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A View from Illinois

Demographic Trends and Data


In 1990, immigrants made up 8% of Illinois’s total population. That percentage grew to 12% in 2000, and to 14% in 2010. The figures below compare the share of the immigrant population in Illinois compared with other states in the Midwest, and the growth of that population between 1990 and 2010. The state stands out in the region for its relatively high percentage of immigrants in 2010: 14%. The foreign-born population in Illinois grew by 85% between 1990 and 2010. This was one of the lowest increases in the Midwest region.


Since 2000, Illinois has accepted 23,220 refugees from 66 countries. This is the widest variety of countries of any state in the Midwest. Of these countries, the majority of refugees arriving in Illinois came from Iraq (4,335), the former Yugoslavia (3,354), Burma (2,840), the former Soviet Union (2,237), and Somalia (1,653). On average, 371 asylees also settle in Illinois each year. As with most of the Midwest, the fastest growing refugee groups in the state come from Bhutan and Burma. Like Michigan, Illinois also has a growing Iraqi refugee population. Refugee arrivals from the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia are on the decline. As of FY 2010, refugees constituted roughly 1.2% of the state’s total foreign born population, slightly lower than the national proportion of refugees to total foreign born. Illinois—and more precisely the Chicago metropolitan area—have a long history of refugee resettlement. In terms of the total number of refugees resettled in the past decade, Illinois trails behind Minnesota, but is nearly on par with Michigan. Indeed, with its enormous foreign-born population, Chicago historically has acted as the primary Midwestern resettlement community for refugees in the United States. This has begun to change since 2000, however, as more refugees resettle in smaller Midwestern communities such as Minneapolis-St. Paul, Fargo, Sioux Falls, and Milwaukee. Even within Illinois, refugee resettlement is becoming more dispersed with a growing number relocating to smaller cities and suburban communities. The Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University reports that 40% of refugees in Illinois now live in suburban communities. This marks a 15% percent increase since mid-decade. Refugee services agencies, meanwhile, have struggled to keep pace and expand their outreach to new areas. Currently, a number of local resettlement agencies serve the refugee community in Illinois. Some of the most prominent include: Catholic Charities (Chicago); Catholic Charities Diocese of Joliet (Joliet); Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria (West Peoria, Bloomington); Coalition of African, Asian, European, and Latino Immigrants of Illinois (Chicago); Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago (Chicago); Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights (Chicago); Immigration and Refugee Services/St. Elizabeth Center (Rockford); Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Ministries (Chicago); World Relief of Aurora (Aurora); World Relief of Chicago (Chicago); World Relief (DuPage); World Relief Moline (Moline).


The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that the proportion of undocumented immigrants, as a share of the total population of Indiana, has increased 135% between 1990 and 2010, though the proportion of undocumented persons remains relatively small. It is important to emphasize that these numbers are only broad estimates. The actual numbers may be quite different. The figure below compares the estimated percent of the total population that is undocumented in Illinois among the 12 Midwestern states and the United States.


Eighteen percent of the population in Chicago suburbs were foreign-born in 2010, compared with 15% of urban and 5% of rural residents. Between 2000 and 2010, the population increased most dramatically in rural areas. An examination of data on all of the immigrants living in metropolitan areas in Illinois demonstrates that the overwhelming majority (95%) live in Chicago. The Rockford metropolitan areas saw its share of Foreign-born residents decrease 49% between 2000 and 2010, while the share of Foreign-born residents living in Champaign-Urbana metropolitan area increased 30%.


In Illinois, and across the region, in 2010 a larger percentage of immigrants (62%) than US-born residents (45%) were currently married. Not surprisingly, the total household size of the foreign-born was also larger—3.4 individuals, compared with 2.5 for the native-born. Household members can be either relatives, or unrelated individuals.

Immigration History

Like most states in the Midwest, Illinois was populated almost entirely by Native American peoples prior to American Independence. Following the war, many native-born settlers moved to Illinois from the southeast United States, primarily from Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. The first wave of foreign-born migrants to settle in the state came in 1830, and was comprised predominantly of Germans staking out land claims to farm along the Mississippi River. These immigrants were fleeing a failed attempt by the German educated classes to bring more liberal policies to the monarchist governments of the Prussian states of Central Europe. Most were classically educated, and have therefore been dubbed the “Latin Farmers” by historians. A second wave of German immigrants arrived 18 years later, following the March Revolution of 1848. During the latter half of the 19th century, Illinois experienced precipitous gains in population. Much of this was the product of influxes of German- and Irish-born immigrants. Each successive decade between 1850 and 1900 brought with it a 20 percent increase in the state’s population. By 1860, a majority of residents in Illinois’s biggest city, Chicago, were foreign-born. Germans were still the Chicago’s largest immigrant group, accounting for 20 percent of the city’s total population, closely followed by Irish. Yet while the Irish were largely isolated to urban areas and along the railroad lines that bifurcated the state north to south, the Germans were more widely dispersed, making inroads both in the industrialized metropolitan centers and in the rural agricultural areas. The turn of the century brought greater diversity to the state’s population. Perhaps the two most notable migrant groups to appear en masse in Illinois at the opening if the 20th century were native-born African Americans fleeing poor farming conditions in the Southern United States, and Italian immigrants. In 1900, the number of Italians living in Chicago was estimated at 30,150. By 1920, that number was 109,458. Polish immigrants followed a similar trend, with a modest population in 1900 ballooning to 140,000 by 1920. The Second World War caused the number of European immigrants in Chicago, particularly Poles, to swell considerably. Mexican immigrants began arriving in Illinois during the Mexican Revolution, which began in 1910. This coincided with America’s involvement in World War I. Heavy American troop deployment resulted in a shortage of labor. The new Mexican immigrants supplemented the depleted native workforce, taking jobs in factories and agriculture. Illinois’s Hispanic population has continued to grow and diversify. As of 2009, nearly 13 percent of the state’s population spoke Spanish at home.


In its simplest form ‘immigrant assimilation’ refers to a process whereby, over time, immigrants become indistinguishable from native-born residents. This process is neither one-way, nor linear, and not all changes lead to improved status. It also ignores the myriad ways in which native-born residents are influenced by immigrants. To the general public two of the most visible markers of assimilation are language proficiency and socio-economic status. Clusters of poor, ethnically or racially distinct foreign-born residents with low levels of schooling and English proficiency perpetuate perceptions of difference and foster the impression that contemporary immigrants are not assimilating as quickly as white Europeans who came to the US at the beginning of the 20th century. Unfortunately, such perceptions are rarely accompanied by analyses of barriers to assimilation, or support for programs that might accelerate the integration of new immigrants. Differences in such measures as English language ability, home ownership and income depend upon much more than whether an individual was born outside or inside of the US. There are important differences in the ease of assimilation that depend upon the age and skill level that an immigrant has when he or she enters the country, and the kinds of opportunities that are available after arrival. It is important to keep these factors in mind when comparing the experiences of immigrants in various states or regions of the US.


The general public often perceives immigrants to be concentrated in low-level jobs, but in actuality immigrant workers are fairly well dispersed across the skills spectrum; the most rapid growth in the employment of immigrants since 2000 has been in middle-skilled jobs that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a college degree. However the greatest increase in projected numbers of new jobs are in those that require low-levels of education and training. Between 1990 and 2006 the share of immigrant workers in each of the four employment sectors increased dramatically and outpaced the increase in native-born workers’ jobs in rate of increase, but not in absolute numbers, with the exception of construction. Median earnings for the foreign-born and native-born in Illinois are shown below for 2010, and then median earnings of the foreign-born are further stratified by period of entry. It can be noted that the foreign-born who arrived in the earlier waves before 1990, or between 1990 and 2000, have higher median earnings than those who have arrived more recently.


In 2006 46% of foreign-born workers earned “family-sustaining wages,” compared to 59% of native-born workers. The percentages of foreign-born and native-born living below 100% of the Poverty Level in Illinois are shown below for 2010. Illinois has the lowest percentage of the foreign-born living below 100% of the poverty level compared to the other Midwest States. It also has one of the smallest differences between the foreign-born and native-born living below poverty. One indication of assimilation over time is that the poverty rate for naturalized citizens was considerably lower than that for non-citizens, and even lower than that for native-born citizens. Because immigrants must be legal permanent residents for at least five years before naturalizing, the income difference may indicate that incomes are improving over time. It could also be the result of a “self selection” effect, whereby those individuals who elect to become citizens, and who learn enough English and civics to pass the citizenship test are also those who will achieve some economic success. It is likely that both factors are at work. Immigrants who were born in Asia and Europe had considerably higher mean incomes than those born in Latin America (not shown). Some kinds of demographic and socio-economic data are only available for racial/ethnic groups, rather than for immigrants. In the absence of data on such measures as home or business ownership among immigrant groups it may be of interest to compare these measures for Hispanics or Asians with the important caveat that the comparisons include a majority of native-born residents. According to Census 2000 data, Asians were more likely than Hispanics to own businesses. 72% of Asians in Illinois were foreign-born, compared with 46% of Hispanics. In 2010 Asians constituted 4.6% of the population in Illinois, and owned a similar percentage of businesses in the state (5.3%). In contrast, the proportion of Hispanic-owned businesses were much less than their share of the population. Although the percentages of Illinois businesses owned by US- or foreign-born Asians and Hispanics are small, they account for 59,367 and 56,567 firms respectively. The positive impact of immigrant integration into the business sector in Illinois is additionally indicated by  the fact that  in 2007 immigrant businesses had combined sales and receipts of $28.8 billion in illinois, and employed 180,4406 workers.


Asians and Hispanics/Latinos have rates of home ownership that are similar to those in other Midwest states. In the 2007 American Community Survey, the percentage of all Hispanics (foreign-born and native-born) who were homeowners was 36%. Of the entire Asian population in Iowa, 66% were homeowners.


Immigrants in Illinois, and throughout the Midwest, had both higher and lower levels of education than native-born residents in 2010. By this we mean that they were both much more likely to have less than a high school diploma, and slightly more likely to have a graduate or professional degree. Educational attainment is a very important dimension of integration, as it is strongly related to other dimensions of integration such as income and English language proficiency. Nationally and in the Midwest, the children of immigrants tend to achieve higher levels of education than their parents, although Caucasian and Asian youth go further in school than do Hispanics (or African Americans, few of whom are foreign-born). In Illinois, graduation rates were lower for Hispanic students (foreign-born and native-born combined) than for their Caucasian and Asian peers. Similarly, the Hispanic dropout rate in Illinois in the 2007-2008 school year (7 %) was over three times that of White students (2.2%) and over four times the rate for Asian students (1.7%). State testing data has come under scrutiny in recent years because of the connection between measures of student performance and federal funding levels. However, if the data can be believed, state tests in Illinois leave some room for optimism regarding improved student performance. According to the U.S. Department of Education, grade 8 students from all racial and ethnic groups demonstrated improved scores on state assessments of math and reading between 2004-05 and 2009-10, with an all-student increase of 30% in math and 12% in reading. The scores for Hispanic students went up at higher rates than these state-wide averages. Despite the challenges facing Hispanic students, national data show that second generation immigrants exceed their parents’ education levels. Higher educational attainment among members of the second-generation is not specific to Mexicans; it is consistent across all immigrant groups.


English Proficiency is collected by self-report in the Census and American Community Survey. Respondents can respond that they do not speak English, speak English only, or speak another language in addition to English. This final group is then divided further as they indicate how well they speak English as either “Very well,” “Well,” or “Not well.” The chart below compares English Proficiency in the foreign-born population, showing the percent of the foreign-born who identified themselves as speaking English “Well,” “Very Well,” or as their native/only language. There was a slight increase in the percentage of those speaking English well or better from 2000 to 2010 that is not significant; small levels of change may be due to sampling error; larger differences are likely be due to a combination of English language learning by foreign-born over time and higher English proficiency levels of more recent immigrants. In 2010 70% of immigrants spoke English well, very well or fluently. This was on the low end of the spectrum of states in the Midwest, perhaps because of differences in the makeup of the foreign-born population or recency of arrival. Another factor in English ability may be the availability of programs for limited proficiency adults. Levels of English language learning vary significantly within and between immigrant groups. More important than country of origin is the age at which an individual entered the US, and his or her level of education and literacy in their native language. . In Illinois, 22% of the total state population spoke a language other than English at home in 2010, and 10% of the total population spoke English less than very well. . Five percent of households were linguistically isolated (meaning that all members of the household age 14 and over were limited English proficient). The percentage of foreign-born residents who are limited English proficient (LEP) has remained relatively high over the years. As would be expected, the children of immigrants in speak English at a much higher average rate than the total population of foreign-born in the state. Similarly, immigrants who have naturalized as U.S. citizens (and who are likely to have been in the country longer) have lower rates of LEP than noncitizens. Linguistic integration, like other measures of integration, varies among different immigrant groups. Among the foreign-born ages 5 and older in Illinois in 2009, those who spoke Spanish at home had the highest percent LEP, compared to speakers of Asian and Pacific, Indo-European, or other languages at home. Though Hispanics in Illinois and across the Midwest are more likely to be LEP than other groups, national data show that, in comparison to predominantly white, European immigrants from the early 20th Century, contemporary Hispanic and Latino immigrants learn English at faster rates within the first five years of arrival in the United States. The same is true for the population of immigrants who arrived in the country between 1980 and 2000.


One of the clearest measures of integration is the rate at which immigrants become naturalized citizens of the United States. Naturalization not only means becoming an American citizen, but generally also requires a modest demonstration of knowledge of American civics, history basic English language skills. In Illinois, 44% of all immigrants were naturalized citizens in 2010. Of immigrants in Illinois who entered the United States before 1980, 79% were citizens in 2009, the same as the national average. Not surprisingly, immigrants who have been in the country the longest are most likely to naturalize. The figure below compares the percent of naturalized citizens in Illinois and in the other eleven Midwest states, both in 2000 and in 2010. In the 2008 elections, 10% of registered voters in Illinois were naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants. This proportion of the voting population is bound to rise, considering that the foreign-born voting-eligible population increased by 31% from 2000-2006, and that 90% of children with immigrant parents in Illinois were U.S. citizens in 2009. As of 2012, however, representation of ethnic minorities among elected officials in Illinois remains disproportionately low relative to their share of the population; while 16% of the total population is Hispanic, only 7% of state legislators are ethnically Hispanic, and no state legislators are Asian, though Asians represent 5% of the total population.


Tomas Jiminez explained the value of intermarriage as an indication of integration by saying, “When individuals marry each other without regard to ethno-racial or national origin, it indicates that the social boundaries between groups are highly permeable.” Jiminez also highlighted the interconnection of various integration measures by pointing out that intermarriage rates are determined, in part, by English language acquisition and socioeconomic status, which shape opportunities to interact with those of different ethnic or national origins. Data on inter-marriages between immigrants and native-born residents is not available, but between 2008 and 2010, 11% of all marriages in Illinois were interracial or interethnic. While lower than the national average of 15%, this figure is nearly equal to the Midwest.



50 laws passed since 2008. (Although many of these are resolutions honoring individuals or immigrant communities). Illinois in one of the least restrictive states in the Midwest regarding immigration issues.


2011 – Application for Driver License or Permit (IL H 1385). Limits the use of identifying numbers in the issuance of drivers licenses. A Social Security number is the only acceptable identifier: taxpayer ID numbers are not acceptable. 2010 – Health Insurance Benefits (IL S 663). Extends health insurance coverage under the Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan Act to include LPRs residing in Illinois for at least 180 days. 2010 – Budget, Fiscal Year 2010 (IL H 859). This budget bill provided funding for migrant child care services, refugee resettlement, health care, and English language acquisition. 2009 – Illinois Public Aid Code (IL HB 399). The code was amended to extend public benefits to certain refugees and asylees who have become ineligible for federal Supplemental Security Income or disability assistance. 2009 – Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (IL H 624). Undocumented immigrants are not eligible to receive vocational training grants. 2009 – Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act (IL S 1133). This prohibited the state and its localities from mandating the use of E-Verify by employers. 2009 – Criminal Code of 1961 (IL S 1300). Created additional penalties for human trafficking and assistance to victims, when funding is available. 2009 – Unemployment Insurance Act. (IL S 1743). Unemployment benefits are not available to alien workers who were admitted to the US under special visas for agricultural labor.


According to the National Council of La Raza, an Arizona-style law enforcement bill was still under consideration by the Illinois legislature, as of the end of 2011. The measure had already been rejected in Illinois during the 2010 legislative session.

Labor Force Data

The proportion of immigrants in the US labor force almost doubled between 1990 and 2010—from 9 to 16 percent, at a time when the percentage of native-born workers decreased from 91 to 84%. Although the foreign-born workforce makes up a relatively small percentage of the total labor force, it grew at a rate that was seven times faster rate than that for the native-born workforce. Almost half of immigrant workers in Illinois were born in Latin America, and a quarter are from Asia. Immigrant workers in the state make up a slightly larger percentage of the labor force than in the US as a whole. The top industries employing immigrants and US-born workers in Illinois in the state are similar, although foreign-born workers are more likely to work in manufacturing, and are not heavily employed in retail trade. Illinois had a higher state-wide unemployment rate in January of 2011 than seven other states in the Midwest; immigrants in the construction industry (not shown) were particularly hard-hit. In spite of the recession, demand for immigrant workers continued, and the percentage of foreign-born civilian workers increased by 27% in Illinois and by 40% nationally from 2000-2009. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an increased need for workers in a variety of high-skilled and low-skilled occupations, several of which have a shortage of US-born workers. The percentage of foreign-born workers in Illinois is roughly two to three times larger than in other Midwest states. Although the foreign-born workforce makes up a relatively small percentage of the total labor force, it is growing at a much faster rate than the native-born workforce. The foreign-born workforce in the Illinois grew 25 times faster than the native-born labor force over the period from 1990 to 2000 and 8 times faster from 2000 to 2010.


In 2000 Illinois was one of six states in the US that accounted for over two thirds of immigrants in the United States.  Historically and in contemporary times Chicago has  been a magnet for immigrants–what Singer of the Brookings Institution calls a “continuous gateway.”  The presence of both low- and high-skilled workers in manufacturing, agriculture and food processing in Illinois is one of the factors contributing to the state’s strength and economic resilience. The most dramatic demographic shift in the United States today is the aging of the population – a development that increases the tax burden on young workers who make payroll contributions to cover the costs of Social Security and Medicare. Aging has been accelerated by the out-migration of young native-born workers, a phenomenon that Rogerson and Kim aptly call “the emptying of the Bread Basket of its breadwinners.” A steady influx of immigrant workers is essential to maintaining a young and productive work force.

Who's Involved


  • Richard M. Daley, Former Mayor, Chicago

    The longest-serving mayor in Chicago’s history, Richard M. Daley has earned an international reputation as a leading innovator in urban development, fiscal policy, and government stewardship. During his 22-year tenure as mayor, Chicago became a prominent player in the 21st century global economy, now ranking among the top economic centers and most influential cities worldwide. A former state senator and county prosecutor, Mr. Daley was elected mayor in 1989 and re-elected five times before deciding in May 2011 to retire from government.  He now serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy and as Of-Counsel to Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, a national law firm based in Chicago.

  • John W. Rowe, Chairman Emeritus, Exelon Corporation

    John W. Rowe is the chairman and chief executive officer of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation, one of the nation’s largest electric utilities. Rowe previously held chief executive officer positions at the New England Electric System and Central Maine Power Company, served as general counsel of Consolidated Rail Corporation, and was a partner in the law firm of Isham, Lincoln & Beale. In both 2008 and 2009, Institutional Investor named Rowe the best electric utility CEO in America. Rowe is committed to a wide variety of civic activities, with a focus on education and diversity. 

  • Samuel C. Scott III, retired Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer, Corn Products International, Inc., and Chairman, Chicago Sister Cities International Program

    Samuel C. Scott III is the retired Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Corn Products International, Inc.  He was appointed Chairman of the Chicago Sister Cities International Program by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2009. Scott serves on the board of Motorola Solutions, Inc., where he is Chairman of the Governance and Nominating Committee.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of The Bank of New York Mellon Corporation, where he is Chair of the Human Resources and Compensation Committee, Abbott Laboratories, Northwestern Memorial HealthCare, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and the Chicago Urban League.  

  • Carole Segal, Cofounder, Crate and Barrel

    Carole Segal is the co-founder of Crate and Barrel, the founder and former CEO of Foodstuffs, and the president of the Segal Family Foundation. Ms. Segal is a trustee of Rush University Medical Center and chairman of the board of overseers at Rush University. She is a trustee emeritus of Bates College and a life trustee of the Illinois Institute of Technology. A graduate of Northwestern University, Segale chairs and co-chairs multiple university organizations. She is also a member of the Board of Directors of WBEZ-Chicago Public Media. 



  • Dave Bender, Executive Director, Illinois Green Industry Association

    Dave Bender serves the Illinois Green Industry Association as executive director and is joining the American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois on December 1, 2012. Since 2000, Bender has been engaged in the ongoing development of a coordinated comprehensive national communication strategy in the immigration reform effort. Previously, Bender served as chief of staff and special assistant to the Illinois lieutenant governor in two different administrations. In 1995, he was appointed assistant director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture by Governor Jim Edgar. He serves as cochair of the Illinois Business Immigration Council and the as chairman of the Logan County Republican Central Committee.

  • Ellen Carmell, National Coordinator, Bridging America Project, American Jewish Committee

    Ellen Carmell is the National Project Director of the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) Bridging America Project. Ellen leads a major AJC / Ford Foundation initiative to strengthen Latino-Jewish relations and broaden the base of support for immigration reform. The Bridging America Project is a nationwide effort to fundamentally reframe and influence the public debate by creating unexpected coalitions of diverse leaders to promote substantive immigration reform. Ellen has more than two decades of non-profit leadership experience in arts, education, and Jewish organizations. 

  • Jim Edgar, Former Governor, Illinois

    Governor Jim Edgar has served as a Distinguished Fellow at the University of Illinois’ Institute of Government and Public Affairs where he has been a teacher and lecturer since 1999. His career in government spans thirty years. He worked in the legislative branch of government for ten years, which included his election to the Illinois House of Representatives. Governor Edgar served for twenty years in the executive branch of government including ten years as Secretary of State and eight years as Illinois’ 38th Governor. He was first elected Governor in 1990 and reelected in 1994 by the widest margin in Illinois history. 

  • Ric Estrada, President and Chief Executive Officer, Metropolitan Family Services

    Ricardo (Ric) Estrada was named President and CEO of Metropolitan Family Services, one of Chicago’s first and largest human services agencies, in March 2011. Prior to joining Metropolitan, Estrada served as First Deputy Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS). Most recently he was appointed to Chicago Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel’s Transition Committee for Social Services and Healthcare. Estrada is a member of the board of Trustees at University of Illinois. His awards include being named an American Marshall Memorial Fellow, and one of Crain’s Chicago Business “40 under 40” in 2002.

  • Mike Fernandez, Corporate Vice President, Corporate Affairs, Cargill, Inc.

    Fernandez leads Cargill’s worldwide corporate affairs activities, including government relations, media, communications, brand management, marketing services, and corporate responsibility, as well as representing Cargill’s business and corporate policy interests. Before joining Cargill, Fernandez worked at State Farm Mutual Insurance as its Vice President of Public Affairs. He has led the public relations function at ConAgra Foods, CIGNA, and US WEST (now Qwest). Fernandez is co-chair of the Institute for Public Relations and serves on the boards of the Arthur W. Page Society, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. 

  • Susan Gzesh, Executive Director, Human Rights Program, University of Chicago

    Susan Gzesh has been Senior Lecturer and Executive Director of the Human Rights Program at the University of Chicago since 2001. She teaches courses on human rights, migration, and related issues, and directs an interdisciplinary center which fosters human rights curriculum and research. In the 1980s, she practiced law in Chicago representing immigrant workers and asylum seekers. In the 1990s, she directed two projects at Heartland Alliance on regional immigration policy: the Chicago-Mexico Leadership Initiative and a coalition of North American and Central American NGOs which advocated for the human rights of migrants and refugees in the North American corridor. She is of counsel to the Chicago law firm Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym. 

  • Larry Hartwig, Mayor, Village of Addison, Illinois, Chairman, Board of Directors, Metropolitan Mayors Caucus

    After graduating from Concordia University, Larry and his wife left for Papua and New Guinea to serve from 1963-1968 where he served as a teacher with the New Guinea Lutheran Mission. Upon returning to the United States, Larry sought further education alongside a long career of teaching and serving as a junior high principal. Larry was elected to his first full term as Mayor in 1997 and was reelected in 2001, 2005, and 2009. Additionally, he has served as a member of the Education Funding task force of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and currently is chairman of the Diversity task force and chairs the Board of Directors of the Caucus.    

  • Dennis Holtschneider, President, DePaul University

    Father Dennis Holtschneider is president of DePaul University, the nation’s largest Catholic university with more than 25,000 students. DePaul University was founded in 1898 to make educational opportunities available to the children of immigrants, and continues to this day its outreach to first-generation, minority and low-income students. A Vincentian priest ordained in 1989, Father Holtschneider holds degrees in mathematics, theology and a doctoral degree in higher education policy from Harvard University. He is a director of the Chicago Economic Club, the Chicago History Museum, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and currently serves as vice chairman of Ascension Health, the nation’s largest Catholic health system, and as chairman of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, the national association of all Catholic universities in the United States. 

  • Joshua Hoyt, Chief Strategy Executive, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

    Joshua Hoyt has been with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights since May of 2002. During this time the Coalition has fought vigorously for citizenship for the undocumented, to protect civil liberties in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and for a full integration of immigrants into the American Dream. The Coalition has helped to make Illinois one of the most immigrant friendly states in the United States. Hoyt has testified before Congress, published opinion pieces and articles in the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and other magazines, and directed several political campaigns. 

  • Kareem M. Irfan, Esq., President, Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago

    Kareem Irfan served as the first Muslim president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago and is a former Chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago. He has advised the U.S. State Department and led leadership and inter-faith delegations on multiple global initiatives on Government-Community collaborations, international peace, multifaith bridge-building and counter-extremism. With 25+ years of private law practice & corporate management experience, Irfan currently serves as Chief Strategy Officer & General Counsel for a global conglomerate of IT businesses. His honors include the Distinguished Community Leadership Award from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Excellence in Interfaith Leadership Award from the City of Chicago.

  • Biju Kulathakal, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Trading Block

    Biju Kulathakal is an entrepreneur and an Active Angel Investor. He is currently Chairman and CEO of Trading Block Holdings Inc, a retail broker-dealer in Chicago. He was an early investor and partner at GetAMovie which was later sold to McDonalds and is now RedBox. Previously, he was a founder of Enterprise Logic Systems, which is a software development firm that specialized in the financial services and trading industry. He is a board member of the Beck Foundation. He has previously served on the board of the Chicago Charter School foundation, Civitas Schools, Leap Learning Systems and the Heartland Institute. 

  • Ngoan Le, Vice President, Program, The Chicago Community Trust

    Ngoan Le is vice president of program for The Chicago Community Trust, the Chicago area regional foundation that provides significant funding support to immigrant integration efforts. Prior to her position with the Trust, Le served in leadership positions for over 15 years at the Chicago Department of Human Services, the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Governor’s Office. Le also served on President Clinton’s Advisory Commission for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. She is a refugee from Vietnam who came to the United States in 1975.

  • Juan Ochoa, President and CEO, Miramar International Group

    Mr. Ochoa is President and Chief Executive Officer with the Miramar Group, a full service international public relations firm with offices in Chicago and Mexico City. Mr. Ochoa was previously the Chief Executive Officer for the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA), which owns and operates McCormick Place, North America’s largest convention center; Hyatt Regency McCormick Place Hotel; and historic Navy Pier, the Midwest’s top tourist and leisure destination. Prior to joining the MPEA, Mr. Ochoa served for ten years as the President and CEO of the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (IHCC). Additionally, Mr. Ochoa has served on the Board of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus Institute for the past six years.

  • Sylvia Puente, Executive Director, Latino Policy Forum

    In January 2009, Sylvia Puente began serving as Executive Director of the Latino Policy Forum. Through the Forum, she works with more than 100 organizational leaders in the Chicago metropolitan region. She has been recognized as one of the “100 Most Influential Hispanics in the U.S.” by Hispanic Business magazine. Along with many other civic organizations in which she is active, Puente serves as a board director of Advance Illinois, a public policy agency working to improve education in the State, and was appointed by Governor Quinn to serve as chair of the Education Funding Advisory Board. 

  • Elena Segura, Director, Officer for Immigrant Affairs, Archdiocese of Chicago

    After coming to the U.S. from Peru in 1984, Segura coordinated the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago’s refugee resettlement program for six years. Since 1999, Segura has served the Archdiocese of Chicago including ten years as the diocesan director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Currently she is the founding director of the archdiocesan Office for Immigrant Affairs and Immigration Education, and is the first U.S. diocesan office dedicated to immigrant issues. In 2010, her new Office for Immigrant Affairs launched an Immigrant-to-Immigrant Ministry which empowers immigrants to engage in service and justice actions, serving to form them as leaders for their parish communities. 

  • Alejandro Silva, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Evans Food Group

    Alejandro Silva cofounded Evans Food Group Ltd. in 1979 and serves as chairman of Evans Food Products Co. He has been in the food industry since 1972. Prior to acquiring Evans Food Group in 1985, Silva served as operating manager and assistant plant manager of KIR Alimentos S.A. Silva serves on numerous boards, including The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Walgreens, The Private bank, and he is chairman of the finance, audit and budgeting committee for the Chicago Transit Authority. He is the recipient of several awards: the Double Eagle Award from the United States-Mexico Chamber of Commerce and the Mexican American Chamber of Commerce of Illinois Food Industry Award.



  • Angela D. Adams – Director, Immigration Group, Lewis & Kappes, P.C.
  • Mirsad Alibasic – General Manager, BosnaTV
  • Julene Allen – Creative Director & Founder, Women for Action
  • Maria D. Amezcua – President, Mexican American Society
  • Roseanna Ander – Executive Director, University of Chicago Crime Lab
  • John L. Anderson – President, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • David B. Anderson – President and CEO, Great Lakes Regional Center, LLC
  • Nikhil Angelo – Chicago Organizer, Stand for Children Illinois
  • Julie M. Aponte – Managing Director, J. Aponte & Associates, LLC
  • Ira Azulay – Immigration Attorneys, LLP
  • Xóchitl Bada – Associate Professor, Latin American and Latino Studies Program, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • M. Mercedes Badia-Tavas – Attorney, Barnes & Thornburg LLP
  • Douglas Baker – President, Northern Illinois University
  • Mayor Gerald R. Bennett – Mayor of Palos Hills, Illinois
  • Royal F. Berg – Attorney at Law
  • Ranjana Bhargava – President, Ranjana’s Indian Cooking Classes
  • Daniel Biss – State Senator of Illinois, 9th District
  • David Borris – President, Hel’s Kitchen Catering
  • Rebecca J. Boyd – Attorney
  • Paul S. Braun – Mayor, Village of Flossmoor
  • Jonathan Broutin – President, Seagull Institute
  • Mark J. Calaguas, Esq. – Board Member, Filipino American Lawyers Association of Chicago, Alliance of Filipinos for Immigrant Rights and Empowerment
  • Maria Calderon – Vice President, Comisión Coordinadora Guatemalteca del Medio Oeste
  • Canman Consulting
  • Donna M. Carroll – President, Dominican University
  • Sean Casten – President & CEO, Recycled Energy Development, LLC
  • Allison Chan, Esq. – Attorney in Charge, Chicago, Margaret M. Wong & Associates
  • Alan H. Channing – President and CEO, Sinai Health System
  • Chicago Cultural Alliance
  • Sohin Chinoy – Manager, A.T. Kearney
  • Joyce Coffee – Managing Director, ND Global Adaptation Index
  • Dolores Connelly – CEO, Sterling Engineering, Inc.
  • Rodney S. Craig – Village President, Hanover Park
  • Peter Creticos – President and Executive Director, Institute for Work and the Economy
  • Friar Brendan Curran – Pastor, St. Pius V Parish; Member, Steering Committee, Illinois Business Immigration Coalition
  • Cantor Michael Davis – Jewish Voice for Peace, Evanston
  • John DeBlasio – Executive Director, GPD Charitable Trust
  • Michael Deheeger – Former Director, Illinois Business Immigration Coalition
  • Leezia Dhalla – Executive Communications Specialist, Rackspace
  • Evelyn Diaz – Commissioner, Chicago Department of Family & Support Services
  • Ricard ‘Ric’ Estrada – President and CEO, Metropolitan Family Services
  • Scott Fehlan
  • Alexandra Filindra – Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Andrea Fox – Executive Director, Hanover Park Chamber of Commerce
  • Mitch Gainer – Organizing Catholics for Justice
  • Ami Gandhi – Executive Director, South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI)
  • Fr. Michael Garanzini, S.J. – President, Loyola University
  • Donald W. Garner – President, LL.M. Law Group
  • Ana Gil Garcia – Professor, Northeastern Illinois University
  • Susan Gottlieb
  • Emily Gray – Executive Director, World Relief DuPage / Aurora
  • Miguel Guevera – Managing Partner, Thribe Management Consulting
  • Steve Haggerty – Global Head – Real Estate and Capital Strategy, Hyatt Hotels Corporation
  • Joshua D. Hale – President and CEO, Big Shoulders Fund
  • Keith Hanson – Hanson Law Group, LLP
  • Matthew J. Hauschild – DePaul University
  • Joanna Herbert – Vice President, Great Lakes Regional Center, LLC
  • Benjamin Hernandez – CEO and Co-Founder of NuMat Technologies, Inc.
  • HIAS Chicago
  • Barbara Higgins – SVP, Customer Experience, Allstate Insurance Company
  • Rebecca Hinrichs-Reynoso – Photographer, A.VER.FOTO
  • Jon Horek – Professional Engineer
  • Illinois Business Immigration Coalition
  • Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Illinois Science & Technology Coalition
  • Illinois Technology Association (ITA)
  • Immigration Attorneys, LLP
  • IMPRINT: Immigration Professional Integration
  • Minoo Javanmardian – Vice President, Global Health Practice, Booz & Company
  • Alie Kabba – Executive Director, United African Organization
  • Peggy Kayser – Chief Programs Officer, Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS
  • Larry A. Keller – Village President, Village of West Dundee, Illinois
  • Jonathan Kent – Business Analyst, CME Group
  • Jae Choi Kim – President, Asian American Action Fund of Greater Chicago
  • Erik Kinnhammar – Manager of International Programs, Chicago Sister Cities International
  • Daniel M. Kowalski – Senior Fellow, Institute for Justice Journalism
  • Seth Kravitz – Co-Founder and President, Technori
  • Richard Lariviere – President & CEO, The Field Museum
  • Latinos Progresando
  • Billy Lawless, Sr. – Restaurant owner, Henri & The Gage
  • Kenneth Lehman – Managing Director, KKP Group LLC
  • Fay Hartog Levin – Former Ambassador to the Netherlands
  • Daniel Levin – Chairman, The Habitat Company
  • Emily Love – Law Office of Emily Love, P.C.
  • Ernie Mahaffey – President, Center for Business, Education, Innovation, and Development
  • Jeff McCarter – Founder and E.D., Free Spirit Media
  • Yanzi Mendez – Director of External Affairs, Illinois House of Representatives
  • Marilyn Michelini – Village President, Village of Montgomery, Illinois
  • Michael Milkie – Superintendent, Noble Network of Charter Schools
  • L. Heather Mitchell – Principal, Investor Relations, Capri Capital Partners, LLC
  • Jorge Mujica – Organizador Trabajadores Latinos, ARISE Chicago
  • William T. Murphy – Mayor, Village of Woodridge, Illinois
  • National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities
  • Dawn M. Nothwehr – The Erica and Harry John Family Endowed Chair in Catholic Ethics, Catholic Theological Union
  • R. Jamieson Nunamaker – Village President, Fox River Grove, Illinois
  • Peter O’Keefe – Co-Chair, World Refugee Day Chicago
  • Adam Olson – Advocacy Advisor, Oxfam America
  • Organizing Catholics for Justice
  • James Pappachen – Chief of Staff, Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin
  • Rob Paral – Rob Paral & Associates

State Events

To engage a broad community of Midwesterners in a conversation about immigration the “Task Force on Immigration and U.S. Economic Competitiveness: A View from the Midwest” has gone on the road to learn more about the immigrant communities throughout the region. The forums highlighted how immigrants contribute to local economies and the integration challenges local communities are facing, among other issues. 8 forums were held in the late summer and early fall. Local leaders participated. The diverse canvas of immigrant communities and local issues was put on full display.

Immigration Reform: Bridging the Divide

State Events

To engage a broad community of Midwesterners in a conversation about immigration the “Task Force on Immigration and U.S. Economic Competitiveness: A View from the Midwest” has gone on the road to learn more about the immigrant communities throughout the region. The forums highlighted how immigrants contribute to local economies and the integration challenges local communities are facing, among other issues. 8 forums were held in the late summer and early fall. Local leaders participated. The diverse canvas of immigrant communities and local issues was put on full display.

Senior Fellow Richard C. Longworth at Rotary Club

State Events

To engage a broad community of Midwesterners in a conversation about immigration the “Task Force on Immigration and U.S. Economic Competitiveness: A View from the Midwest” has gone on the road to learn more about the immigrant communities throughout the region. The forums highlighted how immigrants contribute to local economies and the integration challenges local communities are facing, among other issues. 8 forums were held in the late summer and early fall. Local leaders participated. The diverse canvas of immigrant communities and local issues was put on full display.

Event with US Senator Dick Durbin

Public Program by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs

State Events

To engage a broad community of Midwesterners in a conversation about immigration the “Task Force on Immigration and U.S. Economic Competitiveness: A View from the Midwest” has gone on the road to learn more about the immigrant communities throughout the region. The forums highlighted how immigrants contribute to local economies and the integration challenges local communities are facing, among other issues. 8 forums were held in the late summer and early fall. Local leaders participated. The diverse canvas of immigrant communities and local issues was put on full display.

New Partner Organization: IBIC


The Illinois Business Immigration Council (IBIC) launched April 1, 2013, at the Lurie Children’s Hospital.

State Events

To engage a broad community of Midwesterners in a conversation about immigration the “Task Force on Immigration and U.S. Economic Competitiveness: A View from the Midwest” has gone on the road to learn more about the immigrant communities throughout the region. The forums highlighted how immigrants contribute to local economies and the integration challenges local communities are facing, among other issues. 8 forums were held in the late summer and early fall. Local leaders participated. The diverse canvas of immigrant communities and local issues was put on full display.

Report Release: Chicago


Moderated by Niala Boodhoo, WBEZ business reporter, and hosted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

State Events

To engage a broad community of Midwesterners in a conversation about immigration the “Task Force on Immigration and U.S. Economic Competitiveness: A View from the Midwest” has gone on the road to learn more about the immigrant communities throughout the region. The forums highlighted how immigrants contribute to local economies and the integration challenges local communities are facing, among other issues. 8 forums were held in the late summer and early fall. Local leaders participated. The diverse canvas of immigrant communities and local issues was put on full display.

A View from Chicago


Moderated by Samuel Scott III, Retired Chairman, President and CEO, Corn Products International and Chairman of the Board, Chicago Sister Cities International.