Angela Hermann and Ginger ESL Map blog photo

Volunteers Create Indianapolis English Classes Map

What do you do when you need to find someplace? Maybe you’re looking for a restaurant, a library, a store, or a gas station. I’m going to guess that your answer was “search on Google Maps”. Most of us who have access to a smart phone, whether we are new to a city or long-time residents, use Google Maps or similar apps to get information and directions for a variety of locales. Immigrant Welcome Center volunteers Ginger Kosobucki and Angela Herrmann have spent the past several months developing a map that gives Indy’s immigrants, refugees, and others the ability to easily find what is often an essential need: English classes.

ESL Map Website ScreenshotThe Immigrant Welcome Center, and other organizations that serve immigrants and refugees, can tell you that there has not always been one place to look for current and accurate information on English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in our city. Now, thanks to the dedication of Ginger and Angela, there is such a tool that everyone can use. You can view the website and map here.

The Immigrant Welcome Center’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Sarah Fox, interviewed Ginger and Angela to learn more about the project.

Immigrant Welcome Center: Please tell us a little bit about you, professionally and/or personally.

GK portraitGinger Kosobucki: I received a BA in French at University of Vermont, after which I taught foreign languages in an elementary and high school in Vermont. In 1990, I got married, moved to Netherlands and then to Poland, where I taught English and gave birth to our two daughters. We moved to Indianapolis in 1997, and in 2014 I  completed my MA in English with a TESOL Concentration at IUPUI. I currently teach at ELS Language Center.  I love working with internationals of all kinds, as well as travelling, gardening, sewing, and reading.

Angela Herrmann: I am a writer and photographer. I have a BA in Spanish/Journalism from Indiana University, an MA in English with certificates in TESOL and Teaching Writing from IUPUI, and an MA in Earth Literacy from St. Mary-of-the-Woods College. I’m the managing editor for the New Teacher Advocate, a publication of Kappa Delta Pi, an international honor society in education. I’ve taught English in Indiana, California, England, and China. When I’m not writing, photographing, or editing, I’m probably working in a garden, tending a small flock of hens, or hiking on a trail.

IWC: How did the Indianapolis English Classes Map project get started?

GK: In Spring of 2016, a volunteer from the IWC called me because my community English class was “on the list”, which she was trying to update. After speaking with her, I decided to help her update the list. I began volunteering with her, under the guidance of the Outreach Coordinator. Eventually both the volunteer and Outreach Coordinator moved on from the project, but I felt the desire to continue. I worked under the oversight of Terri Morris-Downs, Executive Director of the IWC, and eventually asked my friend, Angela Herrmann, to assist with the project. She has both the technical and TESOL background, whereas I lacked the technical know-how to fulfill the vision.

AH: The map project formally got started after a conversation with Ginger because we both had discovered and agreed that Indianapolis needed this resource. We pooled our skill sets and went to work.

IWC: Why did you want to create this website and map?

ESL Map ScreenshotGK: I was planning a trip, using Air B&B, and enjoying the easy drop-down informational arrows. I thought, “This is what we need for the non-English speaking immigrant community in Indy – a navigable, visual map of all the possible ESL programs available to them.” I noticed that the text-heavy lists became quickly out-of-date, and were difficult to read for English Language Learners. Whenever the question came up, the answer was always, “I think (so-and-so) has a list.” The need for one master list was evident, and the Immigrant Welcome Center seemed the most sensible place to “host” the list.

AH: When I was looking for opportunities to teach adult ESL, with the exception of some better-known programs in the city, I had no idea where I might find teaching positions–either for pay or as a volunteer. I realized that if I, as a long-time resident of Indianapolis, could not find English classes, how would newly arrived immigrants find English classes–especially low cost or free classes? Having volunteered and taught English abroad, I fully appreciate the importance of having the language skills for everyday needs, such as shopping, paying bills, going to the doctor, and more. Without those language skills, living in a new culture can feel overwhelming and even isolating. Thus the rationale behind organizing all of Indianapolis’ English classes into one online place so newcomers can find a class that’s just right for them.

IWC: How do you hope the map will be used?

GK: We hope it will be useful on multiple layers. (1) For the Immigrant community to be able to more easily find an ESL program near them. (2) For agencies / individuals who work with immigrants, to more easily direct them to an appropriate program. (3) For teachers of English – to be able to volunteer in programs, or find employment in one of the many programs. We also hope it will be used as a model for other types of services for immigrants (health centers, food pantries, etc.)

AH: I envision multiple audiences for this resource. First and foremost, the immigrant communities. All over the city, English classes are available–everyone should have the opportunity to learn English so they can make the most of their experience in Indianapolis. Second, aspiring teachers. With IUPUI’s new TESOL program, finding opportunities for internships and teaching will be much easier.  One assumption I made in creating the website and the map is that most will access it via a mobile device–thus the resource is intentionally simple and very easy to use. The bottom line is that no matter who you are, I want you to be able to find an English class that fits your needs.

IWC: You are both busy people, but you’ve given a lot of time to this project and other volunteer efforts. What fuels or inspires you?

GK: What inspires me first is my God, who is a lover of strangers, and encourages me to “love the stranger.” Secondly, I have been a stranger many times, having lived in Norway, France, Bolivia, Netherlands, and Poland, and have felt the helpless, lost, confused feeling…a lack of footing in a new culture. I wanted to create a tool that would ease some of the confusion, and facilitate language learning, as language is an empowering key that opens doors of opportunity.

AH: Paying it forward … some kind people have made my life a little easier along the way, I hope to do the same for others.

IWC: What message would you want to share with someone in Indianapolis who is beginning to learn English as a new language?

GK: The message I would like to send to any language learners new to Indianapolis is: (1) Make the effort to enroll in one of the many programs available, or take lessons, no matter how difficult or inconvenient it may seem. Putting forth the effort at the beginning will reap long-term benefits. If you don’t, you will constantly feel like an outsider looking in. (2) Use on-line resources to help with language learning. You can do this from the convenience of your home.  (3) Don’t give up! It takes a child years to master his/her native language. It will take a long time before you feel really comfortable in the English language…but don’t give up. You learned your first language (and maybe other languages too)! You can definitely learn English!

AH: Everyone knows English is a crazy language to learn, but keep at it and practice, practice, practice. And when you have learned some English, don’t be afraid to use it even if you don’t feel confident with your skills. All practice is good practice. We learn from our mistakes. And if possible, try to find a place to volunteer so you can meet and get to know some Americans and so we can get to know you.

IWC: Anything else you’d like to add?

AH: I appreciated the opportunity to work with Ginger. We both discovered an unmet need in Indianapolis and brought very different but complimentary skill sets to this project. That made it possible! Overall, I’ve found the ESL/TESOL community in Indianapolis to be quite collaborative–we all have the same goals in mind with different paths to achieving those goals. The Immigrant Welcome Center staff has been totally supportive of our efforts and for that I am most appreciative.

Thank you, Angela and Ginger! We appreciate YOU!

Questions or comments? Please email eslmap@immigrantwelcomecenter.org.

Alicia Gómez, IWC Administrative Assistant, and Rose Ohiami, Community Resource Specialist at La Plaza and IWC Natural Helper, at Family Safety Plan Night on 5/23/17.

Prepared families = Stronger communities

We know that many immigrant families feel fear that they could be separated due to emergencies such as detention or deportation, but we believe our communities and families are stronger when we are prepared. As a follow up to many Know Your Rights presentations that have been held since the change in U.S administration in January, we are hosting Family Safety Plan Nights. These free and open to the public events are an opportunity for immigrant parents to learn more about creating a family safety plan, temporary guardianship, and power of attorney.


On May 23, Immigrant Welcome Center held our first Family Safety Plan Night in collaboration with COIN (Coalition for Our Immigrant Neighbors), Kids’ Voice Indiana, Indiana Legal Services, and La Plaza, at the Newcomer Program of Indianapolis Public Schools.Fourteen families attended the workshop which began with an informational presentation by Aimee Heitz of Indiana Legal Services (ILS). After the presentation, families had the opportunities to meet with one of five volunteer attorneys.


Thank you to our volunteers, including Christina Trent, Drew Spear, Katie Blum, William Esquivel, Aimee Heitz (ILS), Julie Sommers Neuman (COIN), Lindsay Faulkenberg (Kids’ Voice), Rose Ohiami (La Plaza), Jessica Feeser (IPS) and the Newcomer Program staff, partner organizations, donors, and the families who came to create their family safety plan!
Upcoming Dates:
Sunday, June 11
6 to 8 pm
Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church
9900 East 191st Street
Noblesville, IN 46060
Thursday, June 29
6 to 8 pm
Hawthorne Community Center
2440 West Ohio Street
Indianapolis, IN 46222
Alicia Gómez, IWC Administrative Assistant, and Rose Ohiami, Community Resource Specialist at La Plaza and IWC Natural Helper, at Family Safety Plan Night on 5/23/17.

Alicia Gómez, IWC Administrative Assistant, and Rose Ohiami, Community Resource Specialist at La Plaza and IWC Natural Helper, at Family Safety Plan Night on 5/23/17.

Aimee Heitz, Directing Attorney of the Immigrants' and Language Rights Center at Indiana Legal Services, Inc., presents to families at Family Safety Plan Night on 5/23/17.

Aimee Heitz, Directing Attorney of the Immigrants’ and Language Rights Center at Indiana Legal Services, Inc., presents to families at Family Safety Plan Night on 5/23/17.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please share the flyer:

 

Family Safety Plan Nights Flyer

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Immigrant Welcome Center Welcomes Three New Board Members

The Immigrant Welcome Center is adding three members to the organization’s board of directors. Helene Cross, Jackie Nytes and Mario Rodriguez will begin their board terms on April 4, 2016.

“These three individuals bring diverse leadership and life experiences to our board,” says Terri Morris Downs, executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Center. “Their guidance as board members will be invaluable to helping us meet our mission to connect immigrants and refugees to resources, services and opportunities they need to fully participate in the economic, civic, social and cultural life of the community.”

HeleneCrossHelene Cross is the retired president and CEO of Fairbanks. Currently, she serves as a consultant, providing expertise in leadership and management development, executive coaching, and strategic and business planning. Cross served as executive vice president of Easter Seals Crossroads and in various administrative roles at St. Vincent and Wishard Hospital.  She has been awarded the John T. Hazer Distinguished Alumni Award in Psychology from the IUPUI School of Science, the American College of Addiction Treatment Administrators Annual Achievement Award and the Richard M. Fairbanks Circle of Hope Award. She holds a master’s degree in management from Indiana Wesleyan University and a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).

JackieNytesJackie Nytes is the CEO of the Indianapolis Public Library. During her career, Nytes has served as the Chief Financial Officer and the associate director for management services at the library in addition to serving as president of the Indiana Economic Development Council and executive director of the Mapleton Fall Creek Development Corporation. She was an elected representative on the Indianapolis City County Council for 12 years. She is on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Indianapolis Progress Committee, and the Indianapolis Symphony. She serves as a trustee of Citizens Energy and recently completed 12 years on the board of the International Center of Indianapolis. Nytes holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a Master of Library Science degree (MLS) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Mario RodriguezMario Rodriguez is the executive director of the Indianapolis Airport. Rodriguez, a second-generation immigrant, is an aviation expert with over 28 years of experience in the private and public sectors. He sits on several industry and charitable boards and is a former president of the California Airports Council. Rodriguez previously served as CEO of the Long Beach Airport, and has served in leadership positions in airports from Hong Kong to Palm Beach. Rodriguez is an accomplished author and speaker on issues affecting the aviation industry, including business recovery and disaster management. He is an engineering graduate of the University of Miami.

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Indianapolis Selected for Gateways for Growth Challenge

Twenty U.S. cities chosen for program created by
Partnership for a New American Economy (PNAE) and Welcoming America

INDIANAPOLIS — The Partnership for a New American Economy Research Fund (PNAE) and Welcoming America selected Indianapolis to take part in their Gateways for Growth Challenge, a program that supports the development and implementation of multi-sector strategic plans for welcoming and integrating new Americans. The Immigrant Welcome Center submitted the application for the challenge and will serve as the lead organization for this initiative locally.

Indianapolis was one of 20 cities chosen for this unique program. “These communities are leaders in the broader and growing trend to be more inclusive, countering the narrative often heard in the mainstream news,” says David Lubell, executive director of Welcoming America.

PNAE and Welcoming America will provide the Immigrant Welcome Center with:

● Customized quantitative research reports on the contributions immigrants make to the local economy.
● On-the-ground, technical assistance to help the Immigrant Welcome Center draft, execute, and communicate a multi-sector immigrant integration strategy.

The Immigrant Welcome Center’s 100-member Welcoming Cities Task Force is working to address ways to make Indianapolis a more immigrant-friendly city. Terri Morris Downs, executive director of the Immigrant Welcome Center says, “The support and expertise offered through the Gateways for Growth Challenge will help our Task Force craft recommendations for a citywide immigrant integration plan that will offer practical solutions for creating a city that welcomes and supports all residents.”

For more information about the Gateways for Growth Challenge and a complete list of cities selected for the program, visit http://www.renewoureconomy.org.

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About the Immigrant Welcome Center
The Immigrant Welcome Center began community outreach in 2007 through its Natural Helpers program, which has expanded to include 96 volunteers representing 32 countries and speaking 46 languages. Natural Helpers are immigrants themselves who live and work in the communities they serve. They are a trained, dedicated group of bilingual volunteers who connect newcomers to a variety of community organizations that can provide information and referral for assistance with transportation, health care, employment and job training, education, legal issues, ESL classes, and more.

In addition to the Natural Helpers program, the Immigrant Welcome Center serves as a resource for community programs by collecting information about immigrant needs and how to best meet them, as well as by coordinating interagency services and addressing barriers to access.

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A Call for Liberty and Justice for All

On Monday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence announced he is suspending the resettlement of Syrian refugees in our state. We believe the Governor’s statement unfairly characterizes Hoosiers as unwelcoming, and does not reflect the diversity most of us value in our communities.

We too are saddened by the tragedy and loss of innocent lives in Paris. But we must be resolved to live in a manner that reflects our values and not live in fear. Millions of refugees are fleeing violence in their homelands, trying to escape from the same terrorist groups who have committed acts of violence in other parts of the world. To deny access to these refugees would be inhumane.

More than 4 million Syrians have left their homeland in search of a safe haven and have a right to be treated with basic human dignity. Sheltering refugees from violence is one of the most noble acts a country can undertake. Many Hoosiers already work tirelessly to help welcome the stranger. Refugees are making enormous contributions to our state economically, culturally and socially. In the past two years, about 30 Syrians have been resettled in Indiana and many Hoosiers are open to welcoming more families.

We understand the need to be safe and to protect ourselves from those who wish to do us harm. U.S. security agencies and the Department of Homeland Security already have strict measures in place to screen refugees. To roll up the welcome mat is to play into how the terrorists would want Americans to react – to change our way of living and to cause fear and misunderstanding of the Syrian people.

Given the urgent need to resettle refugees, and Hoosiers’ long history of helping those in need from around the world, we call on Governor Pence to reconsider his position. By welcoming Syrian refugees, we show the world our resolve to be welcoming and inclusive, and we stand up for the quintessential American values we hold dear: liberty and justice for all. 

 

American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana

Jane Henegar, Executive Director

 

Center for Victim and Human Rights

Jill OBarske, Chair

Raio Krishnayya, Executive Director

Manoj Rana, Treasurer

Jessica Topor, Staff Attorney

Rachel Pendley, Staff Attorney

Mladenka Sitnikoska, Law Clerk

 

Exodus Refugee Immigration

Carleen Miller, Executive Director

 

Immigrant Welcome Center

Terri Morris Downs, Executive Director

 

Muslim Alliance of Indiana

Rima Khan-Shahid, Executive Director

 

 

 

 

TerriinDC

DC Convening Shared a Vision of Better Immigration Integration

TerriinDC

IWC Executive Director Terri Morris Downs with David Lubbell, Executive Director of Welcoming America, and Jane Gehlhausen with the Mayor’s Office of International and Cultural Affairs.

Jane Gehlhausen of the Mayor’s Office for International and Cultural Affairs and I proudly represented Indianapolis at the recent Welcoming Cities Convening in Washington, DC. We were encouraged to see the work being done nationally and between states and local governments in support of immigrants.

Here’s a snapshot of what we heard on major issues affecting immigrants and Indianapolis:

  • Building Welcoming Communities – The White House announced a new campaign that will connect federal resources with local communities to expand immigrant integration efforts, specifically in the areas of small business development, education, and citizenship resources. The program calls on communities to commit to and act on principles that focus on building inclusive communities that enable all residents to thrive, while advancing immigrant, civic, linguistic and economic integration. Indianapolis has a great start on this already!
  • Issuing driver’s licenses – Data now supports why states should issue driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants. States that have enacted such laws have demonstrated its effectiveness in increasing the number of insured drivers, reducing accidents.
  • Office of Immigrant Affairs – In a solidly pro-immigrant stance, most big-city mayors have opened an Office of Immigrant Affairs or New Americans and moved away from simply having Latino Affairs representatives.
  • Language Accessibility – The number one need of immigrants nationally is language accessibility, which should be considered in any integration plan. Cities and nonprofits are negotiating better rates with language lines and interpreting/translation companies.
  • Refugee Resettlement – The U.S. State Department will increased the number of refugees it resettles from 70,000 in 2015 to 85,000 in 2016, and efforts are underway to advocate funding for 100,000+ in 2017.

As you can see, there are many complex, sometimes divisive issues facing U.S. cities as evident by the commentary in the widely covered presidential campaigns. Most of the community leaders we met seemed to recognize the importance of attracting and retaining immigrants and their enormous economic, social and cultural benefits. They face many of the same quality-of-life questions, and like Indianapolis, will continue grassroots efforts to address these challenges, seize the opportunities and ensure our country’s continued success and prosperity.

You can help!
Be an advocate and educate others on why comprehensive immigration reform is crucial to our economy and the well-being of families and join our Welcoming Cities Task Force. Please call (317) 223-0933 or email us by Nov. 20 to get involved in this exciting new initiative and help drive the future of Indianapolis as a Welcoming City.

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TerriMorrisDowns.StaffTerri Morris Downs, has been the executive director for the Immigrant Welcome Center in Indianapolis since its inception 10 years ago.

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Live Local, Think Global Event to Discuss Impact of Significant Foreign-Born Population Growth

facebook bannerNumber of immigrants in Marion County on pace to nearly double in 10 years

INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 19, 2015) – The Immigrant Welcome Center and the Indy Chamber have opened registration for the inaugural Live Local, Think Global event to be held at 5 p.m. on September 10 at the Athenaeum in Indianapolis. The event will serve as a call-to-action for businesses to prepare for and embrace Indianapolis’ changing demographics.

“To be successful, Indianapolis must plan ahead to adapt to this immigration trend, welcome immigrants and embrace them as neighbors, students, entrepreneurs, coworkers and customers,” said Neelay Bhatt, Immigrant Welcome Center board member, vice president, PROS Consulting Inc., and a first-generation immigrant to Indianapolis from India. “To put it into basketball terms, good players go where the ball is, great ones go where the ball is going to be, and we want Indy to continue to be a great city.”

Based on U.S. Census and American Community Survey data1, PROS Consulting says the number of immigrants in Marion County is projected to grow from roughly 60,000 today to 118,000 in 2023, a jump from 8 to 12.5 percent of the population. [View infographic]

“By 2026, it is projected that Marion County will be a minority-majority County,” said Bhatt. “If Indianapolis doesn’t adapt, we will be left behind. Residents and businesses will be drawn to our peer cities such Charlotte, Columbus, Kansas City and any other immigrant-friendly city.”

“Thriving cities boast great neighborhoods, the best job opportunities and the highest quality of life for everyone,” said Michael Huber, President and CEO, Indy Chamber. “Indianapolis is already the Racing Capital of the World and the Crossroads of America. To remain competitive—locally, nationally and internationally—we need to be the Most Welcoming City in America.”

[Related: Indianapolis Named 51st Welcoming America City]

Huber will be joined at the September 10 event by a panel of business leaders from Cummins, Eli Lilly and Company, Indiana Farm Bureau and Keystone Construction. The event will be emceed by Indianapolis Star columnist Mathew Tully and WIBC reporter Mike Corbin.
For additional information or to register for the event, visit the Live Local, Think Global site. Event activity can be tracked at #ThinkGlobalIndy.

What does the demographic shift mean to the Indy workforce?
In less than 10 years, the number of immigrants age 25 or older with a bachelor’s degree or higher also will grow by 50 percent, meaning newcomers will arrive with a competitive skill set attractive to businesses looking to relocate or start up in Indianapolis. [View infographic]

Forty percent of Fortune 500 firms were founded by immigrants or their children, according to the Partnership for a New American Economy. “In fact, the CEOs of two of the largest tech companies in the world, Microsoft and Google, as well as those at Pepsi and MasterCard are first-generation immigrants,” said Bhatt. “We must cultivate an environment that will enable the next Google or Apple to be built right here in Indy.”

Top three growth industries for Indy immigrants
The top three growth industries for immigrants in Indianapolis, which include: 1) arts and entertainment and hospitality, 2) education services and health care, and 3) professional, scientific, technology and management, will each more than double by 2023.

“The demographics of our nation are changing rapidly,” Huber added. “Our laws and governments, schools and businesses, and faith, service and health organizations—the very fabric of our communities, need to be proactive and evolve with them.”

[Related –Welcoming Week 2015, Sept. 12 – 20, to Feature ALL-IN Block Party on Monument Circle]

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1PROS Consulting Inc. used straight-line linear regression to project 2018 and 2023 demographics based on the population trends in Marion County from 2009-2013 using 2010 U.S. Census data and American Community Survey2 data through 2013.

2The ACS is a nationwide survey by the U.S. Census Bureau that collects and produces information on demographic, social, economic, and housing characteristics about the U.S. population every year. About 1 in 38 U.S. households per year receives an invitation to participate in the ACS.


About Immigrant Welcome Center
immigrant welcome center logoThe Immigrant Welcome Center began community outreach in 2007 through its Natural Helpers program, which today includes 81 volunteers representing 38 countries and speaking 40 languages. Natural Helpers are immigrants themselves who live and work in the communities they serve. They are a trained, dedicated group of bilingual volunteers who connect newcomers to community organizations that can provide information and referral for assistance with transportation, health care, employment and job training, education, legal issues, ESL classes and more.

In addition to the Natural Helpers program, the Immigrant Welcome Center serves as a resource for community programs by collecting information about immigrant needs and how to best meet them, as well as by coordinating interagency services and addressing barriers to access.

About Indy Chamber
Indy Chamber - Vertical_pmsThe Indy Chamber is the voice of progress and improvement for the Indianapolis region’s business community. With membership of nearly 2,300 businesses representing 230,000 employees in the Indianapolis region, the Indy Chamber is leading the effort to strengthen the business climate, improve the state of education, revitalize neighborhoods and enhance the region’s workforce. In 2012, the Indy Chamber merged with Indy Partnership, Develop Indy, and Business Ownership Initiative.

Judith

Natural Helper Connects Immigrant to Attorney General’s Office

Natural Helper CJudithonnects Immigrant to Attorney General’s Office
Case Involving Car Warranty is Subsequently Appealed

Buying a car can be stressful. Imagine trying to buy one when you don’t speak the language well. Judith bought a car with a warranty that stated the dealership would cover the cost of repairs within a certain time period after the purchase. Unfortunately, many problems popped up on the car only days after the purchase, and the dealership did not honor the warranty. When Judith refused to pay for the repairs, the dealership sued her, and the court did not rule in her favor. Not only was Judith trying to adjust to a new place, but also she acquired thousands of dollars in debt because of a faulty car.

Cristina Gomez, a Natural Helper who works at our Southeast Community Services Branch on Monday evenings from 4:30 to 7:30 with the Indiana Attorney General’s office. They appealed the court’s decision, and Judith’s case won the second trial. She is now debt free and helping other immigrants with similar challenges.

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Adams Recieves National AILA Advocacy Award

Angela AdamsThe American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has awarded Immigrant Welcome Center board member, Angela Adams, Associate General Counsel, Indiana University, with the 2015 Advocacy Award for outstanding efforts in support of AILA’s legislative agenda.

Read more about how Angela has devoted her career to enlightening the community about the beauty of immigration, the necessity of immigration reform, and the many other accolades she’s received along the way.

Congratulations, Angela! We appreciate your leadership.