Since 1990, Illinois has experienced an 86.5% increase in its immigrant population. Today, four out of ten new immigrants to Illinois settle directly in a Chicago suburb rather than in the City of Chicago itself. The North and Northwest Suburbs are now home to a diverse and rapidly growing immigrant population. Communities with an influx of immigrants face a myriad of challenges including: providing services to new cultural groups, communicating with those who do not speak English, and maintaining a sense of community cohesion and identity. Challenges also include learning to build on the strengths and capabilities of immigrant groups settling in the community.
Local municipalities have a major role to play in recognizing and addressing these critical needs for the immigrants in their community and for the vitality of the entire community. Municipalities need the strengths, talents and economic and social contributions of immigrant members of their communities and must share the responsibility to create and support these pathways to immigrant integration.
According to Grant makers Concerned With Immigrants and Refugees (GCIR),1 a national association of grant makers, Immigrant Integration is a critical and complex issue that requires collaboration of local municipalities, immigrant-serving organizations (such as HIAS Chicago), community service providers and, of course, immigrants themselves.
Immigrant integration is a “dynamic, two-way process in which newcomers and the receiving society work together to build secure, vibrant, and cohesive communities. This emphasis on the two-way process of change by both immigrants and members of the receiving population contrasts with the use of the term "assimilation" to signify one-way process of adaptation by immigrants to fit in with a dominant culture.” 2
- Toward this end, through innovative programs in partnership with local communities, we provide pathways to engage new citizens and encourage their participation in economic, social and civic life.
- To help newcomers find additional community resources, HIAS Chicago provide referrals for assistance with public benefits applications, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and many other social services.