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Summer 2023: Letter from the President & CEO

  ·  Sylvia Puente

Friends and neighbors, 

I hope that summer’s sunshine always finds you and that you save a little bit of it as we transition into the fall and winter months.  

The city of Chicago is in the midst of a transition of its own with the new mayor, Brandon Johnson. Mr. Johnson recently released  “A Blueprint for Creating a More Just and Vibrant City for All,” a 223-page report on how to make Chicago stronger, safer, and better. Earlier this year, the Illinois Latino Agenda (ILA) sent a letter to then Mayor-elect Johnson, calling on him to prioritize community development, equitable representation, youth violence prevention, and Chicago’s Sanctuary City status to ensure a better quality of life for Latinos in Chicago. The letter also urged for a real commitment to address the disparities in Chicago’s Latino communities, which too often go ignored. The Forum is grateful to Mayor Johnson’s transition team, a diverse volunteer group of nearly 400 people, which had representation from Illinois Latino Agenda members and from our Multicultural Leadership Academy, who shared ideas and made recommendations on policy proposals. The Forum pledges to be a resource to Mr. Johnson to help ensure his commitment to improving the well-being of Latinos throughout the City.  

Mayor Johnson and the Chicago City Council should be commended for providing newly arrived migrants with much needed aid. $51 million in funds for staffing, food, transportation, and legal services at temporary shelters honor our city’s commitment to being a Sanctuary City for those seeking refuge. You, too, can lend a helping hand by volunteering through the Welcome to Illinois campaign and directly impacting the lives of migrants. Learn more about opportunities to help HERE. 

The needs of the new arrivals are great. Throughout the Fiscal Year 2024 General Funds budgetary talks, there was a lot of debate about the cost of funding medical coverage for undocumented residents. In the long run, health experts and advocates argue that improving access to healthcare increases preventative care and that it may cost the government much more to treat uninsured, low-income immigrants, who are essential workers, and an economic necessity to our state. See the ILA position HERE.  

The Forum applauds the efforts of the Illinois General Assembly and Governor Pritzker in formulating the budget and recognizing the complex challenges involved in balancing competing priorities. We celebrate a budget headlined by education that focuses spending on preschool and collegiate education. Read our full assessment of the budget HERE. 

The U.S. Supreme Court striking down affirmative action in college admissions is an affront to racial progress in higher education. The Latino Policy Forum decries these decisions. These decisions have the potential to impact college access for Latino students dramatically, something we can ill afford in a knowledge-based economy in which Latinos have the lowest levels of college completion among racial and ethnic groups. By gutting affirmative action considerations, the Court has placed a significant obstacle in the path for Latinos and all other marginalized groups to secure a college education. Read the full press release HERE. 

I am grateful to Governors State University (GSU) for honoring me with an honorary doctorate degree during the 2023 Commencement ceremony at the Tinley Park Convention Center in May. I share with you, as I did with the graduates, a few lessons that have helped me stay grounded and focused in the challenging times we all are facing: 

Lesson 1 - know who you are, who are you in the center of your being, who are you when no one is watching, and who are you when you have a hard choice to make and when you have an ethical dilemma. 

Lesson 2 - commit to being a leader. My definition of leadership is any act of going beyond yourself to help someone else. It can be big, or it can be small. Any role that you play will make a difference. It will move us from the world as it is to the world as it should be. 

Lesson 3 - listen to the wisdom of your heart. In the same way, you have nurtured your intellect, I encourage you to nurture the wisdom of your heart and spirit. It is the place where you contemplate your identity, gifts, and values to determine when and how to act or how to make a hard decision. 

These are the lessons that have served me and that I offer you. I invite you to watch my remarks in their entirety HERE. 

As always, my sincerest gratitude to the Forum’s staff. Their tireless work is the engine that runs our organization. In 2019, fewer than 20% of Latino adults 25 years and older had a 2- or 4-year college degree, the lowest educational attainment among all racial/ethnic groups. To better understand the educational attainment disparity, the Forum initiated the Illinois Latino College Landscape Study in partnership with the Illinois Workforce and Education Research Collaborative (IWERC). See the webinar launch. 

The Latino Policy Forum convened a meeting with Senator Durbin and community partners to discuss efforts to address the migrant crisis and the investments and policies needed to better support new arrivals and, overall, the 11 million undocumented individuals living in the U.S. 

Darion Crawford, an Urban Farmer and Compost Coordinator with the Urban Growers Collective and a cohort member in this year’s Multicultural Leadership Academy, was a guest on the podcast “3 Questions With…” Darion spoke about supporting communities in developing systems where food is grown, prepared, and distributed within the community itself, as well as the importance of building Black and Latino coalitions. Watch the interview HERE. 

We at the Forum are rolling up our sleeves during the second half of the year. Please be on the lookout for invitations to the release of a new report focused on Latinos Living in the Suburbs: Challenges & Opportunities. We are also planning a release of the College Landscape Study for September. For this year’s Latinos On The Move awards luncheon, we are thrilled that we have another collaboration with the Brookings Institute on the Latino wealth gap which will be released in Washington D.C. These are just a few of the initiatives the Forum staff is leading. Stay tuned to our social media and website for additional details on all these events. 

Finally, FELICIDADES to Forum board members Maria Doughty for being named one of Chicago’s Most Powerful Women in 2023 by Better Chicago. Dorothy Abreu and Laritza Lopez for being named the 2023 Business Leaders of Color by Chicago United.  

Congratulations to all, and thank you for your leadership!  

Wishing all of you peace and wellness.