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Who We Are

Who We Are

After 20 years of successfully working to change policies and practices that eliminate the barriers that prevent Latinos from accessing affordable and decent housing, Latinos United changed its name and expanded its mission in 2008.  The new name, Latino Policy Forum, describes the broader policy agenda that the organization has undertaken since 2006. The Latino Policy Forum’s commitment to working on issues that come from community participatory processes is reflected in the name.  It is through on-going community forums that the organization identifies issues, develops agendas, and increases civic participation in the Latino community. 

The mission of the Latino Policy Forum is to build the power, influence, and leadership of the Latino community through collective action to transform public policies that ensure the well being of our community and society as a whole. 

Since 1988, the organization has provided a leading voice in housing – advocating for equitable participation and equal access to a wide range of housing options for Latinos in the Chicago Metropolitan region. The most visible victory in Latinos United’s 20-year history was the successful lawsuit against the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) to combat discrimination against Latinos in public housing in Chicago.  Over the next 10 years, the resulting Latino Consent Decree led to the allocation of over $70 million in housing resources directed toward the Latino community through improved access to conventional public housing units.

Building on the housing policy and advocacy experience accumulated for two decades, in 2006 the organization expanded the scope of its work to include other issues of great importance to Latinos in Illinois: Education and Immigration.

In collaboration with the University of Notre Dame and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, in 2006 the Latino Policy Forum conducted a series of community forums with over 600 Latino leaders to identify the issues that would constitute a Latino Policy Agenda for the region.  During the consultation process, six priority issues emerged: Education, Housing, Immigration, Jobs and Workforce Development, Health, and Community Safety.

In 2006, the organization began to build its Early Childhood Education program by first convening a group of Latino leaders and experts working in this field.  The group identified the issues that must be addressed through policies to ensure greater participation of Latino children in early childhood education programs.  Since then, the Latino Policy Forum has developed alliances among Latino and non-Latino organizations to advocate for funds and policies that increase access to and improve the quality of early childhood education programs in the state of Illinois, with a particular emphasis on policies which attend to the needs of English Language Learners.

Since 2006, the Latino Policy Forum has actively advocated for policies to support the successful political, social, and economic integration of Latino immigrants into their new communities, as well as advocating at the federal level for policies to fix the broken immigration system.

In the spring of 2008, the Latino Policy Forum released the policy document “An American Agenda from a Latino Perspective.” This policy agenda is the culmination of the series of meetings with 600 Latinos of diverse backgrounds from across the Chicago Metropolitan region. The document is an educational resource for policy makers and an advocacy tool for Latinos in Illinois.  The Latino Policy Forum looks forward to building its capacity to address all the issues that the community identified as priorities to improve the quality of life of Latinos in Illinois.  We will continue to build partnerships with Latino organizations and to develop alliances with non-Latino groups. 

Goals & Strategies

The Acuerdo model is central to the Latino Policy Forum’s work across all issues. Acuerdo is the Spanish word for ‘agreement’ or ‘accord.’ Acuerdo members are community members and leaders in their fields of expertise. These working groups have one fundamental and important function: to ensure that information, policy, and advocacy on specific issues represent the Latino perspective and its community needs.

Our specific efforts in each of our issue areas include:

Education

Goal: To narrow or close the achievement gap between Latino and non-Latino students

Initiatives:

  • Teachers, Providers, Education Leaders
    • Provide recommendations and influence policy for all Illinois teachers to be culturally and linguistically responsive to students from homes where a language other than English is spoken. 
    • Monitor and influence the progress towards 2014 bilingual pre-K policy changes in Illinois. 
  • Education Funding
    • Support administrative and legislative changes through public policy decision-making processes; train community leaders and parents to participate in the advocacy process.
    • Advocate for construction, expansion, or renovation of facilities in underserved communities.
  • Family & Community Partnerships
    • Advance collective agenda on issues impacting young Latino learners with members of Early Childhood Education Acuerdo.
    • Extend reach of culturally relevant parent engagement programs with the Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors program throughout the state. 
  • Cross-issue
    • Establish/implement coordinated/consensus-built birth-to-age-eight policy agenda from a Latino perspective.
    • Expand the field’s knowledge base of early language and literacy development for linguistically and culturally diverse students. 
    • Enrich civic understanding and media coverage of Latino children and families with the New Journalism on Latino Children project. 

Impact: All Illinois Latino infants and children from birth to age eight will have access to culturally and linguistically responsive educational services, resources, and providers/teachers to ensure they are reading at or above level by third grade.

Housing

Goal: All Latinos, including low- and mid-income families, have access to safe, quality, affordable housing

Initiatives

  • Ensure that Latino families have access to quality, affordable housing and other housing resources with the Housing Acuerdo of community leaders and advocacy with HUD and CHA
  • Bring attention to the disproportionate impact of the mortgage foreclosure crisis in the Latino community through analysis and policy reports and advocacy with the Attorney General and IHDA
  • Educate consumers and service providers on Fair Housing through events and workshops, particularly those held regularly at Chicago’s Mexican Consulate and in communities with high concentrations of Latino households
  • Develop curricula to provide practical education to help people looking for housing acquire and keep decent housing

Impact: Documented the impact of the mortgage foreclosure crisis in Latino neighborhoods, and empowered housing seekers with resources and tools to educate themselves about their options when faced with limited housing choices

Immigration

Goal: All individuals living in the U.S, regardless of their country of origin, are recognized as valuable and contributing members of society and have equal access to equity and prosperity

Initiatives:

  • Advocate for fair immigration reform (federal and state) and for local immigrant integration initiatives with community leaders of the Immigration Acuerdo
  • Strengthen the network of immigrant rights leaders across Illinois with a better understanding of immigration and immigration policy to promote change in local communities
  • Provide credible, consistent information on the ever-changing landscape of immigration reform and policy through regular communications and analysis

Impact: Latino voices and perspectives frame the debate on immigration and related reform efforts, along with increased awareness of the public and stakeholders on key immigration issues

Leadership

Goal: A Latino community that is strong from the inside out, with thriving organizations able to meet their missions and work in strategic alliance with one another and other groups/coalitions to accomplish larger goals

Initiatives:

  • Secure equitable resources for and investment in Illinois Latino communities while building power, influence, and leadership through the Illinois Latino Agenda, a strategic alliance of nearly 50 nonprofits, co-convened by the Latino Policy Forum and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF)
  • Develop leadership among executive-level and emerging nonprofit leaders with the Latino Nonprofit Leadership Academy, which works with cohorts of Latino nonprofit organizations and individual leaders across Illinois to move their organizations and programs to the next level of excellence and sustainability

Impact: Increased capacity of Latino-led and Latino-serving organizations and a strengthened collaborative network of Latino organizations to advocate on issues of importance to the community

 

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