Friday, September 14, 2018

2018 Welcome Awards Judges Summary

The judge panel has convened and made its decisions. We appreciate their service and best effort in identifying others that serve. The Welcome Awards organizing committee is pleased to propagate the good news and invite everyone on Saturday September 22 3:30 to 5:30 at the Urbana Public Library

RSVP at the FB event

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
2018 Winner: Diva Nails. Annie and Kevin Nguyen, owners

Community Impact Award - A community-based organization, non-profit, public sector institution, or local government which demonstrates exceptional commitment to serving and advocating for local immigrants in our community. The nominee may also be considered for adopting specific policies or initiatives in response to the growing immigrant population.
2018 Winner: Carle Community Care and Neighborhood Health programs. Accepting: Julianna S. Sellett, Vice President - Community Health Initiatives

Distinguished Leadership Service Award – An individual who made a significant contribution to making our community more welcoming to immigrants and refugees.
2018 Winners: Roaa Al-Heeti  and Mike Doyle

Leadership Award - An individual who has been a strong leader of the immigrant community
2018 Winners: Luis Cuza and Luzolo Jean Cesar Ntedika

Student Leadership Award - A student who has shown promise as a leader or demonstrated commitment to serving or working with immigrants or refugees, locally or abroad.
2018 Winner: Carmen Hernandez 

See News-Gazette coverage

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Now Accepting Your Nominations for the 5th Annual Welcome Awards!

Now Accepting Your Nominations 
for the 5th Annual Welcome Awards!
The Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum is hosting the 5th Annual Welcome Awards! 

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:  

The CU Immigration Forum will accept your nominations through August 24, 2018.

The award recipients will be officially recognized at the 5th Annual Welcome Awards Ceremony and Celebration from 3:30pm-5pm on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at the Urbana Free Library. Event goers can expect 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. 

This event is part of Welcoming Week 2018 (September 14-23), 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:

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Let your Voice be Heard in Unison for the DREAMers

For Immediate Release
January 18, 2018

Let your Voice be Heard in Unison

The Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum (the IF) calls concerned citizens in Champaign Country and across Illinois to join their elected representatives and magnify their voice by supporting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) young people. Let your voices be heard in unison by calling the leader of the Senate.

Who is agreeing? All federal representatives for our county, Senator Durbin, Senator Duckworth, and Representative Davis agree that the young people affected should be helped ASAP.  

Who is affected? The Trump administration decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on March 6, 2018 sets into motion the deportation of hundreds of thousands of young adults or Dreamers who were brought to this country as children and know of no other country than the United States to call their home. Illinois has an estimated 42,000 DACA recipients.

Here in Champaign County, there is no official count of how many DACA recipients will be affected but there is no disagreement that hundreds of young adults will lose everything they have worked so hard for in their lives. DACA recipients are students in our high schools, at Parkland College, and the University of Illinois. Many contribute to our local economy in their professional careers having earned a college degree. Almost without exception, the Dreamers make our communities a better place to live.

According to almost all national polls, citizens of the U.S. are not in favor in expelling the Dreamers from our country. Last September, when President Trump rescinded the Executive Order created by President Obama in 2009, he stated it was up to Congress to pass legislation to support the Dreamers. The congressional leadership in Washington has not found a way to avoid gridlock and pass a law to support the Dreamers. Some progress was made; Senators Graham and Durbin are the leaders of a bipartisan ‘Gang of Six” who have presented President Trump an immigration compromise to provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients as well as $1.6 billion for border security.

Why now? Congress must agree every so often to fund government operations in a Continuing Resolution (CR). After passing a CR to avoid a government shutdown in December, a budget must be passed by noon this Friday. Senator McConnell and Representative Ryan, Republican leaders of the Senate and the House support “kicking the can down the road” by suggesting that a CR be passed in the next few days without including a solution that provides a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers. Democrats are saying no. They will not support a Continuing Resolution to avoid a government shutdown without legislation for the Dreamers. More importantly, Senator Lindsey Graham and other Republican senators told reporters today that they plans to vote against the GOP leadership’s short-term funding bill to avoid a government shutdown.

We cannot place the lives of our young Dreamers hostage any longer. We also cannot shut down our government when so many lives will be at stake with loss of funding for other vulnerable populations.
Call the office of Senator McConnell and demand that he allows the Graham-Durbin proposal to come to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
Please call the office of Representative Rodney Davis and ask him to support legislation for the Dreamers.

This is the time and now is the moment to make good on our promise to more than 800,000 young Americans who are the Dreamers that they are welcome in our country.    

How to do it?

To get connected, Click here

You can reach US representatives by calling 202-225-3121, and US senators by calling 202-224-3121

Or you can get specific numbers at

The Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum (CUIF), founded in 2009, is a community organization concerned about the progress and plight of immigrants focusing on these families in Champaign County.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The 2017 Immigrant Welcome Award Recipients Announced

Congratulations to the 2017 Recipients
of the Immigrant Welcome Awards!
Join us for the ceremony an celebration this Saturday
As co-sponsors of the 4th Annual Immigrant Welcome Award Ceremony, the Cities of Champaign and Urbana, the CU Immigration Forum, the Muslim American Society of Urbana-Champaign, and the Urbana Free Library are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2017 Immigrant Welcome Awards. This year's award recipients are Nancy M. Ramirez Blancas, Charles Larenas, Samuel Smith, Karyl Wackerlin, The Education Justice Project (EJP), and the Immigration Project.

The Immigrant Welcome Awards Selection Committee congratulates this year’s award recipients and thanks them for their dedicated work enriching the lives of those not only living in Champaign-Urbana, but around the world.  The public is encouraged to celebrate their achievements during the Immigrant Welcome Award Ceremony and Celebration on Saturday, September 23. This event includes free activities for children and refreshments. 

The 4th Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards
Saturday, September 23, 2017 from 2pm-4pm 
Muslim American Society Center
2011 Brownfield Rd, Urbana

The 4th Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards Ceremony and Celebration is part of 2017 Welcoming Week, a national week of events that brings together immigrants and U.S. born residents in a spirit of better understanding and unity.

Program of Activities:


We Are More Than One Story 

Capoeira Angola Center of Mestre João Grande-Illinois

Welcoming Remarks 

Reading of the Welcoming Week Joint Proclamation
Deborah Feinen, Mayor of Champaign

Recognition of Partners 

Recognition of Welcome Award Recipients 
Student leadership
Community impact

Acknowledgement of the 
Champaign International Connection City

Human Rights award
Community Impact
Humanitarian Relief
Distinguished Leadership Service

The 2017 Recipients of the 4th Annual Immigrant Welcome Awards:

Student Leadership Award
Nancy M. Ramirez Blancas

Nancy Ramirez Blancas has been in the forefront of student testimony and activism around issues such as the Access act and support for DACA students like herself. She effectively recruited people into La Casa Cultural Latina’s trainings on how to be an ally for undocumented students at the University of Illinois and continues to be a firm and fearless voice for this cause, for herself and others. She has been consistently active not ONLY in behalf of undocumented students but also in her own disciplinary organizations. Nancy has a deep commitment to using her knowledge to help others who find themselves in situations like her own.  Her activism and testimony is fearless, even while she remains uncertain of the educational she has striven so hard to secure.

Humanitarian Relief Award
Samuel Smith

Sam Smith is recoginzed for leading the projects efforts to build a clean water well in the Koyagbema community of Kenama, Sierra Leone near a school operated by the Sierra Leone YMCA. A simple investment in these wells can unlock the potential of every student by helping them stay healthy and freeing them to remain in classes other than leaving classes to fetch water. 
Sam helped coordinate the securing of funding by building a partnership between the University Y,MCA, Urbana Rotary, Sierra Leone YMCA, Akelos, and the Freetown Rotary in Sierra Leone.  Sam’s hard work in coordinating all of this the past two years resulted in the construction of the clean water well this past summer.  He was fortunate to travel to Sierra Leone this summer for the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Distinguished Leadership Service Award
Charles Larenas

For the last 11 years Charles Larenas has been directing the Summer Migrant Education Program in Champaign County. Parkland College has been hosting the program for the last 9 years. This summer of 2017 Charles just finished his 22nd year with the Illinois State Migrant Education Program which provides high-quality and comprehensive educational programs for migrant children.

Charles began his first Migrant Education Program with six employees who served about 60 students in 5 different cities. This year, the program had 86 employees and served over 250 students/families, while recruiting close to 350. Through this program he has been providing unique experiences to local youth. Every year he hires local Latino college students to work at the program and  provides the encouragement, and the empowerment these students need to participate. He is truly developing leaders.

Community Impact Award
The Education Justice Project (EJP) 

EJP is a college-in-prison program. In recent years, EJP has reached out to family members of incarcerated people, providing a monthly forum for them to support one another while writing letters to loved ones in prison. Recognizing the similarities between incarceration and deportation, they extended letter writing sessions, known as the Ripple Effect, to include those facing immigration threats including undocumented U of I students, undocumented local families, and newly resettled refugees.  An additonal service that EJP provides is to assist students who get deported to Mexico through developing a deportee reentry guide. The guide is to assist people who are sent back to Mexico in orienting themselves and learning about services available to them in that country. EJP is recognized for addressing the increasing threats facing immigrants today under the new administration of the United States.

Community Impact Award
Immigration Project 

The Immigration Project (IP) is a nonprofit organization providing immigration legal assistance to the 100,000 immigrants residing in Central and Southern Illinois. It provides access to quality legal services in Central and Southern Illinois. Due to the complexity of immigration law, quality legal services is essential to keeping families united, building strong communities, and protecting victims of crime. Immigration attorneys and immigration specialists travel to meet with clients in seven regional locations. Without these programs, low-income immigrants in the region would struggle to obtain access to professional immigration assistance. Staff is committed to helping immigrants, knowing that immigrants are members of our community, and that helping all members of a community strengthens the entire community.

Human Rights Award
Karyl Wackerlin

Karyl a professional photographer now uses her camera to find and spread joy across the globe during mission trips. As part of That’s What She Said Project, Karyl created and organized She Said: Soul Journey mission trips to God’s Littlest Angels (GLA) orphanage in Haiti. Through this program, she has inspired women in the Champaign-Urbana community to experience this life-changing trip. Karyl has also worked on documenting the caregivers’ stories both through written word and film and has hired translators while in Haiti to work with her on this project. Karyl’s dedicated efforts have resulted in millions of dollars being donated to GLA over the past four years. The project has also introduced women from our community to Haiti and to foster in them the same love for the people and country that Karyl has, creating a connection and bond between CU and Kenscoff, Haiti.

Follow the event on Facebook:

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Eliminating DACA program is the wrong way to go

September 5, 2017. Earlier today, the Trump Administration announced that it was ending the DACA (Deferred Action Childhood Arrivals) program. The C-U Immigration Forum is strongly opposed to this action and stands with the 800,000 young adults across our nation, and in our community, who were protected from deportation under this program.  Although this action by the President was not a surprise, we believe it is both cruel to those affected and unproductive for our country.  

In June of 2012, President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act, or DACA, in order to allow undocumented persons who had been brought to the US as children — and who were in school, had no serious criminal record, and who posed no threat to national security — to qualify for a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation, and be eligible for a work permit.

Under the guise of a ‘respect for the rule of law’, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would be rescinding this vital program. Those already enrolled in DACA will be able to continue working until their permits expire, and those whose permits expire by March 5 will be permitted to apply for two-year renewals so long as they do so by Oct. 5. But only one in 10 DACA recipients will be eligible under these strict guidelines. This announcement affects several hundred families in Champaign County and tens of thousands in Illinois.

DACA was merely an administrative directive for a policy change to be implemented by the Department of Homeland Security as an exercise of its well established and preexisting authority; it made no one a citizen or a permanent resident.  DACA did not pretend to be a law nor was it a usurpation of Congressional authority as it has often been mischaracterized by its critics. DACA did collect the biographical information, money, and biometrics of almost a million people that had previously not been on the records.

Unlike the DREAM Act, which was its inspiration, DACA offered no path to citizenship and was intended merely as an intermediate step for young people. By definition, they were primarily raised in the United States and the US is their home; they signed up  to pursue their educational and career potential while they waited for Congress to craft a more permanent legislative fix which specifically addressed their situation. To date there are nearly 800,000 people who participate in this program.

Without immediate Congressional action, the limited security that DACA has provided its beneficiaries will disappear, and with it their ability to provide for themselves and their loved ones. This  casts entire futures into doubt. Along with those crippling economic hardships, these vulnerable persons will now also face the very real possibility of forced repatriation to countries that are for the most part only distant memories to them. For DACA recipients, the US is their home. They share our hopes and dreams — which is why they have long been known as ‘Dreamers’ — and their futures are inextricably bound with ours. In truth we stand or fall together.

The current administration’s attitude towards immigrants disguises bigotry as policy, and with this step the Trump administrations advances violence against immigrants, attacking persons who are fellow citizens in every possible way but name only.

CU Immigration Forum joins its many regional and national partners — and the overwhelming majority of the American people — in demanding that Congress create permanent protections for these vulnerable members of our society and their families. The DREAM Act is only a partial solution and it is time for comprehensive immigration reform to be fully considered transparently by all political and economic parties. Only then can immigrants be assured of their own personal security and be given a renewed hope in the country we collectively call home.

Other supporters
The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition says Illinois will lose $2.3 billion

Participate here:

Local coverage

WCIA Sept 2 2017
The 21st Sept 6, 2017
News-Gazette Sept 7, 2017
Fox Illinois Sept 5 2017 and UofI related and politician soundoff

Fox Illinois Sept 5 2017

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.