Home » Blog » Winter 2023-24: Letter from the President & CEO

Winter 2023-24: Letter from the President & CEO

  ·  Sylvia Puente

Dear Friends and Community, 

Happy New Year! Earlier this month, we at the Forum had our annual staff retreat and our fantastic facilitators, Sherida Morrison and Patty Meggs-Harbin, reminded us how important it was to take moments to reflect on what we have accomplished and celebrate, so I didn’t want to let this first month of 2024 pass without doing that and also share some of the exciting things we’re planning this year.

In 2023, the Forum produced four important reports that help us better understand the long-standing structural inequities confronting our community. We knew that Latino population growth was being driven by people outside of Chicago, so together with the Metropolitan Planning Council, we published a report looking at the challenges and opportunities facing our community in a selection of suburbs throughout the state. We also knew that Latinos were enrolling in college but that graduation rates weren’t matching those enrollment numbers, so, together with IWERC, we sought to understand why and published our findings and recommendations in the Illinois Latino College Landscape Study. Next, to better understand how Latinos are faring economically in our state, in comparison to other states, we partnered with the Brookings Institution, and released a report called, Closing the Latino Wealth Gap. And finally, at our Latinos on the Move event last year, we shared surprising findings about how demographics in our population have changed in the last ten years.

The migration wave that Chicago has been experiencing these past couple of years has put into sharp focus where our policies and systems fall painfully short. New arrivals, families seeking safety and opportunity, are struggling with an immigration system that is broken, schools that lack the bilingual teachers and staff that can connect with them in their home language, a shortage of affordable housing, and a political and media environment that seems more interested in feeding a narrative of division instead of uplifting the inspiring stories we hear all the time about everyday people, including Black and longtime Latino Chicagoans, helping in big ways and small. However, new arrivals also remind me that the Latino Policy Forum and our work as convenors of the Welcome to Illinois Coalition, advocating for better immigration, education, and housing policies and building bridges between Black and Latino communities must continue. We will hold strong to our commitment for Latino equity. For those who have been here for generations and are the backbone of our economies and communities, for those arriving on buses today, and for those to come. I have been invited to visit the White House and I will be taking this opportunity to advocate for our community, including our new neighbors.

This year, we will be continuing the work you know and rely on, plus some additional projects that I am very excited about. As this is an election year, we will be looking at data regarding the Latino electorate in Illinois, we will also be publishing a State of Latinos in Illinois to evaluate how our community is faring in important areas.

We will be hosting Latino Unity Day in Springfield again this year, so mark your calendar for May 7-8, 2024 and stay tuned for more information from us. And while you’re at it, also pencil us in for October 11, 2024 for our annual Latinos on the Move Luncheon, more information to follow on that, too.

In addition to these projects and so many others, we are also working on a Springfield Agenda that will be published in February. This will be the first time that we outline our policy, budgetary, and administrative priorities in Springfield in one comprehensive guide ahead of the Governor’s State of the State Address. The goal is for you to know what is going on in our state capital, how decisions made in the legislature impact Latinos, and what the Forum is doing about it. 

By taking this moment to reflect on what we’ve done and what still needs to be done, I am so thankful to you for all your support in what we do. It would not have been possible were it not for your continued interest, participation, and support. Additionally, January 1, marks my 15-year journey at the helm of the Forum. So, I also would also like to express deep gratitude to all of you for walking this journey with me. I am so privileged to serve in the calling of my lifetime. Thank you.


Sylvia Puente