but also help spread the word among family, friends, co-workers and other organizations or faith communities you are active with. 

We are encouraging people to sign up so we can track how many folks are participating and also to send out updates about details of the event. Sign up here: 

Show up, speak out in your own unique way for the support of local immigrants and the progress of human rights. You can also join us in raising your voice and showing support in other ways: 

Join us for a sign-making party on Saturday, July 1st from 2pm-4pm at the University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright Street. This is a kid-friendly event with food and plenty of crafty supplies. Immigration Forum t-shirts are also available for purchase to be visible with us at the parade and support our work. You may order your t-shirt here: order your shirt by June 20th to pick up before or at the parade.)

Attached here is the flyer for more details. 
Thanks for your help and support.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017 Begins

It's the end of a hard year for immigrants but an even worse year is starting soon. Several people have asked me how they can help to make it better; the truth is, I am not sure if there is any one answer. I do know that the greatest growth is when we all stand together, one person with another, in solidarity.
This means that we each put in gifts and talents in a different way and volunteering in direct help is never to be underestimated. 

Still, the situation is such that we will require more translators, more lawyers, more organizing, more answering phones, more legislative actions. 

If you are able to make a monetary contribution, today is a good day to bolster the organizations that will lead those efforts in the Urbana-Rantoul-Champaign area:

+The CU Immigration Forum fills the niche for advocacy, coalescing, and stands with immigrants of all sorts.   Make the check to Attn: CU Immigration Forum, The University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright St. , Champaign, IL 61820

+The University Y is a meeting point, and they answer the lines for those in distress through the La Linea in various languages and they serve as the 211 in Spanish for the county

+The Refugee CenterECIRMAC,  is the oldest direct assistance agency; great staff, small place, great asset. Send checks to 302 S. Birch, Urbana, IL 61801

+The Immigration Project is our go-to for non private immigration lawyers; the recent opening of an office in Champaign makes it easier for minors and those in physical danger.
   You can send a check to P.O. Box 1503, Bloomington, Illinois 61702-1503.

+Some graduate students have recently formed The Three Spinners to help settle refugees in the area.

Sincerely, Ricardo Diaz

Monday, November 28, 2016

A letter to Immigrants of Champaign County/Una carta a los inmigrantes en el condado de Champaign

Estimados inmigrantes que residen en el área de Champaign, Urbana, y Rantoul:

Los Estados Unidos de América ha sido visto como una tierra de oportunidades y esperanza, y a lo largo de su historia millones de  inmigrantes han venido aquí porque han creído en ese ideal y soñaron que aquí encontrarían un lugar donde pudieran formar una mejor vida.

Las recientes elecciones han sacudido en muchos de nosotros la fe en esa imagen  y algunos están ahora viviendo con miedo, sin saber qué esperar del futuro y cómo prepararse para el.

El Foro de Inmigración de Champaign Urbana quiere aprovechar esta oportunidad para declarar inequívocamente que si usted es un inmigrante que teme que su familia va a ser separada a través de la deportación - nosotros estamos con ustedes en esto. Si usted es un refugiado que teme que se le enviará de regreso a un lugar peligroso - estamos con usted en esto.

Queremos asegurarle sin lugar a dudas de que vamos a estar junto a  ustedes y lucharemos contra cualquier y cada intento de la nueva administración que quiera usar sus promesas extremistas e intente convertirlas en política nacional.

En los próximos meses  llegaremos a entender las ramificaciones de esta elección, y  le instamos a que se unan a nosotros. Necesitamos más que nunca estar unidos y de pie contra la retórica deshumanizante y las políticas inhumanas. El Foro de Inmigración CU, como una organización que sirve a las familias inmigrantes, busca fomentar el diálogo inclusivo, y defiende los derechos de los inmigrantes, se enorgullece de trabajar con aquellos que comparten nuestros valores. Es gracias a ustedes que las ciudades de Champaign y Urbana han expresado su deseo de ser más acogedor para los inmigrantes y los recién llegados, y tenemos la intención de presionar para que  actúen ahora y tomen medidas adicionales para garantizar que la promesa de bienvenida  se convierta en política oficial.

El cambio comienza con la toma de acción en nuestras propias comunidades. El movimiento en el condado de Champaign ha  comenzado, y continuará creciendo y fortaleciéndose, pero no podemos hacerlo sin ustedes.

Necesitamos el apoyo de los demás, así que por favor añada su voz y unase a nosotros en la acción.

Este miércoles, 30 de de noviembre, le invitamos a unirse a nosotros para una reunión comunitaria sobre cómo el Condado de Champaign puede apoyar mejor a las comunidades de inmigrantes que viven aquí. ¡Asegúrese  que su voz sea escuchada! También pedimos que por favor revise su email  esta semana para firmar el formulario de acción y hacernos saber cómo desea unirse al movimiento para seguir avanzando.

Muchos en Rantoul, Urbana y Champaign están dispuestos a ser sus aliados, ya que quieren hacer este país más acogedor para todos; gracias por superar sus miedos y convertirse en un residente activo  y un defensor de sus derechos y valores.

El Foro de Inmigración CU

Dear immigrants residing in the Champaign, Urbana, and Rantoul area:

The United States of America has long been seen as a land of opportunity and hope, and throughout its history millions of immigrants have come here because they believed in that ideal and dreamed that here they would find a place where they could make a better life.

The recent elections have, for many of us, shaken our faith in that image, and some are now living in fear, wondering what to expect from the future and how to prepare for it.

Therefore the CU Immigration Forum wants to take this opportunity to state unequivocally that if you are an immigrant who fears that your family will be torn apart through deportation-we are with you in this. If you are a refugee who fears that you will be sent back to a dangerous and deadly situation-we are with you in this.

We want to assure you in no uncertain terms that we will stand by you and fight any and every attempt by the incoming administration to take their extreme campaign promises and turn them into actual national policy. 

In the coming months, as we come to understand the full ramifications of this election, we urge you to join with us. We need more than ever to unite and stand up against dehumanizing rhetoric and inhumane policies. The CU Immigration Forum, as an organization that serves immigrant families, seeks to foster inclusive dialogue, and advocates for immigrant rights, is proud to be united with those who share our values. It is all because of you that the Cities of Champaign and Urbana have expressed a desire to be more welcoming to immigrants and newcomers, and we intend to press them to act now and to take further steps to ensure that promise of welcome becomes a part of official policy.

Change starts with taking action in our own communities. The movement in Champaign County is just getting started, and it will continue to grow and strengthen, but we cannot do it without you.

We need each other’s support, so please add your voice and join us in taking action.
This Wednesday, November 30th, we invite you to join us for a community meeting on how Champaign County may best support the immigrant communities that live here (more details below). Make your voice heard! We also ask that you please check your inbox this week to sign our action form and let us know how you may want to join the movement going forward.

Many in Rantoul, Urbana, and Champaign are willing to be your allies because they want to make this country more welcoming for all; thank you for overcoming your fears and becoming an involved resident and a defender of your rights and values.

The CU Immigration Forum
Attn: Champaign County, IL
How To Be A Supporter For The Immigrant Community
Wednesday, November 30th, 2016 | 6:30pm-8:00pm
Champaign Public Library | 200 W Green St., Champaign, IL 61820
(in Robeson Rooms A & B)
Follow the event on Facebook.

Join the CU Immigration Forum for an "Ask An Immigrant" panel discussion on how to be a supporter for Immigrant Communities in Champaign County. The panel discussion will feature community advocates who work closely with local immigrant communities. People attending the meeting are encouraged to ask questions and participate in the discussion.

The meeting will then follow with a "Dos and Donts" overview in providing support to families and close with an overview of available resources, immigration updates, and ways to take action.

Questions? Contact the CU Immigration Forum at

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Interested in Joining a Group 
Dedicated to Addressing Local Wage Theft Incidents
Affecting Immigrants?

Did you know that some employees in the Champaign-Urbana area hire immigrants and refuse to pay them for much of their labor? Imagine immigrating to a new country, working for a long period, and, then, not being paid for months of your work. Frightened by the fear of being deported in response to reporting the incidents, many immigrant workers do not know where to turn to for help.

This is the plight of many. This is wage theft.

In response to calls that CU Immigration Forum has received about local wage theft, the organization held a forum on September 12th at the University YMCA. During the event, Chicago labor and civil rights lawyer Sean Morales-Doyle and a member of the Department of Labor discussed wage theft issues affecting immigrants and undocumented populations and what can be done to confront these issues. An audio file recording of the discussion is included in this email.

Missed the forum? Check out the recording on our YouTube channel:

Currently, CU Immigration Forum is forming a working group consisting of community members, undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and clergy leaders to address these local wage theft incidents. 
If you are interested in joining this group, please email us at

No prior experience working on immigrant rights issues is necessary. All are invited to join this group of the CU Immigration Forum community. 

Questions? Please email

Monday, September 12, 2016

CU Immigration Forum Announces the 2016 recipients of the 3rd Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards

CU Immigration Forum Finalizes the 2016 recipients of the
3rd Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards


The CU Immigration Forum is pleased to announce the 2016 recipients of the 3rd Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards. This year's award ceremony and celebration will take place on Saturday, September 24, 2016 from 1pm-4pm at the Urbana Free Library (in Lewis Auditorium), 210 W. Green Street in Urbana, Illinois.

Come celebrate the diversity of cultures that make up our community with an afternoon of music, food and art projects for children and special guests. This is a Welcoming Week event, part of a national week that brings together immigrants and U.S. born residents in a spirit of unity. We will also recognize the winners of the Immigrant Friendly Awards which are given to individuals and organizations that have created a welcoming atmosphere for immigrants in Champaign County. This year's winners include Cristina Lucio, Namsoo Hyong, Ahh Ha Ho, World Harvest International Food, Avicenna Community Health Center, and Urbana School District 116's Bilingual and Multicultural Program. Below you will find more information about this year's award recipients.

“We believe Champaign-Urbana is strongest when everyone feels welcome and neighbors work together to make our community an even better place to live,” said Megan Flowers, Secretary Officer of the CU Immigration Forum. “We participate in Welcoming Week to honor the many contributions immigrants have made to Champaign-Urbana and to celebrate the values that unite us for a more vibrant, cohesive community.”

“These celebrations are part of a powerful and growing movement in our country and around the world,” said David Lubell, founder and executive director of Welcoming America. “Communities recognize that they are more vibrant and prosperous when everyone feels welcomed and can fully participate. In events across the world this week, new and long-time residents are building bridges and make their communities stronger.”

This event is free and open to all. There will be activities for children throughout the afternoon. This event is cosponsored by CU Immigration Forum, University YMCA, City of Urbana, City of Champaign, Welcoming America, Champaign Public Library, and Urbana Free Library.

Program Schedule:
1pm-2pm: Get the Facts on Immigrants in Champaign County (a workshop for anyone interested in learning more) with Susan Ogwal
2pm-2:30pm: Socializing and refreshments
2:30pm-4pm: Awards Ceremony and musical performances by La Voz Universal (Mayan) and by a Congolese group.

The 2016 Immigrant Welcome Award Recipients:

Student Leadership Award: A student who has shown promise as an important leader in immigration issues, locally or beyond.

Cristina Lucio: For the past two summers Cristina Lucio has interned full time in Tucson, Arizona at the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, a family advocacy organization working to end migrant death and related suffering on the US-Mexico border. She documented missing persons reports through phone interviews and helped organize Colibrí's DNA program initiative. Along with immigrant rights activists, she actively participated in community organization meetings, political demonstrations, dropping off gallons of water in the Tucson desert in hopes that migrants would find them, and other volunteer opportunities all related to immigrant rights and racial justice. Locally, as the undergraduate intern of the Anthropology Department for the past two years, Cristina made it a priority to organize events meant to center and discuss sociopolitical issues that are often undermined on the UIUC campus, including Central American and Mexican migration and US immigration policies. Her senior research work also contributes to critical anthropological analysis of US-Mexico border issues. During spring 2016 she was part of a group of undergrads conducting ethnographical research on immigrant detention in the Midwest, in which we presented at the Ethnography of the University Initiative Student Conference.

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

Namsoo Hyong - Master Namsoo Hyong has been an active member in the community since 1980. He migrated to Champaign from Korea with very little knowledge of the culture and language to continue his brother's Taekwondo academy. Together, they created a system of non-competitive martial arts that is inclusive of all regardless of race, gender or age. He was also an active member of the Savoy Rotary Club and helped with community projects in the surrounding area. He plays a key role in the Korean Student Association by introducing them to the American culture through socialization with the diverse group of students in his academy. He is also the president of American Intangible Cultural Heritage, which seeks to document culturally significant activities and educate others.

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

Anh Ha Ho - Ha Ho is the co-director of East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center. Ha Ho has been a vital support to refugees and immigrants in Central Illinois for decades. Though she has served in many roles in our community, her most important contribution hasbeen as the co-director of the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center. Her co-director Deb Hlavna has said, “It’s incredible how much she plugs herself into the community, both in her work and in her volunteer work. She has such incredible passion for people." * Ha Ho’s work at ECIRMAC is very demanding. Because it is a financially-challenged multi-service organization, Ha Ho has often had to serve above and beyond in many different roles – as social worker, translator, transportation provider, medical advocate, parenting advisor and even as consultant on how to obtain housing, education or basic necessities.

In addition to leadership at ECIRMAC, Ha Ho has also been a French teacher at Martin Luther King Elementary School, a translator at Carle Foundation Hospital, and a volunteer translator at Presence Covenant Medical Center and Christie Clinic. She also served as a Board member for the Urbana Free Library. It would be impossible to count the many lives that she has touched, and the many families she has helped through her work. Ha Ho’s own life prepared her for the challenge of serving others. She herself is a former refugee, born in Vietnam, and forced to face war and to flee her own country.

She understands first-hand the experience of living as an outsider and struggling to adjust to an unfamiliar culture. In addition to this profound affinity for others, Ha Ho brings an amazing facility with languages – fluency in English, Vietnamese, French and conversational ability in Spanish and German. “I know what it’s like to feel out of place and to just want to feel acceptance,” she has said. “I want to give people the help that I wish I had when I first moved here.” She brings her experience in a very personal way to all she serves tirelessly with enthusiasm and a smile.

Business Leadership Award: An immigrant owned business that contributes to the local economic development of CU or to the immigrant community through advocacy, donations or in-kind services.

World Harvest International Food (Mohammad Al-Heeti) - Mohammad Al-Heeti is a businessman who incorporates community as part of his business mission as stated on the website of one of his stores: "Our commitment to excellence extends beyond our store’s shelves. We understand the importance of a strong community, and we are dedicated to helping. We have worked to raise money for local schools, and given to causes promoting cultural understanding; disaster relief; as well as other causes important to our customers and staff." I know from personal experience, he generously donates both money and in-kind support to a wide variety of non-profits in our community. His personal engagement as a citizen is a model for all businesses. World Harvest was recognized for its role in the community in 2008, when it received the Champaign-Urbana International Humanitarian Award in Trade and Business!

Community Organization Award: A non-profit or community based organization, which demonstrates exceptional commitment to serving and advocating for local immigrants.

Avicenna Community Health Center - As an interfaith and multicultural not for profit organization, Avicenna Community Health Center helps the uninsured and under-insured, which include those of immigrant status, with medical and social service needs. It's mission is to provide health care for the uninsured and under insured, engage in preventative health care through community health screenings, and promote health awareness through education and information dissemination. Since it's opening in 2009, Avicenna not only helps the community as a whole but also educates through their volunteer program. They have helped many from other countries of origin to receive medical services and connect them with other service providers and cultural communities in the CU area. These volunteers dedicate their Sunday, every week, to assist in keeping those in the community happy and healthy. Those served at the clinic include people from the Congolese, Hispanic, Iranian, Arabian, Indian, and other cultural communities. Avicenna takes great care in making sure no one is left behind that need health services.

Institutional Award: Local government or other large community institution, which has made significant changes to better serve the growing immigrant population.

Urbana School District 116, Bilingual & Multicultural Programs - This award recognizes Urbana School District # 116 (USD 116) for its work with immigrant students and their parents.

We particularly lift up the work of the Bilingual and Bicultural Programs under the leadership of Joseph Wiemelt, Director, and Guadalupe Ricconi, assistant director of Equity and Student Learning; Bilingual and Multicultural Programs, and Lucia Maldonado, Latino Parent Liaison. Our commendation extends to all the teachers and staff working with immigrant families. We commend the leadership of Superintendent Donald Owen and the commitment of USD 116 Board of Education.

Support for new English learners extends from early childhood education, ages 3-5 through high school. On average there are about 750 students who speak a language other than English and 10% of all students in USD 116 are English Language Learners (ELLs). There are 46 different languages represented in the student population. Recognizing that the world truly comes to Urbana School District 116, the School Board voted unanimously to adopt a dual language immersion program. The program includes two groups in each classroom of approximately equal numbers of native speakers and Spanish speakers. Students spend part of the day learning in their native language and the other part of the day learning in their new language. Dual language students outperform their peers and because dual language students interact across cultures, both students and their families develop friendships overcoming barriers not only of language, but also barriers of race and class.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Now Seeking Nominations For The 3rd Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards

Press Release/PSA
For Immediate Release
August 3, 2016

For media inquiries, contact:
Megan Flowers, Secretary Officer for the CU Immigration Forum

CU Immigration Forum Now Seeking Nominations For
The 3rd Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards

The CU Immigration Forum is currently accepting nominations from the general public in consideration of the individuals and organizations who have made significant contributions, taken risks, and have provided leadership for the wellbeing and success of immigrants in Champaign County. The CU Immigration Forum will accept nominations for the following award categories through August 22, 2016. After the nominations have closed, a specially formed committee will select the award winners. The award recipients will be officially recognized at the 3rd Annual Immigrant Friendly Awards Ceremony & Celebration on the afternoon of Saturday, September 24, 2016 at the Urbana Free Library, 210 E. Green Street, Urbana, Illinois. A finalized program is to be announced.

To nominate, please fill out the short nominations forum using the following link:

The following categories of distinguished recognition include:

  • Distinguished Service Award – An individual who has demonstrated long-term commitment to the local immigrant community
  • Leadership Award – An individual who has been a strong leader in the immigrant community
  • Student Leadership Award - A student who has shown promise as an important leader in immigration issues, locally or beyond
  • Community Organization Award – A Nonprofit or community-based organization, which demonstrates exceptional commitment to serving and advocating for local immigrants
  • Institutional Award - Local government or other large community institution, which has made significant changes in response to the growing immigrant population
  • Business Leadership Award (Any business) - A business that contributes to the local immigrant community through advocacy, donations or in-kind services
  • Business Leadership Award (An Immigrant Owned Business)- 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

This event is part of Welcoming Week (September 16-25), a national week of events that works to bring communities bring together, immigrants and U.S.-born residents, in a spirit of unity and to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone – including new Americans. In the Fall of 2015, the cities of Champaign and Urbana have signed a joint proclamation last year declaring September 24 officially Immigrant Welcome Awards Day.

The CU Immigration Forum is proud to recognize and celebrate the contributions of individuals and organizations that have created a welcoming atmosphere for immigrants in Champaign County. For more information about the event including past award recipients, visit: