A Lesson in Illinois Geography

My first assignment as a research assistant was to tackle a spreadsheet full of a different foreign worker visas issued in Illinois. The aim was to filter out all of the entries that were not in the counties we cover in central Illinois for part of the Vulnerability Assessment that the lab is doing for our Department of Justice grant. This was an interesting task for me to take on because prior to doing it, my knowledge of Illinois geography was pretty much limited to the Macon County and Chicago areas. So even though a lot of what I was doing was just reading the name of towns, looking up the counties these towns were in, and then checking the map of the counties we cover, I still found it to be useful and engaging.  Now it’s kind of nice hearing the name of a city in Illinois and actually having a general idea of where it is. 

My actual findings when applied to realm of foreign workers were fairly interesting. The first sheet, which covered agricultural foreign workers, and the third sheet, which covered university foreign workers, both had a fairly normal number of visas issued in central Illinois. The second sheet was much more interesting to me; from the few hundred of visas issued in the state of Illinois I was left with a mere six non-agricultural foreign workers in central Illinois. While there was still a decent amount of central Illinois university foreign workers, that sheet was by far the largest and was well into the thousands and ended up with less than 200 entities issuing visas in the central district. I noticed on both of those sheets a huge amount of the foreign workers were coming from northern Illinois in the Chicago area. It makes sense for the Chicago area to yield the most foreign workers as it’s the most densely populated part of the state, but it was still quite jarring to see just how much the Chicago area filled up our data sheet. All in all, I found this to be an interesting and fairly straightforward way of getting acclimated to working for the human trafficking task force and learning about trafficking vulnerabilities in central Illinois, and I can’t wait to continue to get more in-depth in my work. 

Rhys Deiter


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