City colleges add liaison officers to help undocumented students navigate college


Chicago’s undocumented students are getting a big boost when it comes to navigating college.

City Colleges of Chicago announced Friday that it has hired seven liaison officers — one for each of its schools — to help connect undocumented students with resources such as financial aid and academic support.

“Education, I firmly believe, is a right for everyone,” State Representative Maura Hirschauer, D-Batavia, a key supporter of the legislation, said at a press conference at Harold Washington College in the Loop. “It’s a human right, regardless of your status.”

Liaisons are required at every community college under an Illinois law passed last spring.

State Sen. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago, a former social worker at the school, said she got emotional when she remembered when the middle schoolers she worked with realized they were undocumented . “All their dreams, all their hopes have been taken away. ‘What are we going to do? What’s next, Miss Villa?’ they would say to me.

She said it troubled her deeply that she couldn’t provide answers, but it now gives her hope that undocumented university students will be able to know “you don’t have to be scared anymore, now you’re having an affair you’re going to be able to go and ask all the questions, get all the support.

For more information about services available to undocumented students at colleges across the city, visit

Amelia Pallares, vice chancellor for diversity, equity, and engagement at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said the university, a partner in the Undocumented Liaison Program, is excited to train officers for bonding this fall to spread across the state and hopefully create a national model. .

“These (academic) systems were not designed for undocumented students. And a lot of things weren’t done intentionally it’s just that they don’t think about what it means for undocumented students to go through certain things and what risks they have to face and what things they get withdraw because the systems aren’t made for them,” Pallares said.

Florencia Laino, a Wilbur Wright College graduate heading to Dominican University on a full scholarship, spoke about her journey as an undocumented student.

“I was raised not to talk about it,” she said, highlighting how far she’s come, with the help of many others, to overcome that mindset.

“Don’t be afraid to consider your undocumented status as a positive element. Colleges can be incredibly welcoming to undocumented students. With the right support, it is possible to work hard and create your own success,” she said.

Daniel Lopez, principal of Harold Washington College, graduated from the school he now runs years ago as an undocumented student.

On Friday, he beamed with the news of additional resources for undocumented students.

“Today is a proud day,” Lopez said.


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