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About Us

The Center for Immigrant Progress is a grassroots organization led by young leaders passionate about social justice and immigrant rights.

Our mission is to build communities that provide protection, education, and social and economic opportunity for immigrant children and families.


Our vision is an immigrant community that is self-empowered, and civically engaged to transform social structures that benefit all people. 

Pillars of Progress

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Advocacy: We advocate for policies that increase resources, protection, and opportunity for immigrant families and children. We also provide our community with safe spaces to help inform decision-makers on the impacts of anti-immigrant policies. 

Community: In recent years, anti-immigrant rhetoric has created a fearful and unsafe environment for immigrants. There have been multiple changes to immigration policy that have made it difficult for many to stay up to date and understand. Through our community education sessions, we bring awareness to current issues impacting immigrant families. 

Leadership: We believe that true power is something created by communities directly impacted. We want to provide training that gives immigrant youth and young adults the knowledge needed to understand the vital role immigrants play in changing social systems through civic engagement,  policy, and organizing. 

Meet Our Team


Sandra Diaz a Latinx DACA recipient born in Reynosa Tamulipas, Mexico. She migrated to the United States when she was five years old and was raised in Houston, TX. She graduated from Houston Community College with an Associate's degree in Networking and Computer Administration and is pursuing a Bachelor's in Nonprofit Management. In 2017, when the DACA program entered a state of limbo and the county she lived in was implementing the 287g agreement Sandra and her family were forced to make another move to Illinois. Soon after she began working for a local nonprofit that helped immigrant families and became more involved in the community. During her time there she implemented a civic engagement program that aims to elevate the voices of the traditionally underrepresented in civic duty and has participated in projects that aim to involve action through storytelling. 

Melanie Hernandez is a field supervisor with the US Census Bureau. She is passionate about justice and equality. She received her bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration in public policy and psychology from Marquette University in 2019. She has worked on Capitol Hill in Washington DC where she researched public policy put in place by Hispanic legislators all over the United States with the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. She has worked with nonprofits and specialized in family-based immigration. Since then she has become a firm believer that the people need to be at the forefront of public policy. She decided to join the Center for Immigrant Progress to empower and help other Lake/McHenry County community members take action. Born and raised between two different cultures, Mexican and American, she acknowledges the challenges that bicultural individuals face and wants to help build bridges to create a safer, healthier, and a more just community. She wants to make the difference.


Karla Medina Alamar migrated to the United States as a child and has lived in Lake County ever since. As a child, she found herself having to adapt to life in the United State while facing culture and language shock. In high school she became a College Bound Opportunities Scholar, which gave her the mentorship, skills, support she needed to attend and graduate college. In 2018, she walked the stage as a Knox College graduate with a Bachelor's Degree in Anthropology and Sociology. This didn't come without challenges, but it was a goal that she accomplished with the help of many. Throughout her journey, she made connections with several individuals who taught her valuable lessons and encouraged her in unique ways. There is no one path for success, but she would not be where she is today without the people who touched her life and became her mentors. Mentorship is essential, and through CIP she aspires to share lessons that she's come to learn throughout the years. Karla hopes to work directly with youth, families and community members to create spaces where we can come together and make meaningful connections encouraging each other to follow our own paths, whichever those may be.

Every day Shareny Mota continues learning about the challenges that are affecting our community. She graduated from Northern Illinois University with a degree in Public Health and Family and Child studies. Shareny has presented research at the Society for Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) national conference focused on individual prenatal care for a diverse population of women and a separate study on students with disabilities to help bring awareness to the importance of disability laws, accommodations, etiquette, and first-person language which greatly affected the well-being and learning of students at her university. Currently, she is the Initiatives Coordinator of Success by 6 at United Way of Lake County. Where challenges such as the low percentage of students who lack the readiness skills for Kindergarten motivate her to explore new ways she can equip children with the tools necessary to be successful in their classroom and their future. Shareny is also a student at Loyola University Chicago where she studies her Masters of Social Work through the Online Bilingual MSW program. She hopes to one-day work in the health field as a social worker and would like to influence health care systems and policy to eradicate mental health disparities. Through the Center for Immigrant Progress, she will dedicate her time to listen to her communities’ needs, protect those who are facing discrimination and oppression and bring her knowledge to service and advocate for immigrant families and children.


Giselle Rodriguez is the Development and Social Media Organizer at Chicago Workers' Collaborative. Giselle's passion is advocating and organizing for immigrant rights, specifically immigrant youth. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Work from Northeastern Illinois University in 2019. Giselle is currently at the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration obtaining her AM. She has attended Lobby Week in Washington D.C. in 2019 with Friends Committee on National Legislation continuing the fights for immigrants and advocated to defund ICE. She has worked with nonprofits concentrating on immigrant advocacy, temp workers rights and survivors of sexual assault. Giselle believes that through policy advocacy, education, and building leadership we can empower our immigrant youth community. As an immigrant herself, Giselle believes that education should be accessible to all students. She now focuses on informing and educating youth on higher education, scholarships, and opportunities for undocumented students.  

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