Blagojevich administration to hold welcoming day for new Americans

State agencies and the College of DuPage team up to offer free health screenings, employment information and other services

CHICAGO - Officials from Governor Rod R. Blagojevich's Administration, the Office of New Americans Policy and Advocacy and the Illinois Welcoming Center today joined the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn to host "Illinois Welcoming Day," a comprehensive resource fair that gives new Americans first hand information on state services that are available to them. The Illinois Department of Human Services and other state agencies set up information booths on employment, training and education information and also offered free health screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, as well as vision and dental exams.

"The Illinois Welcoming Day is a key step forward in the way the State works with hard working new Americans who need information and services as they make Illinois their home," said Gov. Blagojevich. "By bringing state services directly to the community we are breaking down barriers that keep so many new residents from accessing the American Dream."

In 2005, the governor created the Office of New Americans Advocacy and Policy to coordinate policies and programs to help newcomers fully assimilate to the state, provide more and better services to the growing number of immigrants living in Illinois, and to study the impact of immigration policy on the state.

"The Welcoming Day helps provide immigrants with quick and easy access to essential services such as health care, employment, housing, public transportation, childcare, English language training, education, and nutrition information," said Jose Luis Gutierrez, director of the Office of New Americans Advocacy and Policy. "Illinois recognizes the great cultural, social, and economic values immigrants bring to the state, and we value the potential contributions of immigrants as they become part of society in Illinois." 

As of 2006, 1.77 million foreign born people resided in Illinois. They represent 13.8 percent of the total population, but they provide 17.6 percent of the workforce. More than half of the immigrant population lives outside of Chicago. After Chicago, DuPage County has the most diverse population in the State. The three largest nations of origin are Mexico, Poland, and India. Illinois' immigrant population is 2.4 percent African, 24.7 percent Asian, 23.7 percent European, and 48 percent Latino.

To meet the need of the growing immigrant population, Governor Blagojevich last July unveiled the Illinois Welcoming Center, a one stop shop for services in healthcare, education, labor and employment available through the state to help newcomers transition into their communities. The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and the Governor's Office of New Americans are working with nine state agencies in order to bring direct access to services to qualified applicants.

"For new citizens, it can be difficult to navigate and understand all of the state resources and agencies," said Silvia Villa, Director, Illinois Welcoming Center. "That's why events like these are important. We bring all of the resources to one place so that immigrants can come and ask questions and have one-on-one conversations with state officials."

"College of DuPage serves many thousands of students new to America, ranging from basic English language learners to those who are among our most competitive and nationally celebrated students," said Dr. Sunil Chand, College of DuPage president. "The college is proud and delighted to be the site for the Illinois Welcome Day. We applaud the Office of the Governor for this day and welcome our diverse communities."

Other state agencies involved include the Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS), Department of Aging (IDoA), Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), Department of Employment Security (IDES), State Board of Education (ISBE), the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH).

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