Sunday, November 8, 2015

Clothing / $ Drive for Students in CU -- from Guatemala

The CU Immigration Forum is hosting a clothing drive for students from Guatemala who are in Champaign-Urbana alone. In 2014, over 68,000 children from Central America crossed the US Mexico border alone. Several of these children are here in our community. The students in Urbana left Guatemala to escape poverty, violence, and crime. They live independently and support themselves and have to pay for expensive legal representation to support their asylum cases. We hope to provide warm clothes for the upcoming winter months. 

We are collecting winter coats, winter boots, hats, gloves, scarves, and sweaters. Sizes ranging from small and medium adult shirts, medium jackets, 28-30 pants, and 7-8 shoes. Also one younger child who is size 12 pants, medium children's jacket & shirts, and size 5 shoes. 

You can drop off clothes at 1001 S. Wright St. in Champaign, IL from 9am-8pm Nov. 7th - Nov. 14th. If you wish to donate money please click on our "support" tab on our website. Thank you so much for your support! 

Friday, November 6, 2015

There's some changes happening around here!

Dear Friends,

It is our community members who encourage the CU Immigration Forum to reach out and connect in new and meaningful ways. We invite you to grow with the Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum as we have officially become a 501c3 community non-profit.

Please join us for our new CU Immigration Forum meeting format starting this December 2015! (Our November 10th meeting will be cancelled as we are hosting the Immigrant-Friendly Fair & Forum at the Unitarian Universalist Church that evening. We'd love to chat with you there! Also, mark your calendars for The Forum: More Than One Story to take place on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 at 5pm at the University YMCA, 1001 S. Wright Street, Champaign.)

The CU Immigration Forum was created in order to bring together people who were interested in and working on issues related to immigration. We wanted to share information and resources in the hopes that this would not only increase our individual effectiveness, allowing us to better serve our chosen communities, but also create a space for a mutually beneficial and productive cross-fertilization of ideas to take place.

Over time, however, as we have transitioned from being primarily a communications hub to an active hands-on organization, our meetings have become increasingly exclusive, requiring those in attendance to posses prior knowledge of the topics being discussed or risk being sidelined with no easy point of entry into the conversation.

We are committed to changing this.

We are restructuring our monthly meetings in a way that allows us the space to encourage discussion and dialogue as it fits to our mission, while promoting opportunities for interested members to join a working group and help tackle specific problems and areas that concern them.

To this end, our monthly meetings have now become monthly forums, as we will host facilitated group discussions, and occasional presentations by guest speakers on important topics related to our shared work. In so doing, we work to better our understanding of each other and to lift up and engage each other in our mission to serve and advocate for the progress of immigrant lives.

The discussion of most of the day-to-day operational details will take place in the individual working groups themselves, and from those to the monthly steering meeting for final coordination and allocation of resources. At the beginning of each monthly forum, we will share a brief overview of what is being done by each of these groups so that everyone remains informed.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Our Statement on the Dehumanizing Daily Illini Cartoon

Recently, on Tuesday, October 27th the Daily Illini (DI) published a cartoon that portrays a white man dressed as stated “an illegal immigrant” for Halloween. We, the CU Immigration Forum, are disappointed by the publication, but more so the limited knowledge and understanding that surrounds immigration reform and the term “illegal” to describe human beings.

Our nation is built on the foundation of immigrants and should celebrate the diversity and cultures that immigrants offer. However, this cartoon is ignorant to the risks involved and what people leave behind who immigrate to the United States. The cartoon also dehumanizes the reasons why people cross the U.S. Mexico border in the first place. Our DREAMers who already experience daily forms of institutionalized racism on this campus are affected by the image because of the sacrifices they themselves, families, and friends have made to live in this country.

Several children in CU were forced to migrate here on their own to escape cruel poverty or gang violence. There are thousands of children throughout the United States in this situation. We consider their journey dangerous and brave—not a joke. The cartoon attempts to silence the deaths of over 6,000 men, women, and children along the border since 2000. Every person deserves the right to have access to food, water, shelter, live without violence, and happiness. When these fundamental rights are denied the human spirit will fight.

In this moment, CU Immigration Forum stands in solidarity with our DREAMers at UIUC, and the immigrant and Latino/a communities of Champaign-Urbana. We want to shed light on the strength of our DREAMers and immigrants who continue to strive in the face of these “accidental” or “well-intentioned” acts of violence, from the symbolic to the visceral (or “physical or “deadly”), on a daily basis.

This cartoon is unacceptable, but let it be a reminder to raise your voice against injustice, advocate for transparency and inclusion, and appreciate the diversity of our classroom, workplace, and home. We will continue to organize for the progress of immigrants because no human being is “illegal,” and everyone should be treated with compassion and dignity, whatever their status.

In Solidarity,
CU Immigration Forum

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Celebrating Immigrant-Friendly Healthcare Providers & Advocates, Continuing the Conversation

For more information, contact: CU Immigration Forum
[; 217-337-1500]


CU Immigration Forum Celebrates Immigrant-Friendly 
Healthcare Providers, Continues the Conversation 

[November 10, 2015; Champaign County, IL] The CU Immigration Forum announces that ensuring access to quality healthcare for all Illinoisans has officially become another key component of their Immigrant Friendly Communities Campaign. As of October 14, the CU Immigration Forum Steering Committee has officially endorsed the Healthy Illinois Campaign, which aims to insure all Illinoisans, despite a person’s documentation status. The CU Immigration Forum has endorsed the Healthy Illinois Campaign with the understanding that expanding health insurance coverage to all Illinoisans will benefit the entire state by promoting positive health outcomes, family financial stability, and a more secure Illinois economy.

To celebrate the immigrant-friendly work of our local healthcare providers and agencies and to kick off the Healthy Illinois Campaign locally, the CU Immigration Forum will host the Immigrant Friendly Health Fair & Forum on Tuesday, November 10, 2015. The event will take place from 5pm to 8pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Champaign-Urbana, 309 W. Green Street, Urbana, Illinois.

We Celebrate & Recognize We Can Do More: Local governments, institutions and agencies work hard to provide and ensure quality primary and preventative healthcare to residents of Champaign County, despite a person’s income level, documentation status or English language proficiency. In celebration, the CU Immigration Forum would like to lift up the immigrant-friendly work that takes place in our local, healthcare service and advocacy settings; such as the tireless commitment of agencies like Avicenna, Promise Healthcare and the Champaign County Healthcare Consumers. However, it is our local non-profit agencies who are the most burdened with providing healthcare to their remaining uninsured residents, of whom are largely undocumented immigrants. Uninsured residents will eventually, by age or accident, find themselves in emergency rooms and the uncompensated care health system. The State of Illinois has an interest in providing primary and preventative care early, rather than more expensive and intrusive care when it is too late.

The Fair & Forum: At the event, all residents of Champaign County are welcome to receive free medical screenings, information about healthcare resources such as free medical clinics and attend presentations on navigating the healthcare marketplace, dealing with culture shock and transitioning as a newcomer, and getting connected with low-cost immigration legal assistance. Childcare will be provided at the event.

During the Fair, Healthy Illinois will host a community forum on ensuring Illinois’s future by insuring all Illinoisans from 7pm to 8pm, which will take place in the Children’s Fellowship Hall of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Champaign-Urbana. The mission of the Healthy Illinois Campaign is to make quality, affordable health care coverage accessible to all people in Illinois. For more information about Healthy Illinois, please click here for a one page overview. For further questions, please contact Campaign Director Jesse Hoyt of the Healthy Illinois Campaign [(773)507-4809;].

Click here to download the event flyer. (pdf)
Haga clic aquí para descargar el folleto. (pdf)
Cliquez ici pour télécharger le flyer. (pdf)

Immigrant-Friendly Fair & Forum events:

Fellowship Hall: 5pm to 8pm
-Free Healthcare Screenings
-Immigrant-Friendly Health & Community Resource Booths

Children’s Fellowship Hall: 5:30pm to 8pm
-5:30 Navigating the Healthcare SystemChampaign County Healthcare Consumers
-6:00 Low-Cost Immigration Legal Assistance (The Immigration Project)
-6:30 Dealing With Culture Shock & Transitioning (East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC))
-7:00 Immigrant Family Forum on Healthcare Access (Healthy Illinois Campaign)
Additional Details:
This event is completely free and open to the public. Parking is available behind the church and on High St. Free childcare will be additionally provided at the event.

A BIG thank you to our participating agencies and sponsors:
​Ambit Energy, Avicenna Community Health Center, Congolese Community of Champaign County, Champaign County Christian Health Center, Champaign County Health Care Consumers, CU Immigration Forum, East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center, Frances Nelson Health Center, Healthy Illinois, HeRMES, Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Association, The Immigration Project, Smile Healthy, Social Action Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign, University YMCA, and the Urbana Adult Education Center

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.


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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

April 27 law clinic, everyone welcome.

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