Champaign Community Coalition gets first look at report on immigrant population

Champaign Community Coalition gets first look at report on immigrant population

CHAMPAIGN — At Wednesday's immigration-focused meeting of the city's Community Coalition, attendees were encouraged to learn more about Champaign County's 1-in-10 foreign-born residents.

A preview of a report on the county's immigrant population was presented at the meeting. The full report, due out in May, was created by the University YMCA's New American Welcome Center, in partnership with advocacy groups New American Economy and Welcoming America.

Christopher Di Franco, a data analyst on the report, said the statistics were mainly compiled from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, issued in 2011 and 2016 and consisting of surveys from more than 24,000 people throughout the county.

Although there were some gaps in the bureau's information, Di Franco said it's the best source for getting baseline estimates.

Among the data that he presented:

— The top regions of origin for the county's immigrants are East Asia, North America, Europe, Southwest Asia and Southeast Asia.

— The fastest-growing regions of origin are Central America, Central Africa and East Africa. Not including the University of Illinois population, the county has immigrants from 76 countries.

— Over 80 percent of the county's immigrants are in Champaign and Urbana. Immigrants make up one in eight Champaign residents and one in five Urbana residents.

— Out of all the county's immigrants, one- third have become citizens, one-fourth may be eligible to become citizens and one-third may be undocumented — including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients.

— Eight percent of the county's population in 2000 was made up of citizens born elsewhere. That number grew to almost 12 percent in 2011 and remained around there for the next five years.

"It shows how there haven't been surges in immigration recently," Di Franco said about the data. "It gives us a good understanding of how settled this community is — they've been here for six years, and it's home."

Gioconda Guerra Perez, director of the UI's La Casa Cultural Latina, also spoke at the meeting. She said she serves about 4,500 students on the UI campus, some of whom may be undocumented or DACA recipients.

"I recommend that people get informed," Guerra Perez said. "There's a lot of misconception and misunderstanding in terms of the history of immigrants to this country."

Although it may be painful for some people to recount that history, Guerra Perez said it would be worse to erase those stories.

"Learn before you make a judgment. Talk to people in your community, too," she said. "Be uncomfortable — it's OK to be uncomfortable when we talk about these very complex issues."

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