I am committed to making Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the country, which is why shortly after taking office I established the Office of New Americans, the first City office dedicated to immigrant integration, and I convened an advisory committee comprised of 50 community leaders and stakeholders from various sectors across the city to help develop the Chicago New Americans Plan, the first of its kind for any major city in the country. Though this comprehensive plan, I have undertaken a series of actions to welcome and protect Chicago’s diverse immigrant communities, improve access to city services, support immigrant children and parents in our schools, and expand new and existing immigrant businesses. Some of these initiative include opening up nearly 23,000 internship and job opportunities for DREAMers, launching the ‘Cities for Citizenship’ campaign to expand Citizenship Corners at our libraries and increase naturalization rates, and starting the New Americans Small Business Series of quarterly events, creating temporary one-stop-shops that foster small business growth in immigrant communities throughout Chicago.
Our primary responsibility to immigrants is ensuring that we remove barriers that prevent them from being able to fully integrate into our city. Integration requires access to critical documents such as drivers’ licenses and information that can help immigrants get acclimated to building a life in the city of Chicago. In addition, many immigrants seek to become small business owners. As mayor, I will work to ensure that we streamline the business licensing process as well as pay special attention to our independent entrepreneurs. I will work to make sure that the Latino community has extensive access to town halls and other opportunities to hear firs- hand about resources made available to the community that will assist in helping to make life easier. Part of this includes expanding technical assistance to small business owners, ensuring that all city documentation is available in Spanish, and bringing city resources to the community by hosting meetings, informational sessions and seminars in the neighborhoods at locations familiar to residents, instead of having residents come to City Hall.
My history of being on the side of integration and immigrant rights has been consistent in the community and in government. As Mayor, I envision a city that works hard so everyone who chooses to make this city their home has access to the same benefits and protections as every other Chicago resident, regardless of immigration status. To start, I would restore the ethnic advisory councils to the Chicago Commission on Human Relations that were disbanded under the current administration, and restore their function as integral to representation and influence of minorities on government. Other priorities of my administration when it comes to enhancing the life of immigrants in Chicago include supporting immigrants applying for immigration benefits; working closely with social service and advocacy agencies so that they have the information and resources necessary to respond to the needs of immigrant communities – expanding protections for immigrants so that they enjoy at a minimum the protections afforded under similar Cook County policies concerning the separation between police and immigration enforcement; creating a municipal identification card for all Chicago residents accessible regardless of immigration status; and improving language-access. Integration strategies should include support for economic development for Latinos and immigrant communities.
As mayor, I will ensure Balanced Economic Development throughout the entire city of Chicago. Consequently, I will guarantee good jobs which pay a living wage. Our department of Planning and Department of Economic Development will be ever vigilant in their efforts to ensure the economic development needs of minority and immigrant communities are fully addressed.
The creation of a Hispanic/Latino Liaison to improve customer access to City programs would a possible way to provide better improve the lives of immigrants. Providing a contact for the Hispanic community will encourage Latinos to participate in city programs including job training.