United African Organization

UAO aims to serve as the African Community Resource Clearinghouse wherein constituents gather, access information, share experiences, exchange views, and coordinate organizational capacity development. UAO's hub of resources on this website is intended to assist community members in navigating services, programs and resources that are available to help them cope better in the United States.

DACA in the African Community

August 4, 2014Alie KabbaBlog

“UAO is a very good organization that has made sure everybody has opportunities. They are very graceful and understanding. UAO is like family to Africans in Chicago”- Matthew

When he was a child, Matthew came to the United Sates from his home country of Kenya and, through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), has been able to lead a happy and prosperous American life.  After speaking with Matthew for only a few minutes it became clear that he has taken full advantage of the DACA program, and has continued to work hard towards his own version of the American Dream. DACA, he says, has allowed him to work and go to school here in Chicago, for which he is very grateful. In addition, Matthew made it very clear that DACA status has put him at ease when it comes to the thought of deportation, allowing him to focus on the more important things in life like friends and family. While Matthew does admit that DACA is not written in stone, and that the next administration following Obama’s departure may potentialyl choose to discontinue the program, he chooses to have just as much faith in America as it has had in him. DACA, he says, has allowed him to get a taste of the American Dream, and hopes that one day he can contribute to his community as a full United States citizen.

Friday August 15th will mark the two-year anniversary of the release of the DACA. Put in place by the Obama administration in June of 2012, the program is one example of the administration’s commitment to immigration reform- a hot topic among policy makers in Washington today. As our last blog post announced, Obama and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson recently renewed the DACA program allowing persons who qualify to remain in the United States without fear of deportation for another two years, and opening the doors to a handful of opportunities for undocumented immigrants who otherwise live in fear of the American government day in, and day out.

Recent USCIS statistics have shown that there are over 32,000 DACA applicants in the State of Illinois alone, making it the state with the 3rd largest number of total applicants in the country. While numbers indicate that close to 1,200 Nigerians applied for DACA nationwide, they are the only African nation to crack the list of the top 30 most applicants per country (Mexico tops the list at 443,500 applicants). Among the individuals who received DACA status after applying at the time of its survey, USCIS specified that 59% of DACA recipients have obtained new jobs, 21% have internships, 49% opened a bank accounts, 33% were granted a credit card, 21% obtained healthcare, and 45% overall increased their job earnings.

Here at UAO, we are committed to the advancement of all immigrants, and as a result have spent some time exploring how DACA has affected members of our own African community here in Chicago.

For more information on applying for DACA status we encourage you to reference our previous blog post and visit USCIS at the following link: http://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca.

Written by Lance Greenberg, Summer 2014 Intern

Department of Homeland Security announces DACA Renewal Process

On June 05, 2014, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson announced the process for individuals to renew enrollment in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has submitted to the Federal Register an updated form to allow individuals previously enrolled in DACA, to renew their deferral for a period of two years. At the direction of the Secretary, effective immediately, USCIS will begin accepting renewal requests. USCIS will also continue to accept requests for DACA from individuals who have not previously sought to access the program.  As of April 2014, more than 560,000 individuals have received DACA.

“Despite the acrimony and partisanship that now exists in Washington, almost all of us agree that a child who crossed our border illegally with a parent, or in search of a parent or a better life, was not making an adult choice to break our laws, and should be treated differently than adult law-breakers,” said Secretary Johnson. “By the renewal of DACA, we act in accord with our values and the code of this great Nation. But, the larger task of comprehensive immigration reform still lies ahead.”

The first DACA approvals will begin to expire in September 2014. To avoid a lapse in the period of deferral and employment authorization, individuals must file renewal requests before the expiration of their current period of DACA. USCIS encourages requestors to submit their renewal request approximately 120 days (four months) before their current period of deferred action expires.

DACA is a discretionary determination to defer removal action against an individual. Individuals in DACA will be able to remain in the United States and apply for employment authorization for a period of two years. Individuals who have not requested DACA previously, but meet the criteria established, may also request deferral for the first time. It is important to note that individuals who have not continuously resided in the United States since June 15, 2007, are ineligible for DACA.

Individuals may request DACA renewal if they continue to meet the initial criteria and these additional guidelines:

  • Did not depart the United States on or after Aug. 15, 2012, without advance parole;
  • Have continuously resided in the United States since they submitted their most recent DACA request that was approved; and
  • Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors, and do not otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.

The renewal process begins by filing the new version of Form I-821D “Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” Form I-765 “Application for Employment Authorization,” and the I-765 Worksheet. There is a filing and biometrics (fingerprints and photo) fee associated with Form I-765 totaling $465. As with an initial request, USCIS will conduct a background check when processing DACA renewals.

USCIS will also host both national and local DACA informational sessions. USCIS will provide further information on these sessions during which USCIS officials will provide additional information on the DACA process and be available to answer your questions. For information on local DACA engagements, please visit www.uscis.gov/outreach.

To learn more about the renewal process or requesting initial consideration of DACA, visit www.uscis.gov/childhoodarrivals or call the USCIS National Customer Service Center at 1-800-375-5283.

Panel on US-Africa Policy Advocacy: Trade, Security & Human Rights

May 23, 2014NancyBlog

Have you ever answered the question “Why are we here?” Featured at the Chicago African Summit & Resource Fair  is a discussion on current US-Africa policy on trade, security, and human rights – its impact on the continent of Africa, and how we can build an engaged constituency in the African Diaspora to shape US policy and hold the Obama administration accountable.

Saturday – May 31st
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Schulz Auditorium
10 West 35th Street
Chicago, IL 60616
See detailed schedule of the Chicago African Summit & Resource Fair here
Meet our Panelists:
Sam Ntum
Prexy Nesbitt

Opportunities for Small Businesses

May 23, 2014NancyBlog
Thriving small businesses are vital anchors for community development. The “Opportunities for Small Businesses” panel at the Chicago African Summit & Resource Fair will help you discover news ways to fuel your business and learn how alternative financing options and micro-loans are leading many small businesses to success. You will also learn more about the role of the State of Illinois Central Management Services, the state’s purchasing process, and doing business with the state. Leading the discussions are Chimaobi Enyia of Illinois Central Management Services and Kyama Kitavi of Accion Chicago.
Saturday – May 31st
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Schulz Auditorium
10 West 35th Street
Chicago, IL 60616
Meet our Panelists:
Chimaobi Enyia, IL CMS
We would be so glad to have you there to add your views and experiences to the discussion.
See you on May 31st!

Refugee and Immigration Issues impacting Africans

May 12, 2014NancyBlog
Featured at this year’s Chicago African Summit & Resource Fair is a discussion on refugee and immigration issues affecting the African community. Discussions will cover refugee resettlement policy and issues currently facing refugees in the United States. Additional topics are the processes for green cards, travel for asylees, naturalization, and petitions for relatives both in the United States and abroad.  Participants will have the opportunity to contribute to the discussion and ask their questions on immigration to our expert panelists.
Saturday – May 31st
9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Schulz Auditorium
10 West 35th Street
Chicago, IL 60616
Meet our Panelists:
Dr. Erku Yimer

Dr. Erku YIMER, PhD., Executive Director of Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago (ECAC)

Sioban ALBIOL, J.D. Attorney at Law, Asylum and Immigration Law Clinic Instructor and Coordinator, Legal Resources Project Director at De Paul University College of Law

Share the Chicago African Summit & Resource Fair using #chicagoafricansummit

African Summit Addresses Preventive Care & Overcoming Barriers

May 12, 2014NancyBlog

Refugees and immigrants face many hurdles to accessing healthcare. Many first generation immigrants ad refugees tend to recreate the way of life that existed back in their home countries. For most Africans, that means that seeing the doctor only when we get sick, use of traditional herbs and medications, and praying and hoping for faith healing. Besides these, many mental health issues are rooted in the stress associated with cultural adjustment, lack of legal status, fear of losing status, difficulty finding work-life balance, and dealing with past traumas.

The Healthcare Panel at the 8th Chicago African Summit & Resource Fair features discussions on best practices for maintaining good health, preventive care, and steps that you can take to improve your health. Additional discussions will be around barriers to accessing health services and tools to overcome these obstacles. Free Hepatitis B and other health screenings will be available following the panel discussion.

Register FREE for the Chicago African Summit & Resource Fair and join these interesting discussions led by Margaret Okodua,PhD and Yaw Peprah,MPH.

Other panel discussions at the summit will be on refugee & immigration policy advocacy, community engagement, and US-Africa Policy. Additionally, the summit will include a Community Resource Fair that provides information about employment, immigration, legal services, housing, health screenings and other resources for participants.

Saturday, May 31, 2014
9:00 am
Schultz Auditorium
Illinois Institute of Technology
10 West 35th Street
Chicago, IL 60616



Travelling abroad as an Asylee or Refugee?

May 4, 2014NancyAsylum, Blog

Refugee Travel Documents for Asylum Applicants, Asylees and Lawful Permanent Residents who obtained their Status Based on Asylum

Form I-131, Application for Travel Document is used to apply for a Refugee Travel Document. But who needs a Refugee Travel Document?

An Asylum Applicant (an individual who has applied for asylum, but whose application is still pending) must first obtain advance parole before leaving the United States. If they leave the United States without first obtaining advance parole, they will be presumed to have abandoned their asylum application. The advance parole does not guarantee that the asylum applicant will be able to re-enter the United States; they will still have to be inspected by an immigration inspector at the border.

An Asylee (an individual who has been granted asylum) may not travel abroad without prior approval. This special authorization is given through a Refugee Travel Document which is issued to an asylee in order to re-enter to the United States. If you hold refugee or asylee status and are not a permanent resident yet, you must have a Refugee Travel Document in order to return to the United States. An asylee who does not obtain a Refugee Travel Document before leaving the country will be unable to re-enter to the United States and may be placed in removal proceedings. A Derivative Asylee (an individual who obtained status based on a family member having been granted asylum) should also obtain a Refugee Travel Document before traveling abroad. Like advance parole, the Refugee Travel Document does not guarantee re-entry into the United States; the asylee will still have to be inspected by an immigration inspector at the border.

A Lawful Permanent Resident (aka a green card holder) who obtained their status based on asylum may also travel abroad with a Refugee Travel Document. If they travel abroad without previously obtaining a Refugee Travel Document, they may also be unable re-enter the United States.

Traveling abroad for asylum applicants, asylees and even lawful permanent resident who obtained their status based on asylum is complex and can have serious consequences. If you have any questions regarding this matter or any other immigration related questions, please feel free to contact our staff attorney Sondra Furcajg at (312) 949-9980.



UAO Staff Member Sondra Furcajg a Vital Resource for the African Community

April 25, 2014Alie KabbaBlog

UAO Citizenship & Immigration Coordinator Sondra Furcajg was a perfect fit. A native French speaker, experienced human rights volunteer in Africa and licensed attorney all in one, Furcajg has worked hard over the past year to improve and expand the citizenship program and legal services offered by UAO.

When Furcajg began in February of 2013, UAO did not provide any legal services outside of the monthly Free Citizenship Workshop. However, in response to increased demand from the Illinois African community, Furcajg had an innovative solution. “We started getting all these calls for other types of legal services. The response before I came on board was to refer these clients out to another organization. But then I said wait a minute, a lot of [our clients] speak French and could benefit from a French-speaking attorney advocating on their behalf. So I started taking these cases,” she said.

Sondra Furcajg meets with a client     

A holder of both French and American citizenship, Furcajg has lived in Chicago for the past four years. Before joining UAO in 2013, she volunteered at a refugee camp in Ghana. She also spent a year in Tanzania working for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

For Furcajg, the security and permanency of citizenship are among the most compelling reasons for African immigrants and refugees to apply for naturalization. “When you have your green card, things can happen where it can get revoked. Citizenship is permanent. There is a sense of security for you and your children,” she said.

Despite the many successes since Furcajg’s arrival at UAO, outreach still remains the greatest obstacle facing the citizenship program and legal services. “If more people knew about our services, they would come to us first. Maybe we can help them. Maybe we refer them. At UAO, our clients always receive quality service and the right information,” she said.

The next Free Citizenship Workshop will take place at Truman College on Saturday, April 26th from 9 am until 11 am. If you or anyone you know is interested in UAO’s legal or citizenship services, please contact Sondra Furcajg at 312-949-9980.

by Max Woxland, UAO Intern

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