Immigrant Rights Leaders Launch “We Are Illinois” Nonpartisan Voter Effort

August 20, 2016

For Immediate Release

Contact: Fred Tsao
312 332-7360 x213 (office)
773 251-7476 (cell--not for distribution)

Immigrant Rights Leaders Launch
“We Are Illinois” Nonpartisan Voter Effort

Congressman Quigley, Sens. Martinez and Aquino Encourage New American Voters

(Chicago--August 20, 2016)  About 100 immigrant leaders, elected officials, and other dignitaries convened at Chicago’s Erie Neighborhood House to launch the “We Are Illinois” voter engagement campaign.  A project of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and our partner organizations, “We Are Illinois” is a non-partisan voter registration and mobilization campaign that seeks to fully integrate the immigrant community into this country’s democratic process.  

“Naturalized citizen voters hold the balance of power in many federal and state districts with close races,” said ICIRR Lawrence Benito.  “With so much at stake on the national, state, and local level, we want to make sure that immigrants who can vote get registered and exercise their right to vote.”

“We Are Illinois” is the 2016 edition of ICIRR’s New Americans Democracy Project (NADP), which over the past 12 years has become a national model for immigrant empowerment through civic engagement, registering more than 150,000 New American voters throughout the state of Illinois.

“We Are Illinois” will engage 20 Democracy Fellows, youth leaders who will work together with ICIRR’s staff, members, and allies throughout the city of Chicago as well as Berwyn, Cicero, Melrose Park, Waukegan, Bolingbrook, Aurora, and other areas.  The campaign aims to

  • Register 25,000 new immigrant voters
  • Contact 150,000 immigrant voters, in targeted precincts, with a combination of door knocks, mail, and live and robo calls.  
  • Mobilize 50,000 immigrant voters to the polls on Election Day

“At a time when my community and many others like mine are being challenged by hostile rhetoric and government decisions, it is all the more important that those of us who can vote will do so, and that everyone gets engaged,” said Anel Sancen, the Democracy Fellow who will be working with Mujeres Latinas en Accion this fall.  “I am excited to do my part to make immigrant voices heard.”

This Saturday’s launch featured US Rep. Mike Quigley, State Senators Iris Martinez and Omar Aquino, and other leaders who encouraged new citizens to participate in the fall elections.  Immigration has emerged as a major issue in this year’s elections, with sharp divides among candidates and parties.  Immigrant voters will be key to deciding this year’s high-profile presidential race and crucial US Senate and House races that could determine control of the next Congress.  Illinois is the site of one of the nation’s closest US Senate races (between US Senator Mark Kirk and US Rep. Tammy Duckworth) as well as US House races in suburban and downstate districts with significant immigrant populations.  The outcome of these races will determine whether federal immigration reform legislation and other pro-immigrant initiatives will proceed.

In addition, immigrants could swing Illinois Senate and House seats that could determine the balance of power in Springfield.  Immigrant communities have already borne the brunt of the state budget impasse.  The Governor’s recent vetoes of legislation creating automatic voter registration and enabling noncitizen students to run for University of Illinois student trustee have raised concerns about how welcoming our state will be.  

“The outcome of this year’s elections will have a major impact on immigrant communities, especially on the state level,” said Senator Martinez.  “We all need to do whatever we can to make sure that our families and communities are engaged in the processes that will deeply affect their lives.”

To guide this electoral work, ICIRR and our members unveiled the “We Are Illinois” platform that includes six main points:

  • Ensuring a long-term equitable budget and revenue solutions     
  • Protecting all immigrants from the threat of deportation
  • Increasing access to health care for all
  • Increasing access to financial aid for all students admitted to a public university across Illinois, regardless of their immigration status
  • Bringing communities together through ID card programs
  • Simplifying Illinois’ voter registration process

ICIRR will also host a regional get-out-the-vote training with the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) on September 10-11 as well as events marking National Voter Registration Day on September 27 and the start of early voting on October 24.

“We have 79 days until Election Day,” Benito noted. “We will work intensively during these days to make sure that immigrant communities are fully represented in the civic life of our state.”

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


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