Champaign becomes first Certified Welcoming city in Illinois

Welcoming America, a national nonprofit organization, announces the City of Champaign as a Certified Welcoming place, the first in Illinois to achieve the designation.

Rachel Perić, executive director of Welcoming America, said: “We are thrilled to recognize the City of Champaign in becoming a Certified Welcoming place, affirming its leadership in building policies and partnerships that enable all those making the city home — including people with immigrant and refugee backgrounds — to thrive and belong. As the first city in Illinois to receive the designation, and the 21st in the nation, we look forward to celebrating and supporting the community’s ongoing efforts to make the city a welcoming place for all. We especially want to recognize the New American Welcome Center for its longstanding involvement as a member of Welcoming America and playing a pivotal role in the city’s Certified Welcoming designation.”

Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen said, “The Champaign community has a long history of welcoming immigrants with open arms and helping them to settle into our wonderfully diverse city. The City of Champaign embraces our newest residents and celebrates the different cultures and backgrounds that each brings to strengthen our community. I also want to recognize and thank all our residents and partner agencies who have helped make Champaign the incredibly diverse and welcoming community that so many of us choose to call home.”

To celebrate this accomplishment, the City of Champaign is hosting a celebration tomorrow, November 7 at 6 p.m. at the Champaign City Building (102 N. Neil St., Champaign). The celebration will feature cultural performances and refreshments. The event is free and open to the public. Immediately following the celebration, a representative from Welcoming America will present the framed certificate during the City Council meeting.

Champaign is one of 21 cities and counties in the U.S. with the designation. In Welcoming America’s audit, it highlighted Champaign’s strong partnerships with community-based organizations and economic development programs as reasons for supporting the designation. The leadership of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation is another highlight for its commitment to ensuring immigrant-owned businesses have access to resources and tools to create, sustain, and grow their businesses.

New American Welcome Center Director Akua Forkuo-Sekyere added: “The Certified Welcoming designation is an amazing accomplishment and shows how intentional we all are in making our community truly welcoming and inclusive. This work is possible because of the countless hours that advocates, volunteers, supporters, partners, and advisors spend on services, community building, and implementation of the Welcoming Plan. Even though our community still has work to do, this is a time to celebrate and acknowledge the amazing and beautiful work we do to support immigrants in our community.”

Certified Welcoming is a formal designation by Welcoming America for cities and counties that have created policies and programs reflecting their commitment to immigrant inclusion. Since 2017, Certified Welcoming and its operating framework, the Welcoming Standard, have served as a roadmap for local governments seeking to build truly welcoming communities.

In addition to being the first city in Illinois to achieve the Certified Welcoming designation, Champaign is the third city in the nation to achieve it under the new star system implemented by Welcoming America earlier this year as part of the pilot program, resulting in the first 2-star Certified Welcoming city.


About Welcoming America

Welcoming America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that leads a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by ensuring everyone belongs. We believe that all people, including immigrants, are valued contributors and vital to the success of our communities and shared future. Learn more

About Certified Welcoming

Certified Welcoming is a formal designation for local governments that have created policies and programs reflecting their values and commitment to immigrant inclusion. This innovative program assesses local governments on their efforts to include and welcome immigrants in all areas of civic, social, and economic life in their communities. With a Certified Welcoming designation, communities distinguish their local efforts, build a competitive advantage, and gain access to opportunities to share their welcoming practices on a regional, national, and global stage. Learn more