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Immigrant welcoming centers to open in two communities

Western Illinois Dreamers
courtesy photo
Julia Albarracin and Ben Green delivering furniture to the welcoming center in Beardstown on August 3, 2022. The McDonough/Schuyler County Health Department donated the furniture.

Western Illinois Dreamers has opened welcoming centers for immigrants in Beardstown, Monmouth, Springfield, and Peoria, and will hold receptions at a couple of them on Sunday, August 14.

“We’re very excited to be building resources and empowering the community to do it themselves,” said Julia Albarracin-Green, President and CEO of Western Illinois Dreamers and a professor of political science at Western Illinois University, who added that the centers are also for refugees and English Language Learners.

Sunday's reception at the Springfield center will begin at 11 a.m. at 3201 S. Douglas Ave., Trailer #43.

The reception in Beardstown will begin at 3 p.m. at 110 E. Main St.

Albarracin-Green said the welcoming centers will help immigrants and others who speak little or no English.

“So let’s say somebody comes and qualifies for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). You can help them fill out an application,” she said.

“(Or) let’s say another person comes and they need an immigration attorney. We can give them those services for free.”

She said funding for the centers comes from the Illinois Department of Human Services.

Western Illinois Dreamers
courtesy photo
Welcoming center directors during a training session in Macomb on August 8, 2022.

How this got started

Albarracin-Green did research in Beardstown and Monmouth for her 2016 book, “At the Core and in the Margins: Incorporation of Mexican Immigrants in Two Rural Immigrant Communities.”

She said immigrants in those communities told her there was a lack of local organizations available to assist them.

“I kind of made them the promise that I would bring resources as much as I could. And over the years I did little-by-little with the help of other colleagues,” Albarracin-Green said.

She then founded Western Illinois Dreamers in 2019. The non-profit group has informed immigrants about their rights, worked on tenant rights, and educated immigrants about COVID.

Albarracin-Green said Western Illinois Dreamers is being funded through state grants and private donations.

This story has been corrected to say that the centers are already open, and to clarify the address for the Beardstown center.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.