Training to help immigrants


CHAMPAIGN — With the new president ready to take office immigration has been a hot topic across the country. Many immigrants in Central Illinois are wondering if and how life might change, and others in the community are wondering how they can help.

On Saturday, more than 40 people met at the Champaign Public Library for immigrant liaison training. It’s a new program held together by the Champaign school district and several immigration groups among others. Some are already involved in immigrant relations. Others are trying something new. Some of the images you’re about to see are blurred to protect some people’s identities.

Most of these people didn’t expect to become experts after 6 hours of training. 

Barbara Jones says, “What I learned today is that the process is really complicated.”

And most others in the room agree with that – even those who have firsthand experience becoming an American citizen.

“I personally was undocumented at some point. I went through the process and I know how difficult it can be,” says Lorenzo Macedo.

Along with personal experience and his work with the C-U Immigration Forum, Macedo is quite familiar with the problems immigrants face. But still..

“I want to learn more to help in whatever way I can.”

Geovanny Vega adds, “There is understandably a lot of fear in the immigrant community, and there will be a huge need for people who have this training so they can help people coming forward.” 

For years Vega has also worked with the Immigration Forum. He’s proud of the work they do, and says it’s encouraging to see so many other people joining the cause. Even though there’s a lot to learn, immigrant liaison has a fairly simple definition.

He says it’s mostly, “How to best direct them when they have immigration problems or they need help.”

Their basic role would be connecting people with questions to experts who have solutions. Vega and Macedo say there’s not always a cut and dry solution. History shows US immigration policy is subject to change. At a time when many worry what the next changes will be, those in training hope their work will pay off for someone.  

Macedo says, “I have family and a lot of friends that could benefit from this.”

Those leading Saturday’s training session say liaisons have to make it clear to anyone they work with that they are not attorneys. If someone would like to get ahold of one that’s where a liaison can help.

If you’d like to help immigrants in the community this is not the only way. The immigration project helps people get connected to legal resources in Central and Southern Illinois, but they offer other volunteer opportunities for those who’s like to get involved. Here’s a link with more information.


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