As Presidential Candidates Attack Immigrants, ICIRR Joins Gutierrez, Durbin, Solis to Honor Citizenship Day

September 19, 2015

As Presidential Candidates Attack Immigrants, ICIRR Joins Gutierrez, Durbin, Solis to Honor Citizenship Day 

Rally, Citizenship Workshop Highlight Contributions and Power of Immigrants

(Chicago—September 19, 2015)  As immigrant families and communities come under daily attack from presidential candidates and other voices, ICIRR is pushing back by highlighting the growing power of immigrant voters as we join US Representative Luis Gutiérrez, US Senator Richard Durbin, and Chicago Alderman Danny Solis at Instituto del Progreso Latino on Chicago’s southwest side to mark Citizenship Day. Congressman Gutierrez began the day with a free naturalization workshop for more than 400 citizenship applicants, and joined ICIRR leaders, newly naturalized citizens, and others for a rally and press conference to call on all current and eligible immigrant voters to exercise their power at the polls.

 “The way we respond to racism is by voting and in Latino and immigrant communities, we are getting that message loud and clear,” said Congressman Gutierrez. “People are calling and coming into my office asking what they can do to push back on Trumpism and very specifically, those who are not yet citizens are asking how to become citizens and those who have not registered to vote are asking how to register.”

“By attacking immigrants, Donald Trump and others have awaked a sleeping giant,” said Senator Durbin. “We will fight hateful words not with more hateful words, but with our actions and our votes.”

ICIRR has long worked to empower immigrants through citizenship and voting. Over the last 10 years, through its New Americans Initiative (NAI), ICIRR has assisted nearly 100,000 legal permeant residents become citizens. In 2014 alone, ICIRR registered more than 29,000 new voters. These accomplishments have helped ICIRR win numerous victories on the federal, state, and local level to improve the lives of Illinois’ immigrants and continue fighting for a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants across the country.

The New Americans Initiative enabled Maria Gamez, an active member of her community, to become a US citizen. She then helped her father and other relatives as well as other immigrants become citizens as an NAI volunteer and later as a staff member at Instituto. Unfortunately, NAI, funded through the state Immigrant Services Line Item, is on hold due to the current state budget impasse.

“We call upon Governor Rauner and the leadership in the Illinois General Assembly to fund immigrant services so that more immigrants like Maria can contribute further to our community,” said Lawrence Benito, ICIRR’s chief executive officer.

According to the Pew Research Center, 21 million Latinos across the country were eligible to vote in 2012, and by 2016, that number will rise to 28 million. Immigrant communities are the fastest growing electoral group in the US, with 800,000 Latinos turning 18 every year and 8.8 million green card holders eligible for US citizenship across the country.

These current and future voters are disgusted by the hateful rhetoric and irrational proposals of recent presidential candidates, including threatening mass deportation and attacking the citizenship provisions in the US Constitution. These assaults on the safety and stability of the immigrant community are driving eligible immigrants to become citizens so they can make their voices heard. By 2016, Hispanic and Asian-American voters will account for 22 percent of the voting population, and they will be demanding common sense reforms that protect their families and their ability to live, learn and work in the US.

ICIRR and other grassroots advocacy organizations are mobilizing immigrant voices throughout the nation. In addition to Saturday’s Citizenship Day press conference, ICIRR will join the Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants on Friday, September 25, at the Broadview Detention Facility for a vigil marking Pope Francis’ visit to the US and his steadfast support for the dignity of immigrants and their families.   

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 130 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. For more information, visit www.icirr.org.