[This article was originally posted on the website for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and can be read in its entirety here.]
ICIRR Calls on Candidates to Support Immigrants against Attacks, Promote Immigrant Role in Rebuilding Economy
(CHICAGO- Jan. 7, 2011) – As part of a series of meetings organized by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) with mayoral candidates, Miguel del Valle and Carol Moseley Braun met this morning with dozens of representatives from diverse ethnic communities and faith, labor, business and youth leaders to discuss deportations, and immigrant contributions to Chicago.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) released its mayoral agenda, One Nation, One Dream: A New Americans Platform for Chicago, which focuses on how immigrants’ contributions can help fuel the city’s economic development.
“In these meetings we are presenting to the candidates with the platform we would like them to implement if elected as the next Chicago Mayor,” said Lawrence Benito, ICIRR Deputy Director. “We are asking them to continue Mayor Daley’s legacy of public support toward immigrants. We want the candidates to commit to expand initiatives that promote immigrant integration, support immigration reform, protect families, and reject hate against immigrant communities.”
Participants asked the candidates to support a platform that will make Chicago a leader for immigration reform and against hate and a leader in tapping new Americans’ assets to make Chicago a global economic powerhouse.
“As mayoral elections approach and the role of immigrant voters becomes critical, we want to make sure that candidates commit to move an agenda that will include immigrants,” said Maria Pesqueira, ICIRR board member and executive director of Mujeres Latinas en Accion. “We want them to recognize our contributions while strengthening the city by making it an example of inclusion and zero tolerance to hate.”
Participants spoke about the need to recognize the contributions that immigrants make to the economic development of the city.
“Our new mayor should launch further initiatives that develop and take full advantage of the talents, skills, and energy of immigrants and their children, said Alie Kabba, ICIRR Board President and executive director of the United African Organization. “Through this platform we will be able to build a stronger local economy and more unified community.”
The platform urges for initiatives in Chicago that will:
- Ensure fair representation of immigrant communities
- Create a new Mayor’s Office of New Americans
- Foster immigrant businesses
- Enable foreign professionals to work in their chosen field
- Expand English learning opportunities
- Promote US citizenship
- Improve educational and college opportunities for children
- Encourage volunteerism
Esther Wong, executive director of the Chinese-American Service League, addressed the issue of fair representation and the need for immigrant communities to be better represented and their issues better addressed.
“The Chinatown community has been split into so many districts that our voting power has became completely diluted. The fragmentation of Asian American neighborhoods has led to inadequate funding of neighborhood resources and the lack of culturally and linguistically appropriate social services. That is why it is critical for our communities to be better represented,” said Wong.
As federal action on immigration reform stalls, thousands of families in Chicago are vulnerable to deportations and anti-immigrant attacks.
“The next mayor should support communities that, despite their contributions, are at risk of abuses from employers, law enforcement, and others,” said Jane Ramsey, executive director of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA). “Chicago should become a champion standing against hate and supporting comprehensive solutions to the immigration system and better integration of immigrants into the American society.”
To further this agenda and to respond to the urgency of deportations and broken families, ICIRR will hold a press conference with US Representative Luis Gutierrez and mayoral candidates next week, Jan. 14 at 1:30 pm at the ICIRR conference room. They will urge President Obama to stop deportations and will announce upcoming measures to respond locally to the lack of immigration reform.
A subsequent round of meetings with mayoral candidates will be held on Jan. 21. Candidate Gery Chico will meet with ICIRR leaders on that date, and conversations have begun with the campaign of Rahm Emanuel. We will send updated information as soon as we confirm candidate participation.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of 130 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. For more information, visit www.icirr.org