Fighting for Human Rights in Illinois

May 4, 2018

Credit: YCIC Chicago

When 18 national and local grant makers join forces, the result is $1.1 million to fuel 37 cutting edge immigrant and refugee organizations. While the fundraising number is always reported, the story at the heart of the Illinois Immigration Funders Collaborative (IFC) is the work of front line organizations ambitiously strengthening our state. What follows are examples of three agencies within the collaborative working tirelessly to serve, organize, and advocate for marginalized, scapegoated, abused, exploited, and mistreated communities.

In recent decades, there has been a rapid influx of immigrants moving to the suburbs of Chicago, largely due to an increase in jobs and a lower cost of living. Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project (SSIP) led by two young immigrants, Jose Eduardo Vera and Elizabeth Cervantes, help suburban immigrants access the tools and information needed to effect change and become leaders in their communities. Because of the work done by SSIP, more suburban immigrants are finding pathways to citizenship, becoming more involved in their children’s education, and learning about and advocating for the rights of undocumented citizens and other immigrant communities.

In many cases, immigrant families successfully utilize available resources they need to prosper in their new communities; however, when the immigrant is a child making the long journey alone, the odds of finding asylum are bleak. Escaping violence, human trafficking, abuse, and extreme poverty demands extraordinary courage and resilience. The U.S. has long been a safe haven for such asylum-seekers, but today most are detained and threatened with deportation. The Young Center for Immigrant Children (YCIC) Chicago serves as a trusted ally by providing these young immigrants with attorneys and social workers who can ensure their safety and well-being. The services provided by YCIC to the immigrant children that arrive in our communities are immeasurable!

Often, we assume that all immigrant families come from similar backgrounds and require similar resources; however, that is not always the case. For example, Asians make up the second largest immigrant population in Illinois, and they require very different support services than, say, Mexican immigrants. HANA Center combines community services and organizing for Koreans from its offices in Albany Park (Chicago) and Prospect Heights. The Center advocates for pro-immigrant state policy and educates the Asian community about the laws that directly affect them.

In 2017, HANA community members worked tirelessly to get the Illinois Trust Act passed. The legislation was crafted to prevent law enforcement officials across the state from detaining individuals based solely on their immigration status and to limit local agencies’ cooperation with federal immigration authorities. In August 2017, Governor Rauner signed the bill into law.

These are just three of examples of the incredible work being done by immigrant and refugee organizations within the Illinois Immigration Funders Collaborative (IFC). Yet, the most important point to state is that each IFC’s partner organization is making a positive and lasting impact in communities across the state.