Group's post-election letter to immigrants: 'We will stand by you'
CHAMPAIGN — Immigrants of Champaign County who have become fearful since the presidential election, "we are with you," says an open letter from the Champaign-Urbana Immigration Forum.
The letter, much of which was written by the forum's president, Tom Garza, has been widely distributed and was intended to be a show of support, Garza said Monday.
Now, the forum is also reaching out to teachers, social workers, employers and others in the public who are finding themselves in a position of dealing with post-election fears and shaken faith and need back-up and resources to handle it all.
The forum will hold a community meeting from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday to discuss ways of best supporting local immigrants.
The meeting will be held at the Champaign Public Library, in Robeson Rooms A & B, and will include a panel discussion of community advocates about how to be a supporter for immigrant communities in Champaign County — including what to do and what not to do — along with available resources and ways to take action.
The forum's open letter to immigrants of the community says to those living in fear that their families will be torn apart through deportation or that they'll be sent back to a dangerous or deadly situation, "we are with you in this."
"We want to assure you in no uncertain terms that we will stand by you and fight any and every attempt by the incoming administration to take their extreme campaign promises and turn them into actual national policy," the letter stated.
Garza said the open letter evolved into a group effort, and "it's going out to as many places as we know to send it."
The idea for the community meeting at the library developed after the forum delayed its own monthly meeting to discuss the outcome of the election, he said.
"Once the election turned out the way it did, our worst fears were realized and we said, OK, this is a big deal," he said.
The community meeting is primarily for people who are involved in concerns involving immigrants and those who want to become involved, Garza said.
Ben Mueller, part of the immigration forum's steering committee, said the meeting is particularly targeting those professionals and volunteers who are working with the families to provide them with some information along the lines of "why this is a big deal, why people are upset about it, and to give them some resources to work with in the future."
He expects some community leaders, such as school district officials, to be there, he said.
"This is more a meeting about reassurances from people in authority that we as a community stand in solidarity with our families," he said.
Mueller also said he sees the potential for the Wednesday meeting to be attended by hundreds of people, and the immigration forum has more public awareness and support opportunities in mind for upcoming months.
"I think we can get out a message of solidarity," he said.
The text of the letter follows:
Dear immigrants residing in the Champaign, Urbana, and Rantoul area:
The United States of America has long been seen as a land of opportunity and hope, and throughout its history millions of immigrants have come here because they believed in that ideal and dreamed that here they would find a place where they could make a better life.
The recent elections have, for many of us, shaken our faith in that image, and some are now living in fear, wondering what to expect from the future and how to prepare for it.
Therefore the CU Immigration Forum wants to take this opportunity to state unequivocally that if you are an immigrant who fears that your family will be torn apart through deportation-we are with you in this. If you are a refugee who fears that you will be sent back to a dangerous and deadly situation-we are with you in this.
We want to assure you in no uncertain terms that we will stand by you and fight any and every attempt by the incoming administration to take their extreme campaign promises and turn them into actual national policy.
In the coming months, as we come to understand the full ramifications of this election, we urge you to join with us. We need more than ever to unite and stand up against dehumanizing rhetoric and inhumane policies. The CU Immigration Forum, as an organization that serves immigrant families, seeks to foster inclusive dialogue, and advocates for immigrant rights, is proud to be united with those who share our values. It is all because of you that the Cities of Champaign and Urbana have expressed a desire to be more welcoming to immigrants and newcomers, and we intend to press them to act now and to take further steps to ensure that promise of welcome becomes a part of official policy.
Change starts with taking action in our own communities. The movement in Champaign County is just getting started, and it will continue to grow and strengthen, but we cannot do it without you.
We need each other's support, so please add your voice and join us in taking action.
This Wednesday, November 30th, we invite you to join us for a community meeting on how Champaign County may best support the immigrant communities that live here (more details below). Make your voice heard! We also ask that you please check your inbox this week to sign our action form and let us know how you may want to join the movement going forward.
Many in Rantoul, Urbana, and Champaign are willing to be your allies because they want to make this country more welcoming for all; thank you for overcoming your fears and becoming an involved resident and a defender of your rights and values.
The CU Immigration Forum