Immigration Project News

Maya Flores AmeriCorps VISTA End of Service

mayThe Immigration Project extends its deepest thanks and appreciation to AmeriCorps VISTA Maya Flores for her year of service. Friday, July 15 is Maya’s last day of the AmeriCorps VISTA project at the Immigration Project. Maya is returning to Chicago to work for the Illinois Bar Foundation.

Executive Director and Staff Attorney Jasmine McGee recalls Maya’s year of service: “Maya was an exemplary AmeriCorps VISTA! She came to the Immigration Project committed to our cause and ready to give a year of service. Everyone who met her noted how professional and capable she was, and she quickly built relationships with new and past supporters. She found innovative ways to share the work of the Project. I have no doubt that she will continue to find new and innovative ways to further the legal access for low income individuals at the Illinois Bar Foundation.”

Capacity and Volunteer Development Director Christine Howe, reflecting on Maya’s service


Maya listening to Client Stories at Nuns on the Bus event

said “I’m so glad Maya has given a year of her life to us!  She is a friendly
co-worker and has proven her adaptability and skill over and over again in
her year with us.  From her first days when we were moving office locations,
throughout as she helped me with better outreach, and these last as she
continues with organizing fundraisers through skillful collaboration among
the different interests.  She will be as asset wherever she goes both for
helping accomplish the goals and projects of the agency and as a valuable
and friendly team member.  I’m so glad she’s given a year to us!”


The staff, volunteers, Board members, and committee members extended their deepest gratitude to Maya for the work she has done over the past year. She has created a strong foundation that will help the Immigration Project grow and expand for years to come.


For Immediate Release


SCOTUS Ruling Defers the Dream for Millions of Immigrants

The Immigration Project expresses its regret over today’s Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Texas. The court has, in a 4-4 ruling, deferred the implementation of President Obama’s initiatives of expanded DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans).

“These programs had the ability to positively impact the lives of roughly 4.3 million U.S. citizen children,” explains the Executive Director of the Immigration Project, Jasmine McGee.  “Now immigrant families remain in limbo – unauthorized to work legally but unable to leave their children alone in the U.S.  Studies show that a U.S. citizen child growing up in a household with an undocumented parent faces increased stress from the fear of having a parent deported.  In addition these children live in families with lower incomes, inferior housing, and are less likely to take advantage of community services.”

In November 2014, President Obama proposed programs that would provide the legal right to work and protection from deportation for the parents of U.S. Citizen and lawful permanent resident children. These executive actions expanded the existing DACA from 2012 and created DAPA. Shortly after its introduction, 26 state governors came forward with a lawsuit and delayed the implementation of these programs. Since then, an estimated 5 million immigrants have been hoping for the start of these programs, but today their dreams for financial and emotion security for their families have been deferred.

President Obama’s deferred action had the potential to drastically impact the well being of thousands of families in central and southern Illinois. Reports have show that families with an undocumented parent could see a 10% increase in annual income.  Furthermore, according to the Center of American Progress, these two immigration programs could have lead to the creation of 1,850 new jobs in Illinois and an almost $8 billion increase in cumulative income of all state residents over the next decade. Additionally, the American Immigration Council has estimated that with these programs, Illinois stood to receive an additional $347 million in tax revenue over the next five years.

In Illinois, there are an estimated 519,000 residents who are undocumented, with 53,000 living in the service area of the Immigration Project.  The majority of the undocumented population eligible for DAPA in Central and Southern Illinois have strong roots, strong family ties, and have been residing for more than ten years in the U.S.

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, the Immigration Project still encourages all immigrants looking for an immigration remedy to schedule a legal consultation with the agency. The Immigration Project’s four licensed immigration attorneys screen immigrants for other forms of immigration relief. This legal consultation costs only $25.

Additionally, the agency wants to remind the public that the original DACA program from 2012 is still in effect. It provides the legal right to work to residents who were brought to the U.S. while under the age of 16, have resided in the U.S. since 2007, were not over the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, and have pursued a form of higher education.

The Immigration Project is hosting an informational meeting tonight at the Normal Public Library from 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Immigrants that are interested in learning about the next steps after the Supreme Court’s decision are encouraged to attend. Free additional parking is available in the parking structure next to the library. For more information about the meeting contact Christine Howe at (309) 829-8703 ext. 105.

Upcoming SCOTUS Ruling Will Affect Millions of Families

For Immediate Release

The Immigration Project along with the 5 million immigrants across the nation await the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. v. Texas expected to be announced on June 23, June 27, or June 30.

President Obama’s immigration executive actions, introduced in November 2014, would expand upon the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program from 2012 and create DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and lawful permanent residents). Both initiatives were delayed after 26 state governors came forward with a lawsuit stating President Obama overstepped his executive power by implementing such programs.

Expanded DACA and DAPA would potentially impact the welfare of thousands of families in central and southern Illinois. These proposed actions offer deferred deportation for immigrants that have strong familial ties to the U.S. and have been living here for years. DACA and DAPA eligible immigrants also receive a work permit that must be renewed every 3 years.

On the day the Supreme Court announces its decision, the Immigration Project will be hosting an informational meeting at 5:00 p.m. The location is to be determined. Immigrants interested in learning more about the next steps after the Supreme Court’s decision are welcome to join. For more information about the meeting, contact Christine Howe at (309) 829-8703 ext. 105.

Mid-Year Campaign


Dear Friends:


Thanks to you 722 immigrants had financial security and familial stability this year.  On behalf of them, thank you for protecting their lives and their dignity.

I recently helped Jamila, an undocumented mother of five U.S. citizen children, protect her family from her abusive husband, Noah.  Her marriage-something that was supposed to bring happiness and support- brought 12 years of physical and emotional abuse.  When Jamila was pregnant with their first child Noah would punch her in the face, kick her in the stomach, lock her out of the house, and threaten to deport her.  Disowned by her family and with no money, she was left with no choice but to live with her tormentor.  Because of her immigration status, Jamila was scared to report her abuser to the police until one day he threatened to kill her in front of her co-workers.  Since then she has obtained an order of protection, was granted protected status under VAWA, and will no longer live in fear of being deported.  Without your help, Jamila and her children would still have nowhere else to turn.  Today, they are safe, secure, and self-sufficient.


Every day, your support makes stories like Jamila’s possible. 

Today, we’re launching our 2016 Mid-Year Campaign.  Our goal is to help more mothers, fathers, sons and daughters stabilize their families through citizenship, reunification, and asylum.  You see, even though we helped over 700 immigrants last year, there are still thousands of immigrants in downstate Illinois that are separated from their families and trapped in abusive relationships that we couldn’t help because we didn’t have the financial resources.  That’s why our goal for this campaign is to raise $2,000 by June 30th.  If we raise that amount, we’ll be able to provide quality legal services for more immigrants in the downstate area.  We need your help to make it happen.


Would you be willing to make a special mid-year donation of $50, $100 or whatever you can afford to help us meet our goal and help more immigrants secure their futures? 

We simply can’t do it without you.  Your support will make a lasting impact to immigrants in the over 80 counties we serve.


Please, make your donation now.  The lives of thousands of others like Jamila are at stake.  Donations can be made through PayPal by visiting our website at or by sending a check to: The Immigration Project, P.O. Box 1503, Bloomington, IL 61702.  Thank you for your continued support.


With thanks,

Jasmine McGee
Executive Director


P.S.  Today, we began our Mid-Year Campaign to assist more immigrants secure their futures.  Our goal is to raise $2,000. We can’t do it without your help.  Will you make a gift of $50, $100 or whatever you can afford to help us meet this goal?


Volunteer Highlight: Melissa Sanders

Meet Melissa Sanders! She has been working 40 hours a week for the past couple months as part of her internship with us in order to complete her paralegal certificate. We asked her some questions about herself to learn more about her. Thanks Melissa!


Where are you from:
Originally from the Peoria Area, but have lived up and down the East Coast following my husband’s military career. I currently reside in East Peoria IL, but will be moving to Boston at the end of summer!
Where do you currently work?
Prior to my volunteer work at IP, I was an IT Analyst at Caterpillar Inc.

Why do you volunteer with the IP?

I am completing the final internship requirement for a post grad certification. I will be attending the University of Mass Boston this coming spring, pursuing my Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in HR Management. I feel that a background in immigration compliance will compliment my masters degree, due to the global nature of the current business climate.


What work or activities are you involved in when you are not volunteering for the Immigration Project?

I am enjoying my summer by focusing solely on my internship and preparing to move. The days I am not at IP, you can find me reading, biking, or relaxing by the pool!


What is the best advice you have ever been given?

The best advice I have been given is:
In order to truly grow and learn, you have to be willing to push the boundaries of your comfort zone and allow yourself to be in a position to be challenged and occasionally fail.

C-U Wine Tasting and Silent Auction Fundraiser

On Thursday April 21st, the Immigration Project hosted its first fundraiser in the Champaign-Urbana area since opening a satellite office in Champaign. Guests enjoyed a wine tasting, silent auction, and raffle at the Urbana Civic Center. More than 50 people were in attendance including local Judge Blockman, attorneys, social service agencies such as ECIRMAC, University of Illinois professors and students, community leaders, and previous clients.

Most of the auction items were donated by local businesses and artists such as Pekara Bakery, DESTIHL, Columbia Street Roastery, Uniquely Eclectic, Joel Bergner, and Laurie Bergner. A majority of the food was also donated by Dos Reales, Red Herring, and Rick’s Bakery. The wine was graciously donated by Martin Perry and poured by Hendrick House.

With live Latin guitar in the background, courtesy of Derik Cordoba, guests mingled with IP staff and Board. Rebekah Niblock told a heartfelt story about one of her clients finally being reunited with their family after years of waiting. By the end of the evening, guests had learned more about the agency’s great work and why they had gathered there that night. The event brought in close to $4,500!

Thank you to everyone that helped make this fundraiser a reality! Since opening an office in Champaign, the IP has been warmly welcomed by the C-U community. So thank you- we appreciate your support!

IP attorney on Immigration TV

Volunteer Highlight: Jordan Debo


Meet Jordan Debo- one of our volunteers that primarily translates our French documents into English and vice versa. We asked him some questions about himself and his time volunteering with us. Thanks Jordan!
DSCN0855Where are you from?

Jordan: From Normal

Where do you currently work?

J: Graduate assistant at ISU

How long have you volunteered with us?

J: 3 months or so

Why do you volunteer with the IP?

J: Do something to help people and be able to use my French

What is your favorite memory volunteering here?

J: Hearing a client who was super excited to finally be able to attend the oath ceremony after the whole application process.

Successful First Round of Downstate Community Navigators/Liaisons Trainings

100MEDIA$IMAG1439Christine Howe going over introductions on Day One

In an effort to build more downstate resources for immigrants, which in turn empowers communities, the Immigration Project held the first downstate Community Liaison and Navigators trainings at the beginning of April. For those who haven’t heard of Community Navigators or Liaisons (“Promotores and Intermediadores” in Spanish), they are people who typically already have frequent contact with immigrant populations within their own jobs or leisure activities.  The first half of the training provides explanation and information about immigration law and resources, which enhances one’s ability to connect immigrants to legal service providers, social service organizations, and government representatives. They learn who can and cannot give legal advice and what constitutes ‘legal advice’, helping to fight against what is called ‘notario fraud’ (a plague of unauthorized persons wrongfully completing immigration application forms or dispensing incorrect or incomplete advice about the legal system).  Those who want to become Navigators stay for additional training in form and document preparation, to be completed only under the supervision of attorneys. Tasks of Navigators and Liaisons range from helping clients get utility or school records, to explaining requirements for some immigration programs, to helping clients complete applications.

IMAG1451Luis Huerta-Silva conducting the Community Navigators/Liaisons training on Day One

With the help of Luis Huerta-Silva from ICIRR (Illinois Coalition forImmigrant and Refugee Rights) in Chicago, the trainings took place in our home office on April 1-2.  Nineteen individuals attended, from McLean County, Champaign, Peoria,LaSalle and Springfield. Some were health partnership personnel (including a surgeon and medical student), others ESL teachers in school systems, and four were our own volunteers!  Fifteen completed Day One Liaison training and 9 of those 15 went on to become certified Navigators at the end of training the next day. After a successful initial Community Navigator and Liaison Training and with enthusiasm running high, preparations are being made to conduct additional trainings in Champaign and Normal this summer, including teacher in-services with the two local school districts in McLean County.  As soon as groundwork is laid, we can expand to Peoria, Springfield and Kankakee, then further downstate.

Download$1782The trainers from left to right: Luis Huerta-Silva, Christine Howe, Charlotte Alvarez

Community Navigators and Liaisons are crucial to increasing the ability of Immigration Project to serve our 86-county area, where we are the lone non-profit legal immigration service provider with immigration attorneys on staff. With their outreach efforts, more immigrants can hear of our services.  With their new knowledge of certain requirements, forms and documentation, cases can be completed more quickly.  Another by-product of expanding resources is that our staff will be able to take on more complicated cases that are more time-consuming and attorney-demanding. Community Navigators and Liaisons guide and support clients at every step of their legal journey allowing our attorneys to focus on filing applications. We have high hopes for this program to increase our current ability to serve more immigrants, and sense even more urgency as we await the Supreme Court decision by June of whether or not President Obama’s 2014 executive actions regarding DAPA and expanded DACA are constitutional.  If they decide ‘yes’ then DACA-expanded should go into effect nearly immediately and DAPA just a few months later.  Of the many thousands of immigrants in downstate Illinois who will be eligible for these two programs, we expect over 16,000 could seek our help.

1783_2The first nine downstate Community Navigators holding their certificates at the end of Day Two

Free Legal Advice Fair

Have an immigration question? We will be at the Free Legal Advice Fair on Saturday, April 30th from 9 am- 12 pm.

4-30 Legal Fair Flyer-page-001