The Immigration Project Welcoming Center, coming 2021!


Through the support of grant funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Welcoming Center initiative will foster community alliances and support immigrant families and the local English Language Learning (ELL) population with non-legal needs. The Welcoming Center hopes to serve as a one-stop-shop to provide immigrants and new Americans with vital resources and opportunities to build their lives here in McLean County.

The Welcoming Center hours are as follows:

Mondays: 10am –  6pm

Tuesdays: 10am –  6pm

Wednesdays: closed

Thursdays: 10am –  6pm

Fridays: 10am –  6pm

Saturdays: 9am –  2pm

Sundays: closed

Services Offered: 

Referrals are offered to provide direct assistance with:

Legal Services

Housing and Food Insecurity


Mental Health Issues

Substance Abuse

Education and Unemployment

Community Networking

Emergency Assistance

To connect with the Immigration Project’s Welcoming Center and learn about community alliances and opportunities, please connect with a member of our team on our contact page. 


In 2007, the Illinois Department of Human Services launched the Illinois Welcoming Center Program (IWC) to model a state-operated one-stop human service center designed to help immigrants and ELL (English Language Learning) individuals navigate state services and coordinate those state services with non-profit community social services. In 2017, the Welcoming Center Program transitioned to include a community-based service model that continues to operate as a one-stop human service center in a community setting. As part of a 2020 grant initiative from the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Immigration Project sought to support the bolstering of a strong connective social services hub to complement immigrants’ legal needs in Bloomington-Normal.


Camila Graunke, Office Manager: (309) 829-8703 x 108;

Hannah Mesouani, Welcoming Center Manager: (309) 829-8703 x 201;

Rocio Peralta, Caseworker: (309) 829-8703 x 200;

Veronica Torres Luna, Caseworker: (309) 829-8703 x 202;


(309) 829-8703 x 108

Supreme Court Immigration Docket 2020-2021

Professor Cindy G. Buys, SIU School of Law
Immigration Project Board Member

The following are the major immigration law-related cases on the Supreme Court’s docket during the 2020-21 term. Decisions in these cases are expected between now and June 2021.

Pereida v. Barr, Docket No. 19-438

(Granted December 18, 2019; Argued October 14, 2020)

Pereida, a native and citizen of Mexico, pled no contest to a Nebraska criminal attempt charge arising from his use of a fraudulent social security card to obtain employment. When the government brought removal proceedings against him, he requested the discretionary form of relief known as cancellation of the removal. However, the government took the position that his misdemeanor criminal attempt charge constitutes a crime involving moral turpitude (CIMT) making him ineligible for cancellation. The Nebraska statute under which Pereida was charged is divisible with subsections, some of which qualify as CIMTs and at least one of which does not. Using the modified categorical approach, both the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that it was not possible to determine from the record which subsection formed the basis of Pereida’s conviction or whether he was convicted of a CIMT. Thus, Pereida was not able to sustain his burden of proving eligibility for cancellation. The Supreme Court will now decide whether a criminal conviction bars a noncitizen from applying for relief from removal when the record of conviction is ambiguous as to whether it corresponds to an offense listed in the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Answering this question will depend in part on respective burdens of proof and whether an ambiguity in the record of conviction should be held against the noncitizen.

Niz-Chavez v. Barr, Docket No. 19-863

(Petition for Cert. Granted June 8, 2020; Argued Nov. 9, 2020)

In March 2013, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) served Niz-Chavez, a Guatemalan native and citizen, with a notice to appear (NTA) before an immigration judge at a date and time to be later determined. In May 2013, Niz-Chavez received a notice that a hearing was scheduled for June 2013. Niz-Chavez attending the hearing and expressed his intent to seek withholding of removal under the INA and relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). Following a hearing on the merits of his case in 2017, the Immigration Judge (IJ) denied Niz-Chavez’s request for withholding and relief under CAT but granted him voluntary departure. On appeal to the BIA, Niz-Chavez challenged the IJ’s conclusions, but also argued that his case should be remanded because his NTA was deficient under the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Pereira v. Sessions. Pereira held that an NTA that does not include the specific time and place of the noncitizen’s removal proceeding does not trigger the stop-time rule in 8 U.S.C. § 1229. The stop-time rule states that a written NTA specifying the time and place of the hearing ends a noncitizen’s accrued time in the United States necessary for a form of discretionary relief called cancellation of removal. The BIA denied the request for remand, which was affirmed by the Sixth Circuit on appeal. The Supreme Court is to decide whether the service of multiple documents, here, an NTA without a date and time, followed by a hearing notice with a date and time, are sufficient to trigger the stop-time rule. 

Pham v. Guzman Chavez, Docket No. 19-897 

(Petition for Cert. Granted June 15, 2020; Argued Jan. 11, 2021)

The respondents are a group of noncitizens who entered the United States without lawful permission, were deported, re-entered again without lawful permission, and are subject to deportation via reinstated removal orders. Respondents sought withholding of removal due to a fear of persecution or torture in the countries designated in their removal orders. They are being detained pending hearings on their withholding claims and seek individualized bond hearings to determine whether they are eligible for release on bond while waiting for those hearings. The government argues that 8 U.S.C. § 1231 (Detention and Removal of Aliens Ordered Removed) governs the matter, making detention mandatory; while the respondents argue that 8 U.S.C. § 1226 (Apprehension and Detention of Aliens) governs, which would allow respondents to seek release on bond. The Fourth Circuit found in favor of the noncitizens. The Supreme Court will decide which federal law applies to the detention of a noncitizen who is subject to a reinstated removal order and who is pursuing withholding or deferral of removal. 

Rosen v. Dai, Docket No. 19-1155

(Petition for Cert. Granted October 2, 2020; Set for Argument Feb. 23, 2021)

Dai, a Chinese citizen, sought asylum in the United States. When he was denied asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under CAT, the Immigration Judge did not make an express finding that he lacked credibility. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stated that absent a finding the Dai was not credible, his testimony was entitled to the presumption of credibility. The Supreme Court is to decide whether a court of appeals can presume that an immigrant’s testimony is credible and true if neither an immigration judge nor the BIA specifically made an adverse credibility determination. This case has been consolidated with Rosen v. Alcaraz-Enriquez, Docket No. 19-1156.

Sanchez v. Wolf, Docket No. 20-315

(Petition for Cert Granted Jan. 8, 2021)

Plaintiffs Jose Sanchez and Sonia Gonzales are husband and wife and citizens of El Salvador who initially entered the United States without authorization in 1997. Following a series of earthquakes in their home country in 2001, they applied for and received a humanitarian form of relief known as temporary protected status (TPS). In 2014, they applied to become lawful permanent residents (LPR) in the United States under 8 U.S.C. §1255, which requires that the applicants have been “inspected and admitted or paroled” into the country. The Immigration Service took the position that Sanchez and Gonzales had not been “admitted” to the United States and thus were ineligible for LPR status. Plaintiffs contested this decision, arguing that they were admitted when they received TPS. The District Court sided with the plaintiffs; the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed. The Sixth and Ninth Circuits have found that persons granted TPS have been “admitted” to the United States whereas the Fifth Circuit joined the Third Circuit in holding that TPS does not constitute an “admission.” The Supreme Court will resolve this circuit split by determining whether a person who initially entered the United States without proper authorization and is granted TPS under 8 U.S.C. § 1254a(f)(4) has been lawfully “admitted” to the United States such that the person is later eligible to become a lawful permanent resident under 8 U.S.C. §1255.

Trump v. Sierra Club, Docket No. 20-138

(Petition for Cert. Granted October 19, 2020; Set for Argument Feb. 22, 2021)

The Trump Administration obtained over $15 billion in federal funds to expand a wall along the border of the United States and Mexico. The Administration obtained money through a transfer of funds internally between Department of Defense accounts in response to a request from the Department of Homeland Security. Section 8005 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act limits the ability of the Secretary of Defense to transfer funds. In July 2020, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that it was unlawful for the Trump Administration to use funding intended for the Department of Defense to build the border wall. Assuming the case is not mooted by a change in policy of the new Biden Administration, the Supreme Court is to decide whether Section 8005 of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act authorizes the president to divert $2.5 billion in military funds to pay for the border wall.

United States v. Palomar-Santiago, Docket No. 20-437

(Petition for Cert. Granted Jan. 8, 2021)

            Palomar-Santiago is a citizen of Mexico who became a LPR of the United States in 1990. In 1991, he was convicted of felony driving under the influence (DUI) in California. In 1998, he received a NTA informing him that his DUI made him removable from the United States because it constituted a “crime of violence” and thus an “aggravated felony” within the meaning of 8 U.S.C. §1101(a)(43). After a hearing, Palomar-Santiago was deported. Three years later, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the felony DUI of which Palomar-Santiago had been convicted was not a deportable offense. In the meantime, Palomar-Santiago had reentered the United States without authorization, was caught and indicted for illegal reentry. The U.S. District Court determined that Palomar-Santiago had met his burden of showing that he had been wrongfully deported from the United States and dismissed the indictment. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court will determine whether charges that a noncitizen illegally reentered the United States should be dismissed when the noncitizen’s removal was based on a misclassification of a prior conviction.

Wolf v. Innovation Law Lab, Docket No. 19-1212

(Petition for Cert. Granted October 19, 2020; Set for Argument Mar. 1, 2021)

A group of asylum seekers along with immigration non-profit organizations sued the Department of Homeland Security over the Migrant Protection Protocol (“MPP” or “Remain in Mexico” policy). This policy required asylum seekers to return to Mexico while their requests for protection are being processed. Assuming the case also is not mooted by a change in policy by the incoming Biden Administration, the Supreme Court will decide a series of issues relating to the MPP. These issues include: (1) whether the MPP is a lawful implementation of the statutory authority conferred by 8 U.S.C. §1225(b)(2)(C); (2) whether the MPP is consistent with any applicable and enforceable non-refoulement obligations; (3) whether the MPP is exempt from the Administrative Procedure Act requirement of notice-and-comment rulemaking; and (4) whether the district court’s universal preliminary injunction is impermissibly overbroad.

In order to do our part to help flatten the curve, The Immigration Project has implemented a number of measures in the face of COVID-19.

UPDATE APRIL 28, 2020: Physical closure of The Immigration Project offices will continue through June 1, 2020, in accordance with the extension of the Illinois Stay at Home Order.

As information regarding COVID-19 changes, and we hear about the growth in downstate Illinois cases, we at The Immigration Project have been given cause to evaluate our response policy. We want to be sure to update our clients, partners, volunteers and friends about the steps that we are taking as an agency in light of the pandemic, and alert you to changes to our normal operations. 

We are committed to taking the necessary precautions to protect our staff, interns, volunteers, and clients, and doing our part to help “flatten the curve.”  To date, we have implemented the following measures, which may be extended or changed as the situation evolves:

  • Our office will be closed to clients, volunteers, interns, and the public between March 23rd and April 12th.
  • All TIP clinics and workshops will be held remotely until May 1, 2020.
  • Our staff will be working remotely, as is feasible, from March 23rd to April 12th.
  • All non-essential business travel has been cancelled or postponed.
  • TIP has undergone facility cleaning processes.

If you, or someone you know, is in need of immigration legal aid please encourage them to continue to reach out to The Immigration Project via phone to (309) 829-8703 or e-mail to The Immigration Project is continuing to work to ensure access to justice for the immigrant populations of downstate Illinois, even during this difficult time.We will continue to monitor guidance and best practice from the CDC (Center for Disease Control), the State of Illinois, and the cities of Bloomington and Normal. 

Thank you for your continued support of The Immigration Project and the work that we do to support the immigrants of Central and Southern Illinois.

The New Public Charge Rule: Information for Immigrants in The State of Illinois

Over the last few months, the issue of Public Charge has been very present on the national stage; on February 24th, the new Public Charge Final Rule will go into effect.

A “Public Charge” is someone who is, or who is likely to become, dependent on government benefits and social services. The concept of a Public Charge is not new, but in August of 2019, USCIS published a change to the Public Charge Rule, increasing the number of considerations for inadmissibility as a public charge. Since then, numerous injunctions have been filed to prevent the rule from going into effect, including one injunction specific to the State of Illinois. Up until last week, (Feb. 17-22, 2020), Illinois was exempt from the new public charge rule because of that injunction. On February 21st , however, the Supreme Court decided to stay the injunction for the State of Illinois, meaning that immigrants in Illinois will be affected just as immigrants in other areas of the country.

The implementation of the new Public Charge Rule means that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Department of State will begin to deny admission to those likely to become a public charge under the new guidelines.

AS OF FEBRUARY 24, 2020: Anyone seeking to come to, or to stay in the United States (temporarily or on a permanent basis as a Legal Permanent Resident), will be subject to the criteria of the new Public Charge Rule. Under this rule, an individual will need to provide new, additional information in their application including information about their current health status, their education level ,their family, their income level, any assets or liabilities, and their history of receipt of any public benefits, in addition to an Affidavit of Support from a sponsor.

If an individual is using, or has used, any of the following public benefits, they will likely be considered inadmissible under the new Public Charge Rule: Cash Assistance for Income Maintenance (TANF, SSI, federal, state, and local assistance programs), SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, or Housing assistance (public housing, Section 8 housing vouchers, or rental assistance).

Some groups of people are excluded under the new Public Charge Rule. These groups are: asylees, refugees, applicants for U or T visas, applicants for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, VAWA self-petitioners, United States Citizens (including naturalized citizens), legal permanent residents (green card holders), applicants for temporary protected status, and applicants for the Cuban Adjustment Act.

There remain some benefits that are not included in the new rule. If an individual receives any of the following, it will not affect their public charge determination: benefits received by U.S. Armed Force Service Members, emergency medical care, WIC, CHIP, Pell Grants and Federal Student Loans, Tax-related cash benefits, unemployment benefits, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid received: a) by children under 21 years of age; b) during pregnancy or within 60 days of pregnancy; c) by individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

It is the view of The Immigration Project that this new rule places undue burden on certain demographics, including but not limited to: children, the elderly, and the disabled. That aside, the new rule has new evidence requirements which drastically increase the amount of work, documentation, and time required for each individual case. Ultimately, this change makes it much more difficult for low-income immigrants to become lawful permanent residents by the creation of additional barriers to admissibility.


“Deported To Danger” and the Reality of Deportation Proceedings in the United States.

Here at The Immigration Project, we are often asked about the impact and importance of our work, what it is that we do, and why it matters. Some aspects of our work are easier to explain than others, domestic violence is something common in the news and the social imagination, and people generally have a handle on what that means.  Deportation, however, is less frequently experienced – the average American probably doesn’t know someone who has been deported, and so what it really means for people can be much harder to explain, and much harder to understand. A recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), “Deported To Danger: United States Deportation Policies Expose Salvadorans to Death and Abuse,” shines a light on the realities and consequences of deportation for Salvadoran nationals, showing exactly what’s at stake for refugees and asylees to the USA.

Currently, around 1.2 million Salvadoran nationals are living in the United States; according to the HRW report, only about  a quarter of this population are legal permanent residents, or “green card” holders, with the rest finding themselves with precarious temporary legal status or undocumented. Paired with the fact that the fate of the U.S. Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program for El Salvador is increasingly uncertain, this means that Salvadorans are increasingly vulnerable and more at risk for deportation. 

People flee El Salvador in staggering numbers; it is the most violent country in the region with startling rates of murder, gang violence, disappearance, feminicide, sexual violence and state-actor violence. Many people from El Salvador arrive in the U.S. to seek asylum in a legal and desperate attempt to avoid the danger and human rights abuses that are common in El Salvador. Despite the well-documented presence of danger in El Salvador, between 2014 and 2018, over 100,000 Salvadorans were deported from the USA. The push-factors that spur people to leave El Salvador are a real threat to the safety and well being of Salvadoran citizens; “Deported to Danger ” reports that over 100 deported Salvadorans have been murdered following their deportation from the United States. Unfortunately, those murders do not represent the entirety of the problem; Salvadorans face multiple dimensions of violence, and the reality is that the harm that comes to Salvadoran deportees is likely under-reported and underestimated due to myriad influences including state capacity and the role that state-actor violence has to play. 

A key aspect of the report is the claim that the US government knowingly deports individuals to dangerous conditions. This matters because intentionally removing someone to danger is in violation of international laws and norms: there is a substantial body of legislation in international law protecting individuals from removal to dangerous and harmful situations. Article 33 of the Refugee Convention of 1951, Article 3 of the Convention against Torture, Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 22 (8) of the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child all either expressly or implicitly deal with preventing the exact kinds of dangers deported Salvadorans face upon removal. Individuals in circumstances where they fear violence and persecution are legally protected from deportation proceedings; according to international standards, individuals in such circumstances should not be deported.

While “Deported to Danger” focuses specifically on the dangers faced by Salvadoran deportees, it is important to know that the physical risks that accompany deportation proceedings are not exclusive to El Salvador.  In many cases, specifically for those seeking asylum, forcible return to an individual’s country of origin can be life threatening. Many people have nowhere to go but to return to abusive and harmful environments, and in some cases, the mere fact of returning from the USA can make people targets for violence and crime, increasing the level of threat they must navigate. As it becomes more and more difficult to receive refugee and asylum status, and as American immigration policy generally becomes more restrictive, the severe harms associated with deporting individuals to dangerous situations will worsen.

Here at The Immigration Project we regularly see cases in which legal aid is the only thing standing between an asylee and emotional, physical, or sexual violence. Returning individuals to their country of origin threatens lives; and as“Deported to Danger” illustrates, current US policy not only ignores these very real risks, it violates international norms and laws in the process.  

TPS is a federal program which allows individuals from certain countries for example those experiencing civil war or other temporary destabilizing circumstances to stay and live in the US without fear of removal. For more information about Temporary Protected Status, please click here.

To read the full “Deported to Danger” report, please click here.

Public Comment: USCIS Proposed Fee Increases

USCIS has proposed significant increases to the fees associated with various immigration services. These increases, if passed, may put citizenship outside of the realm of possibility for many of the country’s immigrants. The Immigration Project has submitted a public comment regarding these increases.

The Public Comment period is open until February 10th. Make your own public comment here.