Sazón De IL: Los Hermanos Sotelo

IL Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Economic stability means that people have the resources essential to a healthy life. Factors affecting economic stability include affordable housing; employment that provides a living wage; things that support employment, like worker protections, paid sick leave, and child care; and access to reliable transportation.

Bordering the Chicago River on the Lower West Side is Pilsen, a neighborhood rich in Latino culture and decorated with dozens of ornate murals and as many award-winning restaurants.

One of the many Mexican-inspired eateries is “5 Rabanitos” in the historic district’s West 18th Street. It’s there that Alfonso Sotelo, the first part of the story of two brothers, immigrants achieving their “American dream,” begins.

Citlalli Magali Sotelo, Columbia College Chicago

It is at the Pilsen restaurant that you will find Alfonso plating his favorite dish, Puerco Al Rancho: slow roasted pork with Mole Estilo Guerrero, Mexican rice, and green beans. A few minutes south, you will find brother Jaime Sotelo doing the same at “Chile Toreado” in McKinley Park.

Puerco Al Rancho (Photo Courtesy: 5 Rabanitos)

Both men honor the cuisine that they grew up with in Mexico by offering hand-made and hand-pressed tortillas to regional dishes like tlayudas from Oaxaca.

The Sotelo brothers are two of the 1.7 million immigrants who call Chicago home. Many, like the Sotelo’s small businesses, keep Main Street vibrant, regardless of the economy, including when COVID-19 basically shut down the City.

Alfonso Sotelo (Photo by Citlalli Magali Sotelo)
Jaime Sotelo (Photo by Citlalli Magali Sotelo)

“We have seen 4,700 new businesses get new licenses since the beginning of … the pandemic,â€� said Isabel Velez-Diez, in an interview with WTTW’s Latino Voices. “We’ve also seen the license renewal stay at the same percentage as it was pre pandemic. So we are very hopeful, optimistic that things are looking up and things are getting slowly but surely back to normal,â€� said the director of economic recovery at the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.

Still, inflation has been squeezing small businesses that made gains from the economic strain caused by the pandemic.

“I think one of the things that we’re seeing right now is the cost of rent, utilities, payroll, it’s going to continue going up and we’re looking at different types of businesses that are creating different business models that have adapted since the pandemic,� Pilsen Chamber of Commerce secretary Jackson Flores said.

Inflation has especially hit hard the restaurant industry. In August, the cost for consumers to purchase food away from home rose by 8.3 percent compared to the same period in 2021, according to a report by Modern Restaurant Management. Additionally, menu prices at casual dining establishments rose by an average of 9 percent year over year from 2021. This inflation at the customer–facing end of the restaurant business has primarily been driven by rapidly increasing operating costs – by as much as 11.7 percent. Worse, inflation isn’t forecast to ease until late next year. It is predicted to fall to 3-to-4 percent by the end of 2023, according to economic projections by Kiplinger

For the Sotelo Brothers, one of 80,000 Latino business owners in Chicago, authenticity is on the menu and key to weathering any economic storm.

Citlalli Magali Sotelo, is a 21-year-old Mexican-American and a first-generation college student. She is currently a junior at Columbia College Chicago and aspire to be a bilingual or trilingual journalist.

Sotelo is one of the students in the Creating the TV News Package class taught by Hugo Balta. Balta is the Publisher of Illinois Latino News, part of the Latino News Network.

Cover Photo courtesy of Chile Toreado

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After Stillbirth, Undocumented Woman Organizes Partnership To Help Others Find Better Care

When Laura Garcia was pregnant with her third child, a boy she named Matias, she had symptoms that made her uneasy. Her nails turned purple, her feet were swollen and she was vomiting. Undocumented and uninsured, she sought care in a community clinic.

“They told me it’s normal,� said Garcia of Norwalk.

But one day in her 39th week of pregnancy, as she returned home from work, she could no longer feel the baby moving. She asked her husband to take her to the hospital.

“And when I get there, they told me, ‘I’m sorry, but your son has no heartbeat.’�

It was confirmation of Garcia’s worst fear. Now, she faced delivering a stillborn child. She pushed for four hours, but she began to weaken, and doctors told her husband they were fearful for her life. Then, finally, Matias was delivered by cesarean section. The experience left her devastated and angry that her concerns had been ignored.

“I have many symptoms. I told the doctors. I explained them. I complained. They never listened to me; my baby died, and I almost died,� she said.

She believes some of that lack of care was because she is an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala.

“I don’t have exactly the words for how you feel being a brown woman, but I feel like I don’t have the same rights,� Garcia said. “I feel like I don’t have the same value as white women and that they don’t care about us.�

The loss of her son left her determined to act so that other women in her situation might not suffer the same way. Garcia began a partnership with providers and other undocumented women to provide educational workshops on reproductive rights and accessing quality health care during pregnancy and childbirth.

“The situation that happened to me showed me I need to speak up,� she said.

Fielding Questions

At a Zoom workshop on a Sunday night in November, Dr. Daisy León-Martínez let participants know they could have their video on or off. “Remember, this event is a conversation,� she said in Spanish. “It is an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other. So, I invite you to put questions in the chat if you like, or you can also talk in person.�

León-Martínez, who did her OB-GYN residency and then a fellowship in maternal-fetal medicine at Yale University, ran down the list of topics for the evening: fertility, infertility treatment and birth control.

After her slide presentation, there was no shortage of questions, from birth control and side effects to menopause. One woman said that in her home country, a husband’s consent is necessary to obtain birth control; could the doctor clarify if this is the case here? Another wanted to know at what age she should talk to her daughter about birth control.

León-Martínez is now based in California, where she’s moved to be part of the faculty at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of California San Francisco. However, she still makes time for these Connecticut events on Zoom.

“Interspersed in every session, there’s usually some message about advocacy and patient rights,� she said. “There is a lot about reproductive care that is in the control of the individual, and it should be that way.�

A little later in the session, another woman spoke up. She explained that she was 26 weeks pregnant and frequently passed blood in her urine. She had been told she should see a specialist, but despite her best efforts, she couldn’t get an appointment for another month.

León-Martínez expressed concern. “Send your information by private message,� she said. “Tomorrow, we’ll see if we can make an appointment for you at another clinic.�

“A lot of times things will come up like today where we have someone who has been experiencing warning symptoms, and she hasn’t been able to find an appointment.â€� 

— Rebeca Vergara Greeno,

Yale medical student and

workshop health coordinator

“And so, we end up trying to work backward and talk to different providers to find her the help that she needs,� she said.

Emergency Room Meeting

Vergara first met Garcia in November of 2020, not long after Garcia had lost her baby.

Garcia had traveled to New Haven for care at the HAVEN free clinic, a primary care facility run by Yale Medical School students where Vergara was the director at the time.

“She ended up needing hospitalization because of postpartum symptoms,� Vergara said. “And so that’s where things began. We talked in the emergency room while we were waiting for her to be attended to, and she shared with me her vision for wanting to start some sort of workshop for women who just don’t have the same access to health services and reproductive services.�

The first workshop convened in March 2021, just a few months after Garcia’s loss.

“Which speaks to really her commitment to this cause,� said León-Martínez, “and to her ability to turn something so negative into something fruitful for her community.�

“If the change is going to come in a way that is productive, it needs to come from the community that is affected,� she said. “I really commend the people who are doing all of the legwork on their own time—when they’re working two jobs and going to school in the evenings and balancing childcare—because they believe in their community and in the value that they hold.�

Estimates derived from census bureau data put Connecticut’s undocumented population at a total of around 113,000 of whom as many as 43,000 may be women of child-bearing age.

Community Connections

To reach women, Garcia sought help from a nonprofit that organizes domestic workers in Stamford, Nosotras CT.  Founder and longtime activist Carla Esquivel and training and development coordinator Tamara Nuñez del Prado immediately saw the opportunity.

Garcia hands out food, drinks and flowers to Yaritea Garcia who brought her daughters. Emily, 4, and Sophia, 4 months. Melanie Stengel Photo.

Nuñez del Prado, Esquivel and Garcia hosted focus groups to find out what women in the undocumented community wanted to hear. They also publicize the gatherings on social media and in person, passing out flyers along with food and other aid.

“Our organization is trying to give a voice to this community and advocate for more services—breast exams, for example, pap smears,� Esquivel said in Spanish. “When I tried to get these kinds of services, they did an assessment of my income and told me that my estimated cost for the care would be around $700. I did not have that much money.�

She says even one-time fees for appointments can add up to an insurmountable obstacle.

“Even if it’s a minimum payment of $30 or $40, they need that money for food and rent. And so, it’s not something that they can pay for—a medical visit, let alone multiple medical visits.�

But beyond the financial cost, there are other issues, said Nuñez del Prado. She acts as the community education lead for the initiative and runs sexuality and gender identity workshops as part of the series.

“Language is one of the primary barriers,� she said. “But also, not knowing how to navigate the system that is very consumerist in nature and views patients as clients. And so, there’s a sort of depersonalization towards the patient and their care.�

For instance, she said, if patients don’t have insurance, they’re offered fewer options for their care. The patients don’t know their rights and struggle to advocate for themselves.

Gaps In Care

León-Martínez said that when she was practicing in Connecticut, she saw many gaps in the health care safety net firsthand.

Dr. Daisy León-Martínez

“The health care system is currently not built to be accessed by all people equally,� she said. “I spent a big chunk of my day trying to coordinate care personally for patients because I was aware that there were barriers that they were not going to be able to surpass. I spent probably more time doing that than actually counseling patients.�

That could mean coordinating with a social worker to get someone a taxi voucher so they can visit an appropriate specialist. It could mean helping someone who is illiterate to fill out application forms for financial assistance. León-Martínez said there were many times when she had to come in on her day off because she was the only Spanish-speaking provider.

Advances In Care

The undocumented community won important health care advances in recent years. Garcia, Nuñez del Prado and Esquivel have all testified before the legislature on bills that affect their community. The biggest win came with the passage of a measure that, as of April 1, 2022, made undocumented women eligible for prenatal care and, as of April 2023, will provide one year of postpartum coverage under Medicaid.

León-Martínez says the changes in Connecticut will result in improvements for many, including those who need additional care after pregnancy.

Garcia said that while insurance coverage is a welcome step forward in many instances, there still can be disconnects.

“I’ve been calling for one woman who’s pregnant and asking for an OB-GYN for her, but they say they don’t have any more space for people with HUSKY,� she said.

Garcia and the others continue advocating for change at the legislature and are working to educate their community.

Ask what solution she’s seeking, and she has a ready answer.

“In my dreams, it’s free health care for everyone, but I believe something impossible, right?� Garcia said with a laugh.

Nuñez del Prado responded. “I don’t think there are any impossibilities,� she said, “just longer roads towards progress.�

After Stillbirth, Undocumented Woman Organizes Partnership To Help Others Find Better Care was first published on Connecticut Health I-Team.

Publisher’s Note:  CTLN and collaborate to best serve Connecticut’s Hispanic, Latino communities.

Chicago Latinos receive migrants with open arms

IL Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Social and Community Context is the connection between characteristics of the contexts within which people live, learn, work, and play, and their health and well-being. This includes topics like cohesion within a community, civic participation, discrimination, conditions in the workplace, and incarceration.

Yumary Briseño looked at her 12-year-old daughter. Her tender eyes gazing up at her, filled with worry. 

“Mom, I’m hungry.�

Briseño gave her daughter the only food she had in her home—a few flour arepas and a can of tomato sauce. 

“Mom, that’s not food.�

Holding back tears, Briseño realized it was time to flee Venezuela. 

Briseño said she did not want to come to the United States, but with the rising economic crisis in her home country, she left in hopes to provide a better life for her daughter and mother. 

Her restaurant business in Venezuela was declining and had no success finding another job that paid her enough to support her family. 

“I had to do it,� she said.

A bed where one of the migrants sleep next to a collection of donated items inside Adalberto Memorial United Methodist Church. (Stephania Rodriguez)

Briseño’s journey to the United States was not easy. She saw women and men raped with her own eyes. She saw migrants being robbed and shot at. She encountered fear, hunger and fatigue. 

She witnessed frustration grow among other migrants during her month-long travel, many of them picking fights with each other over water. 

 â€œIf I could turn back time, I’d reconsider a million times about taking on the journey,â€� Briseño said. 

Oftentimes, she went to sleep on the streets fearful that she would be killed.

“It’s an experience I don’t wish upon anyone,â€� she said.  

Jacqueline Cardenas reports on efforts to assist migrants bused from Texas with resources like shelter, clothing, and food.

Since late August, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has bussed around 3,700 migrants to Chicago from the U.S. and Mexico border in Texas. At least 425 are school-aged children according to ChalkBeat. Most of the migrants are seeking asylum, yet some are unaware they have arrived in Chicago in the first place. 

The influx of undocumented migrants is part of Abbott’s plan to send them to Democratic ‘sanctuary’ cities. 

Abbott has openly criticized on social media the Biden administration’s attempt to lift Title 42, a federal act which authorizes denying asylum seekers in the U.S. during the Covid-19 pandemic prior to the shipment of migrants. 

Yumary Briseño and her daughter in their Venezuela home prior to fleeing the country. (Courtesy of Yumary Briseño)

Despite her experiences, Briseño said she was one of the lucky ones. 

Her journey led her to spend three days at the Migrant Resource Center in San Antonio, Texas where a woman at the center gave Briseño airplane tickets to Chicago. 

When she arrived in the city, she met pastors Jacobita Cortes and Elvira who did not want to disclose her last name. 

Elvira and Cortes turned the Adalberto Memorial United Methodist Church in Humboldt Park into a sanctuary for arriving migrants. They provide them with shelter, clothes, food and education on how to navigate public transportation.

Cortes said the church has received around 150 migrants. Their goal has been helping them find jobs, apartments, but most of all, help restore their faith and human rights.

During a church mass, Elvira told her experience as someone who was once undocumented to the newly arrived.

She turned her head, acknowledging the eyes of everyone in the small room and said, “Today, you all are arriving in paradise. But a paradise, why? Because others before us, even way before me, people fought so that in that time, I could have rights.â€� 

Elvira was deported from the United States in 2007 and was not allowed to enter the country for twenty years. Despite her undocumented status, she would travel to the U.S. Mexico border and help people cross over. 

There were moments she looked up at the sky and thought, “Lord but what am I doing here?�

Elvira said even though there were days she was filled with doubt and fear that she would be penalized again, she wanted to help people create a better life in the U.S.

“I wanted for no other mother and father to be separated from their children. For no other father and mother to be shamed. That no other worker be shamed for the simple act of wanting to work.â€� 

Migrants and parishioners attend mass inside Adalberto Memorial United Methodist Church in Humboldt Park. (Stephania Rodriguez)

She reminded the migrants that their path will not be an easy one but to continue fighting. 

Cortes said she reminds them that despite their country’s crisis, they should not let go of their roots.

“Like I tell our Venezuelan brothers, never forget or feel embarrassed of your village, of your country,â€� Cortes said. 

Cortes was also once a migrant herself, she came to the United States at 17-years-old from Michoacán, Mexico. She said it is now the duty of people who share similar migration experiences to help them. 

Her message transcents through the walls of the church with two green signs, one in Spanish and the other in English that read, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.â€� 

“Just as they arrived, they can have that heart to keep helping the rest. To not forget those who were left behind,â€� Cortes said.  

Through similar migration experience or their own sense of calling, many Latinos across Chicago have found their own ways to help those seeking asylum.

Baltazar Enriquez, president of the Little Village Community Council (LVCC) was at Union Station on Aug. 31, the night the first bus of migrants arrived in Chicago.

He received a call from Univision cameraman Enrique García Fuentes, asking him if they could use the LVCC hall space to house the migrants. Although Enriquez agreed, he did not realize the ‘massive’ amounts of people that were seeking asylum.

LVCC volunteers quickly gathered supplies such as clothes, blankets, food and transportation. Enriquez called for help from city officials including Congressman Chuy Garcia, Illinois Latino Caucus Leader Aaron Ortiz and Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya. Enrique said none of them answered his phone calls nor called him back at a later time. 

A green sign inside Adalberto Memorial United Methodist Church reads “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.� (Stephania Rodriguez)

“The city has helped us with nothing. The state has helped us with nothing. The county has helped us but nothing. The federal government has not helped us with anything.�

In October, Mayor Lightfoot gave $5 million for the city to support the incoming migrants, according to Bloomberg Magazine. However, the LVCC did not have any financial support from the city according to Enriquez.

Enriquez said the Little Village neighborhood always welcomes immigrants. As part of one of the city’s largest Mexican communities, he says they always, “lend a helping hand.�

Whether on the front lines or not, the mobilization of many Latinos across the city to support those arriving come in various forms. 

Emily Vallejo, daughter of Peruvian immigrants and student at DePaul, started a clothing drive for migrants through the Latinx cultural group known as MESA.

She said her parents and grandparents immigration story has fueled her activism. 

“It’s always kinda been a big part of why I felt like I need to do things is because I see my family in other people,â€� Vallejo said. 

Vallejo said she wants to give back to her community such as the incoming migrants because her family paved the way for her to do so. 

“I feel like it would almost be doing a disservice to my family if I weren’t saying this is messed up or we should be mobilizing.�

Vallejo said many of the older generation of Latinos focused on ‘surviving’ in the United States, rather than engaging in forms of activism.

These acts of survival were often sending money back to their families or simply ensuring there was food on the table.

As migrants continue to arrive, Briseño said all she wants is to be granted permission by the U.S. government to work. She wishes to provide for her family, especially her daughter. 

“She is my strength to keep fighting.�

Publisher’s Notes: This story was written by DePaul University students, Stephania Rodriguez, Nadia Carolina Hernandez, and Jacqueline Cardenas.

Jacqueline is the editor-in-chief of La DePaulia, DePaul University’s Spanish language newspaper. She is a multimedia journalist and the event coordinator for the university’s National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) student chapter. Jacqueline is a first-generation Mexican-American who aspires to diversify the broadcast news industry.

She is an Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF) fellow in the 2022 class, Journalism Camp: covering race, ethnicity, and culture.

You can read the Spanish language version of Chicago Latinos receive migrants with open arms by clicking on Latinos en Chicago reciben con brazos abiertos a migrantes después de un camino difícil.

Illinois Latino News (ILLN) and La DePaulia are partners in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.

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New Loan Program Looks to Support Latino Small Businesses & Nonprofits

CT Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Economic Stability is vital to affording lifestyle choices and paying for quality medical care that keeps people healthy. A well-paying, steady job is critical for food security and housing stability. Savings are essential for managing chronic conditions or emergencies.

Connecticut’s public and private sectors are working together to provide flexible and accessible loans to over 100 small business owners and nonprofit leaders across the state’s diverse communities. 

The Small Business Boost Fund was designed to address financial and technical barriers that specifically impact small businesses and nonprofits from marginalized communities, said Director Sheila Hummel of CT Small Business Development Office.

“We’re trying to reach [residents] and get them help. Lots of times it’s technical assistance—helping you do your application or afterward too,� Hummel explained. “Maybe, after you get the loan, you’re having some cash flow problems or something else didn’t go the way you wanted it to. Now, you have someone to go to.�

The loans have a fixed 4.5 percent interest rate, ranging from $5,000 to $500,000 with 60- or 72-month repayment terms, depending on the loan amount. 

Eligible businesses and nonprofits must operate within Connecticut, have 100 or fewer full-time employees, an annual revenue of less than $8 million, and have been in operation for at least one year—although a small amount of financing is available for start-ups. 

“This fund was established to support small business owners who may have previously experienced barriers to accessing financial support and works with and through community lenders that are dedicated to equitable lending practices,� Governor Ned Lamont announced in a July press release

The program’s $150 million budget consists of a $75 million investment from the state while $75 million is being raised, coming from donations made by local banks, Hummel said. 

The majority of the budget is lent to the program’s businesses and nonprofits while a smaller portion funds technical assistance to applying businesses and nonprofits. 

Over a thousand businesses and nonprofits have applied to the program since its launch this summer, according to Hummel. The pre-application portal asks residents about 18 questions to either match them with a lender or technical advisor. 

All of the fund’s applications are available in multiple languages, including Spanish. Residents may also speak with multilingual staff to learn about the program or when applying.

More than 100 organizations have been matched with a lender that assists residents with the application process. Applicants who are first matched with technical advisors, receive feedback and support to enhance specific aspects of their businesses or nonprofits before applying to the program. 

“There are numerous different [reasons] for why you might not get matched up,� such as low credit scores or disorganized financial records, Hummel explained. “So then, you have the option of matching with technical assistance to help you be able to qualify for a loan. They’ll work with you and see what’s going on.�

Currently, about 60 percent of loans from the Small Business Boost Fund have been given to marginalized business owners and nonprofit leaders, including entrepreneurs who are women, veterans, people of color, people with disabilities, and members of LGBTQ+ communities. 

However, Hummel pointed out the importance of keeping intersectionality in mind, as her team increases that percentage. 

“Right now, we have nine Latino businesses that have been funded,â€� Hummel shared. “So, we want to increase that number and then look at where these loans are being funded. Maybe there’s not enough advertising [of the program] in Hartford…or Meriden.â€� 

The fund has worked with local chambers of commerce along with Hispanic and Latino nonprofit organizations to spread the word about its loans. 

“We’re constantly adjusting our outreach and marketing campaigns to reach a variety of diverse communities,� she said. “We’re doing ads in newspapers, radio spots in Spanish, we’re going to have [an informational] video in Spanish.�

Reaching marginalized communities can be a major challenge for many supportive programs and services, but establishing trust with residents from these vulnerable communities is another obstacle.

A few of the program’s seven lenders and local community development financial institutions (CDFIs) are known for their decades of experience “serving historically under-resources and underbanked communities�, according to the press release

Participating CDFIs include Ascendus, HEDCO, NDC Community Impact Loan Fund, Pursuit Lending, Southeastern CT Enterprise Region (SeCTer), and Capital for Change

Publisher’s Notes:

CT Latino News is a partner of the CT Small Business Boost Fund in supporting the state’s Hispanic and Latino communities.

CTLN sees the public as more than just the audience; you are contributors. To that end, please take our brief survey to help shape our coverage in producing stories on the social determinants of health: healthcare and quality, neighborhood and built environment, education access and quality, social and community context, and economic stability.


Can you see me?

IL Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health. Social and Community Context is the connection between characteristics of the contexts within which people live, learn, work, and play, and their health and well-being. This includes topics like cohesion within a community, civic participation, discrimination, conditions in the workplace, and incarceration.

Fallen angels, birds, shackles, and small handprints. These paintings are far more than just pictures. Children made this art in Illinois jails.

“Can you see me?”, the exhibition, at the Weinberg/Newton Gallery in the River West neighborhood of Chicago, presents artwork by incarcerated young people, contemporary artists, and arts-justice organizations exploring themes of ascendance, innocence, and freedom.

“Can You See Me?” – Aubriella Jackson, Columbia College Chicago, reporting.

“These are kids and not criminals,� said Devon VanHouten-Maldonado, SkyART Director of Programs. “We over criminalize our Black and Brown communities.� VanHouten-Maldonado believes some youth from poverty stricken communities are never given the chance to be innocent.

Black youth are more than four times as likely to be detained or committed in juvenile facilities as their white peers, according to The Sentencing Project. Forty-one percent of youths in placement are Black, even though Black Americans comprise only 15 percent of all youth across the United States.

The three-part presentation is a partnership with South Side youth arts non-profit SkyART; inspired by its Just-Us program, which provides weekly open studio-style art therapy sessions for incarcerated youth.

“I think they’re doing a really great job (SkyART) because it’s giving these kids a way to express themselves,” said, Raven Quintero. A visitor at the River West exhibit, Quintero agreed that healing through art is a positive channel.

VanHouten-Maldonado said art therapy gives youth the platform to explore their challenging circumstances and express themselves in a creative and productive manner. “Art programs that address social emotional learning are more effective than incarceration.�

The “Can you see me?” exhibition, Weinberg/Newton Gallery, River West

The three exhibitions include:

• The primary Can you see me? exhibition at Weinberg/Newton Gallery runs until Dec. 17, 2022

• Arts + Public Life presenting FREEDOM SPACE, runs through Dec. 16, 2022.

• SkyART presenting Can you see me? Envisioning the future at their flagship studio space in South Chicago (3026 E 91st St.) runs through Dec. 17, 2022.

Aubriella Jackson from is a junior at Columbia College Chicago.

Jackson is one of the students in the Creating the TV News Package class taught by Hugo Balta. Balta is the Publisher of Illinois Latino News, part of the Latino News Network.

ILLN sees the public as more than just the audience; you are contributors. To that end, please take our brief survey to help shape our coverage in producing stories on the social determinants of health: healthcare and quality, neighborhood and built environment, education access and quality, social and community context, and economic stability.


Please support independent journalism by becoming an ILLN member or making a donation.

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New Coalition Working To Meet The Needs of Newly Arrived Migrants

Earlier this month, the Illinois Latino Agenda (ILA) convened its first meeting of the “Welcome to Illinoisâ€� coalition. The purpose of this new coalition is to provide a space for those responding to the ongoing migrant situation to share information, provide updates, and determine if there are synergies to teamwork.

As of mid-October, Illinois has received over 3,600 asylum-seekers from Texas and Florida. State, city, and local organizations have worked around the clock to meet the immediate needs of these families, providing everything from food and shelter to medical screenings and legal advice. Early on, community organizations expressed a need for coordination of these efforts and a long-term plan to ensure that the migrants feel safe and welcomed. The Illinois Latino Agenda agreed to respond by establishing the Welcome to Illinois coalition. 

“We’re just getting out of the eye of the hurricane. We still have to figure out how the dust settles and how we resolve this and how we move forward,â€� said Sylvia Puente, President and CEO of the Latino Policy Forum and ILA Co-Chair, to NBC News. 

The first meeting was attended via Zoom by over 80 people, including representatives from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), the City of Chicago Mayor’s office, the Cook County Health System (CCH), Congressman Jesus “Chuy� Garcia’s office, and various community organizations such as the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and The Resurrection Project (TRP). Sylvia Puente and Jose Muñoz, Executive Director of La Casa Norte and ILA Co-Chair, began the meeting by expressing gratitude and appreciation for all the work being done to help these families.

Next, Grace Hou, Secretary of IDHS, provided a snapshot of what the State has seen and its response. She said that of the thousands of migrants that have arrived, most are from Venezuela and are unsponsored. Fifty-six percent are single men, and 40 percent are part of family units (17 percent are children). About half are being housed in hotels throughout Cook County, and half are in temporary shelters throughout Chicago. Fortunately, most of the migrants have presented as generally healthy, according to Iliana Mora, Chief Administrative Officer of CCH. The State’s main concerns and next steps are enrolling children in schools and finding long-term housing solutions. Secretary Hou stressed that any long-term housing plan must work within the State’s overall housing strategy.

Nubia Willman, chief engagement officer for the mayor’s office, expressed similar concerns around housing. Willman said that the City quickly became overburdened by the flow of migrants and, working with State officials, has resettled some in surrounding suburbs. City workers are also being deployed to help with intake and triage. Now that the influx of buses has slowed down, “it’s time to think of long-term solutions,â€� she said.

However, long-term solutions at the state and local levels will be challenging to obtain without federal support. This was a common theme among all the participants: a need for federal advocacy of resources and quicker pathways to work authorization. Now that the flow of migrants has slowed, organizations are shifting out of rapid response mode and into more intermediate/long-term care: individual case management and legal consultation, employment training, ESL, mental health care, etc.

“So many of us have different strengths – we cannot just rely on organizations that have been working since the beginning of the migrant crisis. More assistance is needed to add value,â€� said Ere Rendon, VP of Immigrant Justice at The Resurrection Project.

The primary legal roadblock is that migrants are generally not eligible for work permits under humanitarian parole. They can apply for asylum status, which can take as long as two years, by which time their parole status is over. This is a fundamental flaw in the system. Until there are changes at the federal level, organizations will have no choice but to continue to find resources to help these families, including calling for  donations from the public.

Patty Garcia, District Director for Congressman Garcia, assured the group that Rep. Garcia and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are working to advocate for the following policy changes: $500 million dollars in additional FEMA funding, extending parole to up to two years, changing eligibility requirements so that the migrants may qualify for Temporary Protective Status (TRP), and advocating for eligibility of federal housing programs that non-citizens would not otherwise qualify for under the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the meantime, the individuals and organizations on the call remain committed to welcoming these migrants to Illinois and ensuring they have a chance to thrive. â€œMigrants are strong, resilient, and proud. They want to find a job and become independent,â€� shared Isaías Solís, Senior Director of Programs at Erie Neighborhood House, during the group’s second meeting. Erie Neighborhood House is another community-based organization that has been working diligently with IDHS to connect migrants to services. 

During that same meeting, the group raised concerns about mental health. According to our partners, many of the migrants are coming with trauma, not to mention the added trauma of being in an unfamiliar place and the uncertainty that comes with that. At the same time, Dulce Ortiz, Executive Director of Mano a Mano, has made sure that her staff are not “burning outâ€� in providing for these families and hearing these stories, highlighting the prevalence of secondary trauma among service providers. “Our caseworkers, case managers, social workers – they’re human beings too,â€� she said.

The Welcome to Illinois coalition will meet biweekly on an as-needed basis. For more information on the ILA, please email Jose Marco-Paredes at If you or your organization wishes to join the coalition, please complete the following sign-on document:

For more information on what other organizations are doing to respond and to donate, please visit Please consider adding your organization’s logo and the services your organization offers. To do so, reach out directly to our partner Ere Rendón at

Nina Sedeño joined the Latino Policy Forum in October of 2022 as the Immigration Policy Analyst. Under the supervision of the Director of Civic Engagement, Nina builds and maintains relationships with community partners, government agencies, elected officials, and other stakeholders to impact immigration policy, and provides analysis of policies and their impact on Latino families in Illinois. 

Cover Photo Courtesy: Welcome to Illinois

Publisher’s Notes: Social and Community Context is one of the five determinants of health. IL Latino News, part of the Latino News Network (LNN) applies solutions journalism coverage in investigating the responses to social problems, providing insights by evaluating the evidence of what is working and not working, including what can be learned from the limitations (of a response).

IL Latino News partners with the Latino Policy Forum in best serving the Hispanic-Latino community.

The post New Coalition Working To Meet The Needs of Newly Arrived Migrants appeared first on ILLN.

IL Latino News Recipient of Google News Equity Fund

Illinois Latino News (ILLN) has been selected as Google’s News Equity Fund recipient. ILLN is one of450 news organizations across 52 countries to receive the financial support.

The Fund aims to strengthen inclusion, further empower a diverse news ecosystem, and specifically support small and medium-sized publishers creating original journalism for underrepresented audiences worldwide.

ILLN is one of six local newsrooms in the Midwest and Northeast that the Latino News Network (LNN) oversees. LNN’s mission is to provide greater visibility and voice to Hispanics-Latinos, amplify the work of others in doing the same, give young journalists mentoring and real work experience, and apply the principles of solutions journalism in its investigative reporting.

Recently, LNN partnered with Be The Ones to help constituents be well-informed and prepared to participate in down-ballot races (local & state races) this November. The multi-layered communication and education campaign equipped voters with accessible, clear, factual information to better understand which positions were on the ballot and how those officials impact issues like reproductive justice and voting access.

Collaboration and inclusion are best practices our newsroom adopted from the Democracy SOS fellowship. ILLN is one of 20 U.S.-based newsrooms elected to participate in the Hearken and the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) fellowship, committed to building understanding, trust, and engagement.

ILLN is also publishing a series of stories on period poverty in Illinois supported by the USC-Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. ILLN Editor and Reporter Annabel Rocha was selected as a 2022 National Fellow to explore challenges impacting child, youth, and family health and well-being in the U.S.

Healthcare and quality, one of the five determinants of health and democracy are the focus of LNN’s in-depth coverage investigating the responses to social problems, providing insights by evaluating the evidence of what is working and not working, including what can be learned from the limitations (of a response).

“We are grateful to the Google News Initiative for strengthening the work of the Latino News Network (ILLN, WILN, CTLN, RILN, NHLN, MALN) in informing and empowering the Hispanic-Latino community with transparency, integrity, and heart,� said Hugo Balta, Owner, and Publisher of LNN.

The post IL Latino News Recipient of Google News Equity Fund appeared first on ILLN.

Latino News Network Pivots Focus To Social Determinants Of Health

COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the United States Latino community. The pandemic devastated the community’s health primarily because of long-standing structural inequities. However, it also exacerbated those disparities by adding a socioeconomic crisis, strengthening barriers to education, and exhausting the quality of neighborhoods and built environments. In essence, COVID-19 negatively impacted the social determinants of health that will negatively impact Latinos for decades.

It is for that reason that the Latino News Network (LNN) is shifting its resources to solutions journalism coverage investigating the responses to social problems, providing insights by evaluating the evidence of what is working and not working, including what can be learned from the limitations (of a response).

New Hampshire Latino News (NHLN), and it’s five sister LNN newsrooms in New England and the Midwest will achieve this by:

  • Before making assumptions about what communities need to know, we commit to genuinely listening to them through surveys and in-person and virtual events to provide information that they’re missing.
  • We will partner with trusted organizations that help us increase accessibility to the public, broaden the reach of our coverage and prevent misinformation.
  • Generate “good conflictâ€� around divisive issues and problems, allowing people and teams to discuss and debate the responses.
  • Commit to the on going examination of issues that can help communities see — and work toward building a better society.

NHLN sees the public as more than just the audience; you are contributors. To that end, please take our brief survey to help shape our coverage in producing stories on the social determinants of health: healthcare and quality, neighborhood and built environment, education access and quality, social and community context, and economic stability.


The Latino News Network (LNN) oversees five independent statewide coverage, Hispanic-Latino editorial focus English language news and information websites in New England and the Midwest.

LNN’s mission is to provide greater visibility and voice to Hispanics-Latinos, amplify the work of others in doing the same, give young journalists mentoring and real work experience, and apply the principles of solutions journalism in its investigative reporting.

Learn more about our work:, Twitter: / Linkedin:

Support Local Media

Please consider becoming an LNN member by clicking HERE or making a donation by clicking HERE. Your support helps us tell in-depth stories about a community seldom seen or heard in mainstream media.

WILN Opinion+: Nancy Hernandez and Kim Stoll

Welcome to the very first episode of Wisconsin Latino News Opinion+ where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the state of Wisconsin. For this inaugural episode we spoke with two members of Milwaukee Women inc (MWi) about their efforts towards equitable leadership.

Milwaukee Women inc is an organization of professional women focused on changing the face and quality of leadership in the Wisconsin business community by increasing the number of women corporate directors. The group recently published their 2022 Research Report, “Celebrating 20 Years of Advancing Inclusive Leadership.�

The report found that MWi’s goal for women to fill 25 percent of director roles in Wisconsin was met early. 26.3 percent of director seats in Wisconsin’s top 50 public companies are currently held by women. 

“With all the data and the numbers clearly demonstrating the overall value that diversity, equity and inclusion brings, I think [it] really helped MWi achieve its goal of 25 percent by 2025,� said Kim Stoll, Chair of MWi and Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Badger Meter.

The statistics were much lower for women of color. In fact, only 5.7 percent of these roles are held by women of color, equating to 26 women. This number increased from last year’s report, but still displays the disparities that exist for BIPOC.

“Of those 26 only three are Latinas,â€� explained Nancy Hernandez, MWi Steering Committee member and President of the Hispanic Collaborative.  “But I think that we are seeing more women, Latinas especially, going through higher education, getting into different levels of managerial ranks and experiences and in the c-suite.â€�

Both Hernandez and Stoll remain optimistic that the continued efforts of MWi and other organizations, along with companies’ desires to be more inclusive, will lead to a continual increase of women in leadership roles.

“There are women out there. Boards and companies just have to make an intentional effort and cast, perhaps, a wider net to find those candidates,� said Stoll.

Resources mentioned in this video: 

Milwaukee Women inc’s website:

Celebrating 20 Years of Advancing Inclusive Leadership 2022 Research Report:

MWi’s Board/Executive Database:

Hispanic Collaborative:

The post WILN Opinion+: Nancy Hernandez and Kim Stoll appeared first on WILN.

RILN Opinion+: Stephanie Geller

Welcome to another episode of Rhode Island Latino News Opinion+, where we talk about major issues the Latinx and other underrepresented communities face in the community.

This week we spoke with Deputy Director Stephanie Geller of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT about youth homelessness, children’s mental health, and educational support for multilingual learners within Rhode Island. 

RI Kids Count is a nonprofit organization based in Providence that has served children, youth, and their families across the Ocean State since 1994. 

Deputy Director Geller first discussed RI Kids Count’s research and efforts to support children and youth experiencing poverty & homelessness across the state.

RI Kids Count published a report this fall that shared data on poverty, income, and health insurance coverage throughout the state. 

Last April, Rhode Island was declared to be in a state of emergency in child and adolescent mental health care. Geller spoke on RI Kids Counts’ recommended steps—published in this report—to address the issue, which included addressing the workforce crisis.

“We’re seeing long waiting lists for a lot of different social services including mental health because we don’t have enough of mental health providers because we’re not adequately paying them,� Geller explained. “So, we really need to look at those fees and make sure we provide adequate payment so that we can have access to more providers in our communities.�

The same report by RI Kids Count found that youth of color were more likely to have their mental health impacted by the pandemic and they were much less likely to receive mental health treatment. 

“One barrier is that there’s a lack of culturally competent and linguistically competent providers so we need to provide access points for more diverse mental health providers to enter the field and for us to provide mental health providers [who] speak all languages that children and families need access to,� Geller said.

Rhode Island’s Hispanic child population grew by 31% between 2000 and 2010, according to a 2021 report by RI Kids Count: Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Children’s Economic Well-Being in Rhode Island. 

“We really need to look at diversity as an asset but we also need to be aware of the disparities we see in children’s economic well-being, educational outcomes, etc. by race and ethnicity and really be honest about the reasons for those disparities and then try to topple them,� Geller said.

Geller also discussed the importance of looking at access to college and generally supporting multilingual students as the state has seen lower rates of high school graduation for multilingual learners than primarily-English speakers.

“Only 23% of Latino students in the class of 2021 went directly to college, compared to 46% of white students,� Geller shared. “So, we really need to think about giving people the financial opportunities, and the guidance cousel[ing] they need, and providing them the support if they’re learning English…so they can succeed because we know education is the primary way out of poverty for many families.�

Resources mentioned in this video: