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Continuing to Bring Latinos and Lawmakers Together

  ·  Manuel Gonzales

Since its inception, the Latino Policy Forum has taken the lead on bringing Latinos from all walks of life together with lawmakers in Springfield to discuss building a better, stronger Illinois for all.

This year has been no exception.

As we count down to Census 2020, the next few months will be critical for getting the word out to hard-to-count Latino communities across Illinois—it is s necessary for everyone to be counted. As part of this census outreach, the Forum along with nonprofit allies are hosting our annual Latino Unity Day in Springfield under the theme “Countdown to Census 2020- Unidad, Fuerza, Adelante.” In addition to losing out on potentially billions of dollars in federal funding with a Census 2020 undercount, Illinois is predicted to lose one Congressional seat and potentially a second, which, according to Election Data Services, is being held onto by a mere 25,149 to 53,598 residents.

We encourage you to save the date, May 8, for Latino Unity Day, which will be a daylong advocacy opportunity with lawmakers to discuss important issues facing our communities.

Recently, the Forum hosted a legislative reception in Springfield for new and veteran Latino lawmakers, bringing together over 100 people. The event, co-hosted by State Sen. Omar Aquino and Rep. Elizabeth “Lisa” Hernandez, was a who’s who of state elected officials and appointees, including newly appointed deputy governors, Sol Flores (a co-founder of the Forum) and Jesse Ruiz, along with numerous state department heads.

There were too many legislators and other luminaries to list here, but department heads included longtime Forum board member Carmen Ayala, the first Latina and woman appointed as Illinois State Schools Superintendent; Michael D. Kleinik, director of the Department of Labor; former legislator Linda Chapa LaVia, director of the Veterans Affairs Department; Robert Muriel, Director of the Illinois Department of Insurance; State Fire Marshal Matt Perez, and from the Department of Financial & Professional Regulation, Francisco Menchaca, Director of Financial Institutions and Mario Treto, Jr., Director of Real Estate.    

Sen. Aquino expressed to the crowd the incredible moment in achievement and representation for Latinos elected and appointed to office at the state level. “We look forward to all working together for a greater, shared future for Illinois,” he said.

Forum Executive Director Sylvia Puente told the group she is encouraged by the representation at the state level however the Forum must continue working with the governor’s office on its equity agenda. Latinos are 17 percent of the state of Illinois – this would equate to six department directors, another 25-30 senior-level staff, and equitable representation on boards and commissions, which would be two-thirds more than we currently have.

She added: “That is what we will continue to work on, an equity agenda to make sure we have fair representation at the state level.” 

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