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Senator Tammy Duckworth Meets with the Forum and Latino Leaders

By Forum Staff

U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth took part in a roundtable discussion with Latino community leaders hosted by the Latino Policy Forum in Pilsen recently. The discussion covered a variety of issues, including immigration reform, education, small business development and healthcare. 

“From Gage Park to Pilsen and from Little Village to Humboldt Park, Chicago’s Latino population is an integral part of this city,” said Duckworth. “It is important that their voices are sought out and heard, so I am grateful to have spoken directly with Latino business owners and community leaders today about how I can help their communities in Washington. America is at its best when we welcome, include and support everyone who works hard each day to build a better life for themselves and their families.”

Forum Executive Director Sylvia Puente said the Latino community appreciates the senator’s proactive approach to hearing concerns. "Right now, positive, proactive communication is essential given the challenges Latinos are facing locally and nationally," Puente said.

Speakers from the roundtable included Puente and Karen Garibay-Mulattieri of the Forum, Jaime di Paulo of the Little Village Chamber of Commerce, Mony Ruiz-Velasco of the West Suburban Action Project, Analía Rodriguez of the Latino Union of Chicago and Patricia Canessa of the Illinois Public Health Association.

Jaime di Paulo lamented that the business sector in Illinois, especially in the Little Village community where 90 percent of businesses are immigrant-owned, is suffering under President Trump’s stepped up immigration enforcement.

“We generate over $900 million in sales tax in Little Village for the city,” Di Paulo said. “Ever since the election, business has gone downhill and we’re seeing 40 to 50 percent losses in revenue. Documented or undocumented, Latinos don’t want to be seen in public because we feel we are being targeted.” In addition, he said the federal government ought to invest more in small businesses in his area and asked the senator to look into bring a Small Business Development Center to the area.

Duckworth agreed to look into why an SBDC isn’t located in Little Village and added that Trump’s “budget cuts everything… impacting underserved minority owned business especially. We’re going to push for that money to get back into the budget because it would help cities like Chicago and rural communities as well. Ninety-five percent of the people who work in Illinois work for a small or medium sized business, so we have to put money behind those businesses.”

As a member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Duckworth said she is working in the Senate to expand economic opportunity and revitalize economies in communities around the state that have been ignored by political leaders for too long. By working to increase investments in infrastructure, education programs and minority and women-owned businesses, Duckworth seeks to support working families across Illinois, increase access to jobs and help provide community wealth that will stabilize neighborhoods struggling for a brighter future.

Duckworth also heard about concerns affecting health care and how immigrants’ fears are tied in.

She heard a brief story about a woman named Nora, who was diagnosed with breast cancer but was afraid to seek out health care because she’s undocumented. “The deal was made before I got there with the Affordable Care Act to exclude undocumented immigrants and that’s something we need to address,” Duckworth said.

Since Senator Duckworth was sworn in to office in January, she has been a critic of President Trump’s discriminatory immigration executive orders and an advocate for a fair and humane immigration system. Senator Duckworth also helped introduce legislation to rescind his misguided immigration ban. 

Senator Duckworth has also introduced several bills intended to protect and support veterans and service members—men and women who have proven they are willing lay down their lives defending America—from being deported or denied healthcare. Duckworth’s proposals, two of which are cosponsored by U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), would prohibit the Trump administration from deporting Veterans, give legal permanent residents a path to citizenship through military service, establish naturalization offices at military training facilities, and bolster VA healthcare services for Veterans.

She added that she would work to hold immigration officers more accountable, that she would not support any US Marshal candidates who would support full cooperation with ICE on rounding up immigrants.

On the topic of education, Duckworth spoke of providing two free years of college education to all Americans who are willing to provide public service and said she supported increased investments in trade school education at the college level.

“The discussion gave Latino leaders an opportunity to get to know the state’s newest Senator,” said Julián Lazalde, Civic Engagement Manager at the Forum. “We look forward to continuing to engage in fruitful dialogue with Senator Duckworth and her staff in order to pursue policies that lift up and benefit the constituencies served by members of the Illinois Latino Agenda and the Latino Policy Forum.”

Posted In: Leadership