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African Immigrants Plan Chicago Summit

The United African Organization will hold its first Chicago Summit on African Immigrants and Refugees this Saturday at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The summit marks a watershed for the UAO, which is a coalition of 20 organizations which represent immigrants from different African nations.

Numbering about 100,000 in the Chicago area, Africans are the fastest growing and best educated segment of the immigrant community, according to UAO leader Alie Kabba, and the organization aims to raise their profile within the immigrant rights movement. UAO has “a dual vision,” Kabba says, “advocating for our people here and building bridges with Africa.”

The new immigration reform proposal will be a prominent topic, and Kabba says some aspects are “really promising” but some provisions would mean “additional hardships for individuals and families” – including fees of up to $5,000 for four-year visas and a requirement that people to return to home countries to renew visas. “African is not next door to Canada,” he joked.

Another major topic will be the U.S. refugee resettlement program, which Kabba says re-victimizes war victims by barring individuals who have provided “material support” to combatants in conflict zones without distinguishing those pressed into service, including women who were abducted, often as minors, raped and held in virtual bondage to cook and clean for fighters.

Panels at the summit will discuss the state of African immigrants and refugees in Illinois; challenges and opportunities facing Africa today; and connections between African and Caribbean immigrants and the African-American community, among other topics.

In Chicago, the largest number of African immigrants hail from Nigeria, with many others from Ethiopia and Ghana; Kabba expects growing numbers of refugees from conflict zones like Somalia and the Congo as more immigrants from Francophone Africa, as hostility to immigrants increases in France.

“Planting Seeds for a New Season” is the theme of the summit which takes place all day, starting at 8:30 a.m., on Satuday, May 26 at IIT’s Hermann Hall, 3241 S. Federal.

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