‘The Long Journey Home’ sparks conversation on Latino migration

Last year, Frida Arellano came to Arcola, Ill., from Texas with her family to find work in the area’s agricultural fields. The job left her family broke and homeless, she said.

More than 15 years ago, Daneli Rabanalez Hernandez also moved to Arcola, traveling thousands of miles with her family from their original home in Mexico. Now a student at Olivet Nazarene University, Hernandez said central Illinois has become their true home.

Latinos cited more than others for driving without a license

By Jeff Kelly Lowenstein/Hoy — Latinos in Urbana and Champaign make up 5 and 6 percent of the population, respectively, and, from 2007 to 2011, about the same proportion of the cities’ total citations and arrests. But there’s one violation in which Latinos are heavily overrepresented: failing to have a drivers license. In both cities, Latinos made up at least 32 percent of the drivers cited for this violation, according to an Hoy analysis of arrest data. In Champaign, it was 880 of 2,725, or 32 percent, of such citations. In Urbana, the figure was 357 of 1,038, or 34 percent.

Increase in the Latino population draws more business to Rantoul

By Jeff Kelly Lowenstein/Hoy —  Rantoul is a town with a proud military heritage. You see it on the name “Veterans Parkway” and the series of red, white and blue rectangular  banners that line the side of the street on telephone poles along Route 136. Here is a tribute to Pfc. Jesse Kessler.  There is a flag honoring Sgt. Jason M. Berry.

Midwest Chronicles: Downstate Diversity Flourishes

This project was hatched over Thai food at the YMCA in Champaign between the journalists from Hoy-Chicago and CU-CitizenAccess.org. Hoy had been thinking about how it could provide a new and different look at Central Illinois for its readers and viewers and CU-CitizenAccess.org had been thinking about how it could better serve the Central Illinois community. We all took the proverbial step back and inspiration came. Together we decided to look at the changing demographics and the stories of the people behind those demographics with a focus on, but not exclusively, the ever growing Latino communities in the region. We also had heard about African Americans who had moved to Central Illinois from Chicago after many public housing projects were torn down as part of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Planfor Transformation.

Champaign County detaches from immigration enforcement activity

By Azra Halilovic /CU-CitizenAccess.org / Hoy — Last December, the CU-Immigration Forum held a public meeting at the Champaign Public Library to discuss the county’s implementation of Secure Communities. More than 125 people showed up to talk about and listen to the concerns over the program. “In its one-year implementation in Champaign County, it has been plagued by problems,” Aarón Johnson-Ortíz, a member of the CU-Immigration Forum, told a crowd. The CU-Immigration Forum is a group of community members, students, service providers and labor union representatives working to address issues surrounding immigration in the area. Johnson-Ortíz listed several concerns he and others shared about the federal immigration enforcement program Secure Communities, including the separation of families, using up jail space and tax dollars to house ICE detainees, and encouraging racial profiling.

Hispanic numbers double over the decade

There is salsa dance night at Radio Maria and Cowboy Monkey in downtown Champaign. Latino food trucks pepper the landscape across Champaign- Urbana. An almost completely Spanish- speaking community of 600 families lives in the Shadow Wood Mobile Home Park. These are the small and large signs of the growth of the Latino and Hispanic community in Champaign County in the last decade. In fact, the Hispanic population, which is composed mostly of those from Mexico, has more than doubled as the fastest growing population in the county – increasing from about 5,200 residents in 2000 to more than 10,600 residents in 2010.

From Mexico to Arcola, with love

By Azra Halilovic / CU-CitizenAccess.org / Hoy– It was 40 years ago that 7-year-old Herlinda Kauffman squeezed into a brown Chevy Impala in Mexico with nine other people and headed for Illinois. “There were 10 people in a small car with all the things that we owned in the world,” said Kauffman, who recalled piling on top of her brothers and sisters. “The little ones had to sit in the floorboards. The big ones got to sit on the car seat.”

With only a few belongings, Kauffman and her family drove nearly 1,400 miles in four days from Cadereyta Jiménez to Arcola. “[My dad] didn’t feel comfortable enough to drive the whole way,” said Kauffman, laughing as she recalled him nervously chain-smoking the entire trip.

A 100 percent taste of Mexico

By Azra Halilovic / CU-CitizenAccess.org / Hoy — Out in the middle of farm country in Central Illinois, Arturo Zendeja and his wife run the town’s first Mexican restaurant, a small joint called “El Taco Tako.”

Zendeja said that after years of odd jobs he has business he can focus on. He said he misses his home country of Mexico but considers himself blessed to be living in Arcola. He loves its small-town charm and he calls it “paradise.”

“I’m comfortable now, but my youth was very poor and humble,” said Zendeja, a native of Cadereyta Jiménez in the Nuevo León region of Northeastern Mexico. “I lived in the streets and slept on benches. But I’ve always been cheerful because people liked me and looked after me.”

Zendeja, 61, moved to Arcola 12 years ago.

Attorney fights for rights of migrant workers

By Jeff Kelly Lowenstein/Hoy — Enterprise Rent-A-Car must love Miguel Keberlein-Gutierrez. That’s because the supervisory attorney at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago logs 6,000 to 8,000 miles each month during the summer as he zigzags across Illinois in a ceaseless effort to reach out to, connect with, and provide information and legal services to migrant workers. Today’s first stop is at the Rantoul Motel, on the outskirts of a town where migrant workers come each year to detassel corn. “You have rights,” he said, distributing business cards to a group of workers standing in the parking lot.  His voice bears the imprint of his childhood in Wisconsin.

Lilia Peters – mother of the Champaign’s Filipino community

By Jeff Kelly Lowenstein/Hoy — As a young girl in Sorsogon Province in the Philippines, in between the twice-daily purchase and preparation of freshly caught seafood, Lilia Peters dreamed of traveling the world. Her visions were stoked by pictures of other countries she had seen in National Geographic, by her mother’s older sister, who told tales about the United States, and by pictures of smiling relatives sent from America and beckoning her to join them. So, when she was old enough, and after receiving the nurse’s training her mother had decided would be her profession, she did just that. She left the land where she had bounced a rataan ball off her back heel and flew in 1963 to New York City before paying $25 to take a helicopter to Newark and starting to work at the prestigious Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital in Jersey City, New Jersey. The reality she encountered clashed with her lofty visions.