The Immigration Project on WGLT

Listen to Judith Valente from WGLT interview our Executive Director and Senior Staff Attorney, Jasmine McGee, on the Syrian Refugee Crisis and how immigration has changed over the past 20 years. Click here to listen to the interview and to read the article.

Celebrating 20 Years

On Tuesday, November 10, 2015 over 80 community members from diverse backgrounds gathered at the 2nd Presbyterian Church in Bloomington in celebration of the Immigration Project’s 20th anniversary. Students, professors, volunteers, old friends, clients, attorneys, judges, long time supporters, and new supporters attended the Immigration Project’s Flourish Where You’re Planted luncheon making it a huge success!

Cristina Deutsch, a tireless immigrant legal advocate who has dedicated her life to helping immigrant populations and an original founder of the Immigration Project, was honored with the first annual Immigration Hero Award. Her dedication to immigration work both within her professional and personal life made her a prime candidate for the award. The keynote speaker, Judge James A. Knecht, received a standing ovation for his kind words towards the Immigration Project’s committed staff and for recognizing immigrants as epitomizing the American Dream. It was a lunch filled with compassion and assertion that left everyone in a celebratory mood.

The Board hopes that this luncheon is the first of many for the Project.

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From Left to Right: Charlotte Alvarez (Staff Attorney), Christine Howe (Capacity and Volunteer Development Director), Adrian Barr (Board Member), Laurie Bergner (President of the Board), Judge James A. Knecht (Keynote Speaker), Cristina Deutsch (Immigration Hero Awardee), Tim Flavin (Board Member), Rebekah Niblock (Staff Attorney), David Hirst (Board Member), Sara Dietrich (Staff Attorney), Carolyn Nadeau (Board Member), Jasmine McGee (Executive Director)

Champaign Community Navigators (Promotores) Info Meeting

On Tuesday, December 8th, we will be hosting a FREE Community Navigators (Promotores) information meeting at our office in CHAMPAIGN. We have the pleasure of having Dagmara Avelar, Program Coordinator at ICIRR, Luis Huerta-Silva, ICIRR Regional Trainer, and Sarah Mesick, Midwest Regional Trainer Committee of Immigration Reform Implementation present on the training process required to become a Community Navigator or Promotor. If you have any questions or wish to RSVP, please contact Christine Howe.ComNavsChamp-EnglishComNavsChamp-Spanish

Normal Community Navigators (Promotores) Info Meeting

On Tuesday, December 8th, we will be hosting a FREE Community Navigators (Promotores) information meeting at our office in NORMAL. We have the pleasure of having Dagmara Avelar, Program Coordinator at ICIRR, Luis Huerta-Silva, ICIRR Regional Trainer, and Sarah Mesick, Midwest Regional Trainer Committee of Immigration Reform Implementation present on the training process required to become a Community Navigator or Promotor. If you have any questions or wish to RSVP, please contact Christine Howe.

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Story of Courage, Resilience, and Persistence

 At 20 years old, María came to the United States with her infant daughter. Her family had been coming to the United States as seasonal field workers in California, but María had always stayed in Mexico. This resulted in her mother, father and six of her siblings qualifying for Legal Permanent Status through the Amnesty Program while she was denied. María needed to stay with her family so when she, her husband and daughter entered the U.S., they entered as undocumented. Except for two of her older married sisters, the majority of her family had decided to stay and make a new life in the U.S. Since María’s parents had Legal Permanent Status, María and her young family hoped the petition that her parents were able to submit for her would give María a priority date in a few years. María’s petition was made in 1993; however for the category of adult children seeking Legal Permanent Residence there was a long wait. 20 years passed.

For 20 years, María worked and raised 7 children in Bloomington, all the time as an undocumented immigrant. She was active in her children’s schooling and kept a job for all those years. Even after her first child born in the U.S, Roberto, turned 21 she had not received her priority date for changing her status to Legal Permanent Resident. Since Roberto is a U.S. citizen, he brought his mother to The Immigration Project to start the application process for Legal Permanent Resident status. Roberto filed a new petition for his mother, and María sent in her Adjustment of Status Application, with other supporting documents. Roberto had not worked long enough nor was making enough money to qualify for the Affidavit of Support, one of the required supporting documents. Therefore, they had to seek help. Due to María’s hard work and value in the work place her employer was glad to help with the affidavit.

After submitting her applications and supporting documents, María received a Biometrics (a process of fingerprinting etc. that everyone in the process must go through) appointment. Having no form of identification, María was in danger of being picked up by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) if she traveled to the location where the Biometrics process was scheduled. The Immigration Project helped write a letter to the Mexican Consulate in Chicago to obtain her Mexican Passport and with that identification she was able to complete the Biometrics appointment.

After completing the Biometrics process, María received her interview date. She and her son went to Chicago to meet with an Immigration officer.  Finally after more than 20 years of hard work, courage and resilience she was approved for Legal Permanent Residence.  Within two weeks she received her Employment Authorization, enabling her to get a Social Security Card and a Driver’s License. Finally, a few months later she received her Green Card. In a few more years as a Legal Permanent Resident, María will qualify for citizenship, meaning she will have finally accomplished her dream.

 

Partners and Clinics | Piktochart Infographic Editor

For a look into the various locations we’ve traveled this past year click on the image below.

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Source: Partners and Clinics | Piktochart Infographic Editor

Open House at the New Office

On October 7, 2015, The Immigration Project opened its new office doors in Normal to the community for tours, games, and refreshments. The Immigration Project recently moved from its location in Bloomington, Illinois to Normal in late July. It has been about 7 years since the last big move from Granite City to Bloomington. Although the new office is physically smaller, the space allows for more security and attorney-client privacy.
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A mixture of clients, donors, and community members attended the Open House to meet the staff and board members. Light refreshments were donated by La Bamba, Ropp Cheese, Kroger, Hy-Vee, and Jewel-Osco. Additionally, the landlord, Matt Summers, gave permission to use the vacant, next-door suite to help accommodate for the number of visitors.

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Honoring Two Board Members

The Immigration Project Board of Directors met for its annual meeting on June 7, 2014.  During the meeting, the Board honored Merwyn Nelson for his ten years of devoted service to the Immigration Project as a board member and volunteer.  Although he will no longer serve as a board member, Merwyn stated, “I will continue helping with immigrants through ESL classes and helping them study for citizenship and passing out information flyers and business cards for Immigration Project.”

The Board also thanked Claudia Fabian for her four years of service as a board member, and, most notably, for her leadership as President.  As she prepares for advancement with the Illinois Department of Public Health – Vital Records, Claudia reflected, “It has been an honor to be a part of this board and to serve with you… I leaned so much, got to know many of you (which probably would have not happened if not for IP) and had lots of fun too so, what else can one ask for?”

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Back (l to r): Elizabeth Rompf Bruen, Randall Rapp, Kris Olson, Carolyn Nadeau, Merwyn Nelson, Alex Enyart, Ricardo Díaz.

Front: María Sánchez-Ley, Laurie Bergner, Claudia Fabian.  Not pictured: Tim Flavin, John Groves, Carol Juen, Matt Kuenning

 

Immigration Project featured on WSIL TV in Carbondale

WSIL filmed Christine Howe, our Citizenship Coordinator, while she conducted a citizenship information meeting in Carbondale last month.  Read the article and view the video.

New U.S. Citizen Cast His First Vote

Pablo Varela, a native of Mexico, became a U.S. citizen on November 1, 2013, and voted in his first election in March.  When asked why he wanted to become a U.S. citizen, Mr. Varela responded, “I wanted to be able to vote.  It’s important for me because I have lived here many many years with my wife, Virginia.  I like the country.  I go to Mexico to see my family but I just stay a couple weeks, because I want to be with my wife here.”

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