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Summer 2022: Letter from the President & CEO

  ·  Sylvia Puente

Friends and neighbors,

I hope that you are all having an enjoyable and safe summer.

My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families of the victims and survivors of the Fourth of July mass shooting in Highland Park. That most recent gun violence is another example of what has become frighteningly commonplace in our country, robbing us of our sense of peace and security. It is imperative that all of those affected by the tragedy get the proper help during the healing process.

I look to the members of the Illinois Latino Agenda (ILA), a growing coalition of Latino leaders that the Forum convenes, to lead the discussion and debate on this issue. There is so much to be done to prevent future tragedies in Highland Park and in all of our neighborhoods. I was saddened to learn that our Acuerdo partner, Mano a Mano, located in the Round Lake Park suburb, has three Go Fund Me campaigns on their Facebook page as their volunteers and staff were connected to those directly impacted by the tragedy.

The ILA has also spoken out against another issue devastating to our community, the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade. ILA joined Illinois Unidos in outlining how Latinas and people of color, many of whom already struggle with access to health care, will bear the brunt of the ruling.

In 2019, Latinas were 80 percent more likely to receive late or no prenatal care than white women, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. While Illinois is a safe harbor for women seeking abortions and reproductive health care, collective efforts across the state must expand protections to women and pregnant individuals needing services.

The ILA is a non-partisan coalition that stands in solidarity with all other disenfranchised communities and communities seeking equity, inclusion, and social justice.

Recently, I joined members of the Latino Policy Forum in attending the Siempre Adelante: Our Quest for Equity, 2022 UnidosUS Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas. 

On July 11, the Forum was recognized with the 2022 Midwest Affiliate of the Year award by UnidosUS. This honor is the product of the Forum’s dedicated staff, community members, and partners who invest their time and work to strengthen the Latino community.

We are pleased to be part of such a distinguished group of organizations named for their exemplary work in serving their communities and advancing the mission of UnidosUS, and we celebrate them.

It was heartening and uplifting to reunite with so many leaders from organizations all over the nation to know we share a common vision in our quest for equity. This shared camaraderie is a source of strength in these challenging times.  

On April 9, the Illinois General Assembly passed a $46.5 billion balanced budget for FY23. It includes a $1.8 billion tax relief package that will provide relief for Illinoisans recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and from recent inflation that has caused the cost of living to rise. The Forum applauds the General Assembly for including investments in some areas that we identified as essential in the FY23 passed budget, but is disappointed that additional ARPA funds were not used to supplement the needs in communities hardest hit by the pandemic. Please reas the complete the complete response:Latino Policy Forum Response to Illinois FY23 Passed State Budget and Legislation.

The Forum’s Education Team did succeeded in securing increases to various scholarship funding for bilingual teacher candidates: collaborating with the Illinois State Board of Education to secure stimulus funding and with Advance Illinois and Chicago Public Schools to win an increase to the Minority Teacher Illinois scholarship. These efforts will go a long way toward addressing the shortage of bilingual teachers. Not only will there be hundreds more bilingual teachers due to these scholarship initiatives, but thousands of our children will also benefit from their presence in the classroom. 

Obstacles in healthcare andhousing access forimmigrants are a few barriers keeping resources from the communities they are meant to serve. The Forum’s Housing Policy Analyst, Edwin Ortiz Reyes, shared insights in a blog about an upcoming report addressing these issues through policy and community engagement.

On June 15th, the National Museum of Mexican Art presented six remarkable women of artistic and/or social working backgrounds with the prestigious Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz Women of Achievement Award. Among the honorees was the Forum’s founding director and current board member Maricela Garcia. The award is a testimony of Maricela’s outstanding contributions. Read her inspiring remarks here. ¡Felicidades!

Finally, the Forum is working on the Latinos on the Move 2022: Driving Growth In Illinois, our annual policy lunch.  This year, we expect to return in person and dive into the theme of building equitable pathways so that Latino communities can navigate past the pandemic. The event will take place on Friday, November 4, 2022. To register, please visit LOTM2022.eventbrite.com.

Wishing you peace and wellness.