ICIRR Focuses on Building Alliances, Forward Progress at Annual Policy Symposium

November 6, 2017
Sophie Vodvarka
Communications Coordinator
(773) 294-4909

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights held its annual policy symposium on Tuesday at the Rush Hospital. (Read the program here!) In light of the changes in the national political landscape, this year’s theme focused on Immigrant Integration, with policy sessions on human services, civic engagement, health care, education, and immigration defense.

Opening speaker Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx kicked off the symposium with a message stressing the importance of intersectional approaches in continuing our activism. “What we need is to sustain the urgency of what is happening,” she said, recalling the barrage of political attacks on immigration policy in the lats few months. “We have to be vigilant for one another.”

The plenary session also continued with this theme of building alliances across communities and issues as attendees heard from members representing a variety of organizations including the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), PASO - West Suburban Action Project, Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago (AAAJ), United Congress for Community and Religious Organizations (UCCRO), the Syrian Community Network, and the Woods Fund of Chicago.

Afternoon policy sessions focused on numerous topics affecting immigrants each and every day, including building reliance in our communities by increasing health care access and how to make health care accessible to everyone and health institutions welcoming for all regardless of immigration status or language; how to better serve DACAmented and undocumented students in higher education; increasing civic engagement with a focus on voter access policies in light of our recent community victory on Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) and looking ahead to 2020; and how to move forward in the face of Illinois’s three-year budget crisis despite its harmful effects on human services.

Despite the number of obstacles facing the immigrant community that were discussed during the symposium, attendees left feeling energized and ready to continue the fight. The symposium also ended on a high note, with keynote speaker Juan Salgado, Chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, reminding all about the importance of the symposium’s theme and maintaining resilience in the face of hardship. “The closer we get to the top of the mountain, the harder it gets. We need to remember that now,” said Salgado. “It is through immigrant integration that we can really enrich our community.”