A recap of “Immigrant Stories and Songs”


Northern Illinois Justice For Our Neighbors (NIJFON) held an event to raise awareness of the plight that immigrants go through on a daily basis . It was a festive event with solo music performances from artist such as Nigerian Gospel Singer Ekeng Bassey, to powerful testimonials by NIJFON’s supervisory attorney Jenny Ansay, and Fred Tsao, who is the Senior Policy Counsel of the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR).

The most “jaw dropping” moment of this event was Fred Tsao’s testimony on United States immigration statistics. Here are some key points that he stated:

– 18 billion dollars from the U.S. Government was spent on strengthening immigration enforcement(11 billion dollars were spent on the U.S/Mexico border alone)

– 2015 marked a record number of deportations by the U.S. with nearly 406,000 which equates to 1,100 deportations per day

– Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE)  is focusing more on monitoring immigrants  WITH NO CRIMINAL RECORD.

-On a surprising note, The undocumented immigrant populations decreased within the past year. Mr. Tsao noted that the improved economy in Mexico and the lack of jobs available for immigrants in the U.S. played a huge role in slowing down the migration of immigrants from Mexico-U.S.

– Within the past year there has been an INCREASE in Central American immigrants.

– 10 percent of Immigrants WITHOUT LEGAL REPRESENTATION only win their deportation cases.

Fred Tsao’s lecture makes us realize 3 key points:

1. Instead of helping immigrants and providing them with the resources and protection needed for them to live productive and efficient lives, The government instead is focusing on criminalizing immigrants (deportations, detention centers) which creates unnecessary stigma against a group of people who’s only crime is to create a better life for themselves and for their family.

2. Because statistics show that migration from a specific country slows when its economy improves, it further proves the notion that immigrants MIGRATE TO ANOTHER COUNTRY BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO…….NOT BECAUSE THEY WANT TO.  To most immigrants, living in the United States is not just a form of luxury…… Its a form of survival.

3. Legal representation is vital to the well-being of an immigrant who is facing hardship which makes NIJFON’s mission of “providing free legal representation to low-income immigrants” that much vital.

All in all, the immigration dilemma in America is getting worse and better legislation, dialogue, and advocacy measures need to be put into place to solve this issue