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Latinos Unite for 6th Annual Latino Unity Day at Illinois' Capital

By Manny Gonzales

Illinois Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti, the first Latina to occupy the office in the state and nation, made the proud declaration in defense of immigrants that “Illinois is a welcoming state para todos!”

Sanguinetti was just one of the esteemed elected leaders from Illinois participating in the 6th Annual Latino Unity Day on May 10 at the state capital. The Illinois Latino Agenda, a Forum initiative, hosted the recent rally of Latino organizations, which featured a luncheon with speeches by Sanguinetti, who touched on important issues involving education and immigration, and other legislators from the Illinois Latino Legislative Caucus.

Throughout the day, advocates promoted various pieces of legislation including the Illinois Trust Act, the Student ACCESS Bill, the Professional Licenses for DACA recipients and the DHS Data Standardization Bill – all initiatives that would greatly improve the and preserve the livelihood of Latino families and, consequently, positively impact all of Illinois.

Forum Executive Director Sylvia Puente helped kick off the day of advocacy for Latino families by leading a chant of “Latinos Unidos!” with 100 or so leaders representing elected office, state employees and nonprofit organizations.

“Many in the Latino community are hurting,” Puente said. “Will you be a voice for those who can’t be here to speak for themselves?”

Puente acknowledged that Illinois has gone for too long without a state budget and that families and organizations providing human services are suffering.

“You all are here but there are many who were too challenged to come, because there is no state budget and many organizations that help Latino families are having to reduce their staffs,” Puente said. “These are challenging times at a national level and it’s affecting us locally. For example, there are children who are afraid to go to school because they’re afraid their parents will be deported and won’t be around when they get home.”

Sanguinetti relayed efforts by the governor’s office to help Latino families, especially around the issue of public education. One of her highlights included an increase of $38 million funding statewide for bilingual education.

She also maintained that an important bill to her would allow Latinos over the age of 21 to work toward and receive their high school diplomas rather than GEDs.

“Thirty-three percent of Latinos in the state don’t possess their high school diploma, and this would completely set a different stage for them,” she said.

State Rep. Lisa Hernandez met with Latino leaders to pass along good news that the Student ACCESS Bill, which would allow undocumented college students to compete for state tuition assistance, passed the State Senate and that she would be co-sponsoring it on the House floor.

Forum Associate Director Martin Torres wrapped up the day’s events nicely by explaining how leaders in the Latino Agenda have been making progress for Latinos in Illinois.

“Because of them the Latino community is playing offense in a difficult climate in Illinois and in our country,” Torres said. “Latinos are making great contributions to the state of Illinois.”

 Martin Torres

Rep. Lisa Hernandez

 Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti












Posted In: Education, Families & Communities, Immigration Reform & Policy, Leadership