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May 15, 2024

Our communities have a strong desire to help refugees and immigrants find safety, health care, stable housing, and other necessities crucial to creating a life in which they can sustain themselves and their families.  Illinois has a successful history of welcoming and supporting immigrants and refugees with numerous organizations providing refuge and services, but the task is difficult for many reasons:


  • Housing is scarce and unaffordable.  

  • Language barriers prevent the effective communication and treatment of physical and mental health concerns and trauma.  

  • The complexity of immigration statuses and uncertainties is daunting.


Many organizations have waiting lists for intake, case management, housing placement, and employment development.  Due to funding and staffing limitations, in addition to the high emotional toll of the work, immigrant serving organizations are consistently working beyond capacity.


This year's forum will address ways to increase organization and staff capacity to maintain and extend our responsiveness to meet the needs of immigrants and refugees in our communities.

We would like to express our appreciation to the Illinois Department of Human Services, Office of Welcoming Centers for Refugee and Immigrant Services for providing funding for this forum.

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Liza Khalil

Director of Case Management
World Relief Chicagoland

Liza Khalil presented on behalf of Susan Sperry.

Challenge Question:  During her presentation, Liza presented the following challenge question:  "what is one idea you have, one thing we can do together, to support new arrivals?"

We have provided participants the opportunity to respond to the challenge question in a Google Sheet that can be accessed from the button below.

Keynote Speaker

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Susan Sperry

Executive Director
World Relief Chicagoland

Susan Sperry is the Executive Director for World Relief Chicagoland, where she has served in several roles since 2001. For over twenty years, she has led teams to facilitate the resettlement of thousands of refugees and partnered with hundreds of volunteers, churches, and community groups to welcome refugees & immigrants. Susan received her MS in Learning and Organizational Change from Northwestern University, and loves working alongside teams and organizations to create spaces of welcome.

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Panel Presenters


Sabrina Albert

Founder and CEO

R&B and Stone Catchers Counseling

Sabrina is the Founder and CEO of R&B and Stone Catchers Counseling, anti-oppressive mental health private practices that are dedicated to providing safe and supportive environments for refugees and other members of the global majority in the western suburbs of Chicago. Staff members at both practices are composed of BIPOC professionals, many of whom are immigrants themselves or the adult children of immigrants, and who come from ethnic and/or religious marginalized groups.

Sabrina envisions a world where people from oppressed communities are able to heal from the emotional scars inflicted by systemic discrimination, poverty and unjust persecution. She believes

that healing from intergenerational trauma is a crucial step toward achieving individual and collective wellness.

Sabrina leads two of the very few mental health private practices in the county where the majority of the clients served are on public aid. She recognizes that many practices within the field of mental health fuel systems of oppression and White supremacy. Sabrina has made it her mission to change the landscape of mental health private practice into a just, equitable and accessible system.

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Johannes Favi

Deputy Director

Illinois Community for Displaced Immigrants (ICDI)

Johannes Favi is a community and human rights activist who received the 2021 Jeanne and Joseph Sullivan Human Rights Award from the National Immigrant Justice Center. Favi is an immigrant from Benin, a small country in West Africa and spent over 10 months detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in horrible conditions. Upon release from detention, he started advocating for and providing support to other immigrants in ICE detention.  He educated students and congregations on the impact of immigrant detention. He wrote several articles championing the abolition of immigrant detention centers in Illinois that ultimately led to the passage of the The Illinois Way Forward Act, disrupting the police to immigration detention and deportation pipeline. 

Johannes has continued to be active in civil rights and social issues, particularly through the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants, a Chicago nonprofit organization where he is currently serving on the Board of Directors and as Deputy Executive Director. He recently became a Freedom Fellow with Detention Watch Network in Washington DC where he is continuing to learn how to abolish immigration detention and build a stronger and better community for immigrants nationwide.

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Ashna Hafeez

Health Justice Organizer

Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project (SSIP)

Ashna Hafeez is the Health Justice Organizer at Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project. Her family is of Bangladeshi origin which she has incorporated into her life through food, culture, and visiting the country every year. Ashna received a B.A. in psychology at Northern Illinois University and a Master’s of Social Work at the University Of Kansas.

Ashna's work passions include helping immigrant populations voice their truth and helping them to obtain adequate healthcare benefits through advocacy, VTTC application assistance, hospital financial assistance applications, and more.

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Ellen Miller

Pro Bono Manager

National Immigrant Justice Center

Ellen Miller is the Pro Bono Manager at the National Immigrant Justice Center. Prior to this position, Ellen worked in Child and International Protection with the UNHCR throughout Central America. She received her B.A. in International Studies from DePaul University; she also has an M.A. in International Human Rights Law and a post-graduate diploma in Psychosocial Interventions for Forced Migration from the American University in Cairo- Egypt. She enjoys fresh air, traveling, volunteering and artsy things.

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Kara Murphy


DuPage Health Coalition (DHC)

Kara Murphy has served as the President of the DuPage Health Coalition (DHC) since 2015 and worked in nonprofit healthcare leadership for twenty-five years. DHC coordinates comprehensive health access for low income un/underinsured DuPage residents through a host of patient facing programs, and additionally functions as a planning council supporting community health improvement and health equity. DHC’s longest running program, Access DuPage, has coordinated comprehensive healthcare for more than 75,000 individuals since the program began (2002).


Passionate about health justice and collective impact, Ms Murphy is chair or board member for a

host of community leadership council and boards, including Impact DuPage, DuPage Health Equity and Access Response Team (HEART), Northwestern Medicine Institutional Review Board, Communities Joined in Action, Milton Township Community Mental Health Board, WeGo Together for Kids, and DuPage Federation. Ms Murphy received her undergraduate degree from Grinnell College and her master’s degree from Benedictine University.

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Dulce Ortiz

Executive Director

Mano a Mano Family Resource Center

Dulce joined Mano a Mano Family Resource Center as Executive Director in April 2019. She is responsible for leading Mano a Mano in the implementation of their mission through strategic planning, programming and community engagement. She leads in the development of strategic community partnerships and the policy advocacy agenda.


Dulce has been actively involved with the non-profit sector and has served as a Board Member of different social, environmental, business health and government organizations. She currently serves as the President of the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) Board, serves on

the Community Trust Committee of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Access to Justice, IDHS Social Services Advisory Council, and is the Co-Chair of Clean Power Lake County.  In 2020 she was appointed by Governor JB Pritzker to serve on the Commission on Environmental Justice Commission and in 2022 she was appointed to the Health and Human Services Task Force. Dulce also serves as a Waukegan Township Trustee since April 2021.Dulce holds a bachelor’s degree from Robert Morris University. She is an advocate for the underserved and vulnerable population, and brings her expertise and drive to empower immigrant families. She is an immigrant, originally from Mexico City, Mexico.

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Ali Tarokh

Director of Policy & Advocacy


Ali Tarokh immigrated to the United States as a refugee, fleeing persecution in his home country. While studying political science in Iran, Ali championed democratic values by publishing op-eds and mobilizing university students for the Reformist Party. His adept campaigning during a pivotal presidential election in 2009 made him a target, resulting in his arrest the day after the election. He endured solitary confinement, pressured to confess to allegations of Western interference in the populace's dissatisfaction with the regime. Upon release, he faced academic expulsion and the looming threat of further imprisonment for advocating human rights. Ali sought refuge in Turkey and registered with UNHCR.

His incarceration and refugee experience underscored the imperative of upholding human rights, motivating him to hone advocacy skills and gain firsthand insight into the refugee process. In 2012, Ali resettled in Chicago, commencing with entry-level employment and ESL classes. He later earned a master’s degree in political science, embarking on his professional career as a case manager for a refugee resettlement agency. Over a decade in Chicago, Ali ascended to the role of Director of Policy and Advocacy at a non-profit organization serving refugee and immigrant families.

Simultaneously, he pursues a doctorate in Law and Policy, with his dissertation focusing on Refugee Employment Barriers. Ali contributes to public discourse through op-eds published in outlets such as the Chicago Tribune and Huntington News, shedding light on refugee challenges and advocating for their rights.

Call to Action

Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project (SSIP) is a nonprofit organization committed to community organizing for the rights of immigrants in Chiago's southwest suburbs through education, civic engagement, and advocacy.  Team members from SSIP's advocacy team wiil be providing call to action remarks.

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Nancy Garcia Guillen

Director of Civic Engagement

Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project (SSIP)

Nancy is the Director of Civic Engagement at Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project (SSIP), a social justice organization in Bolingbrook, IL. Nancy oversees the implementation of initiatives to promote the civic engagement of her community through non-partisan voter registration, access to legal representation and community education work.

Nancy graduated from Aurora University in 2016, earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Prior to attending Aurora University, Nancy attended Joliet Junior College in Joliet IL.  Nancy has been active in her community for over 15 years in different activities,  providing interpretation services for

families at her local food pantry to being a mentor. Nancy currently serves as a trustee at Joliet Junior College.

Nancy is originally from Michoacan, Mexico. She came to the United States with her parents and her three siblings at the age of nine. Nancy currently lives with her husband in Romeoville, IL.

Claudia Garcia

Advocacy Specialist

Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project (SSIP)

My name is Claudia Garcia, I am the Advocacy Specialist at Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project. I am a new mom and think it is important for everyone regardless of immigration status to have health insurance. This should be a human right and not a privilege!

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Asylum Seeker

Someone who is fleeing persecution and enters the U.S. to seek protection.

Service eligibility - In IL, asylum seekers can receive some public benefits through VTTC. They do not receive work authorization initially. Some migrants who have come through the CBP One App and were given parole at the border for 1-2 years can apply for work authorization before applying for asylum.


A person who has been forced to flee their home country due to persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.  People admitted to the US with refugee status typically arrive by plane, and have gone through an interview/approval process while overseas. They have immediate work authorization. 

Service eligibility - Refugees are eligible for SNAP, Medicaid and other public benefits, and can also receive services funded by the federal government to help them with employment, case management, and overall adjustment.


Someone who has successfully been granted asylum by the U.S.

Service eligibility - After being granted asylum, individuals are eligible for the same humanitarian benefits and rights as refugees including employment, case management, and adjustment support, and are on a pathway toward a green card.

Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) Recipient

Certain Afghan and Iraqi individuals who assisted the U.S. in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Service eligibility - SIV recipients are eligible for SNAP, Medicaid and other public benefits, and can also receive services funded by the federal government to help them with employment, case management, and overall adjustment.

Humanitarian Parolee

Someone who was granted temporary status overseas or at the border to enter/stay in the US, based upon humanitarian reasons (e.g. sick relative, or fleeing a crisis such as the war in Ukraine). 

Service eligibility - Varies based upon the type of humanitarian parole and country of origin. Work authorization is often, but not always, provided with this status. For example, services for Ukrainian humanitarian parolees and Afghan humanitarian parolees were very similar as for refugees, but were time limited.

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2024 Immigrant Integration Forum

(Building Capacity)

Video/Audio: English

2024 Immigrant Integration Forum

(Building Capacity)

Video/Audio: Spanish

Presentation Slide Decks

Keynote:  World Relief

Presenter:  Liza Khalil

Global and regional overview

Panelist: Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project

Presenter:  Ashna Hafeez

Public Benefits

Panelist:  Mano a Mano

Presenter:  Dulce Ortiz

Housing Assistance

Panelist:  Trellus

Presenter:  Ali Tarokh



Free Language Access Services for Informing and Educating Clients/Patients Re. Medicaid Redetermination 

Professional interpretation, translation, and telephonic services available

Funding available for a limited time.  Select link to learn more.

Understanding Integration: A Conceptual Framework 

Alastair Ager, Alison Strang, Understanding Integration: A Conceptual Framework (Journal of Refugee Studies, 2008)

Framework for all the elements required for successful integration.

Online Resources (DuPage Co. and Surrounding)

Provides network of resources in DuPage County and surrounding counties, including from housing and utilities, food, clothing, legal, mental health and tranportation.

Enter ZIP Code or town to find a variety of community resources and events.

Free, Granted-funded Language Access Services for Qualified Mental Health and Employment Assistance 

Professional interpretation, translation, and telephonic services available

Please contact LARC for qualification details for available funding.

The Changing Concepts around Immigrant Integration

Corrie Macleod, The Changing Concepts around Immigration Integration (Washington, DC: Migration Policy Institute, 2021)

Ideas for viewing integration as a collaboration for a supportive community.

Online Resources (Nationwide)

Provides network of free and reduced cost programs in every ZIP Code in U.S., including federal, state, county, municipal and local resources

Enter ZIP Code to find resources like food, housing and financial assistance.

Chat Resources

During the forum, several individuals shared resources in the chat.  Below you will find the information that was shared.

Christine Birns

Univerisity of Illinois Extension SNAP Education Educator- If food pantries need assistance with culturally relevant foods, please feel free to reach out to me at

Access DuPage

The DuPage Health Coalition is a resource to link immigrant families to Access DuPage (comprehensive health access for those without a pathway to health benefits, often those without a social security number), Medicaid and ACA enrollment, Medical debt assistance, health education, free pharmacy services, and Silver Access, a program that helps those who are ACA eligible (often LPRs with fewer than 5 years residency) help paying for high quality insurance plans that offer meaningful health access

Ellen Miller (NIJC)

National Immigrant Justice Center:

Legal resources for asylum seekers: 

Marina Vargas

211-We know that housing is one of the nine stability factors. When a person calls 211 asking for emergency housing, 211 will provide shelter information and the DuPage County Intake and Referral phone number; they will do an assessment and provide information about other services that may help, like security and first-month financial assistance, employment, transportation, among others. is an online directory of local service providers.

Questions & Answers

We are in the process of reviewing and gathering answers to the questions that were asked in the chat window during the forum. Please check back soon for updates.

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