Voters will choose District Council to improve public safety and police accountability

IL Latino News produces stories focused on the responses to the social determinants of health and democracy.

120 candidates filed petitions
 for Chicago’s newly-created District Council positions on Nov. 28, a few months ahead of the February 2023 municipal elections. City voters will be able to elect three members in their police district for the first time, along with the next mayor, city clerk, city treasurer, and alderpeople.

These positions form part of a new system for police oversight, accountability, and public safety in the city. Called Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS), this coalition encourages community engagement and input to hold police accountable and create safe neighborhoods. 

ECPS now oversees the Chicago Police Department (CPD), the Civilian Office of Police Accountability (COPA), and the Police Board.

“We believe that it’s necessary for the community to have not just a voice, but a decisive voice in what happens in their communities around policing and public safety,â€� said Dod McColgan, Co-Chair of Chicago Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARP). 

The ECPS ordinance passed through City Council in July of 2021. It was created by the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability (GAPA) and Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) with support from thousands of city residents and several churches, labor unions, and community and faith-based organizations.

Under the ordinance plan, District Council positions were created in each of the city’s 22 police districts. Voters will be able to elect three members in their district in the upcoming local election, a total of 66 positions citywide.

District Council members will have several key roles:

â—� Serve as the eyes and ears of the community

â—� Hold monthly public meetings

â—� Collaborate in the development and implementation of new safety initiatives

â—� Get input on police department policies and practices

â—� Ensure that the city-wide Commission gets input from the community

� Nominate members of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability

“No, you can’t do that�

Report by Stephania Rodriguez, Depaul University

William Guerrero is a 21-year-old native of the Southwest Pilsen neighborhood and is running for District Council in the 12th District. He is the youngest candidate running for the position and is motivated by the needs of people in his community as well as setting an example for young people.

The 12th Police District includes east parts of Pilsen, parts of the West Loop, Near West Side and Wicker Park. Between 2019 to 2021, the district saw a substantial increase in carjackings and murders, according to Block Club Chicago.

“A lot of events have happened to the point where I see youth getting killed by the police,� Guerrero said. “And I’m like, ‘No, you can’t do that’. You signed an oath to protect and serve the community and by killing the kids … it’s not right.�

ECPS also created a city-wide, seven-member Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA) that will decide CPD policy, establish public safety goals, and play a central role in selecting police leadership. Members on this commission are nominated by District Council members and the mayor, and are confirmed by City Council.

CPD, historically known for police misconduct and abuse, was placed under a federal consent decree in 2019, following a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014. This court-mandated settlement was initially set for five years but was extended out to eight years in March.

The early years of the consent decree were beset by missed deadlines and lagging compliance, according to WTTW.

“Long overdue� and a “step in the right direction�

McColgan said ECPS is the “most democratic police accountability structure that exists anywhere in the country.â€� 

“There are other attempts at civilian oversight in other cities– what makes ours unique is specifically cops being barred from participation,� McColgan said. “Frequently, when cities attempt to implement some form of civilian oversight, they want to bring police together at the table with residents and that is a table that is going to be by its nature tilted toward the police.�

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th), who supported the passing of the ECPS ordinance, said the new system is “long overdue� and a “step in the right direction.�

“This was something that Mayor Lightfoot campaigned on when she ran for office– civilian oversight of the police,� Sigcho-Lopez said. “In fact, Mayor Lightfoot promised to do this within the first 100 days in office. I mean, we’re barely implementing this towards the end [of her term].�

For the upcoming municipal elections, Sigcho-Lopez stresses the need to not only support progressive police accountability structures but also to demand that candidates running for mayor support police reform. 

“When people are campaigning as a progressive, I think that we have to ask people for a plan: what is the plan when it comes to working with ECPS? Working to hold CPD accountable and actually changing the practices of the department?,� he said. “Not to come and, unfortunately, as we saw in the last three years, to say one thing in public but do a separate, completely different thing when they’re governing.�

ECPS faced many struggles and opposition from city officials in informing the public about its existence before the ordinance passed last year, including obstruction from certain alderpeopleto get the ordinance passed. Now, McColgan says the city is “dragging its feetâ€� on informing the public on the District Council positions. 

“We’re spreading the word as much as we can about their existence,� McColgan said. “But any help that people can provide in spreading that word and letting people know, ‘when you go to vote in February, you’ll have a district council member on your ballot, and that’s the person that’s supposed to represent you and your community on issues of police accountability and public safety’.�

“[These are] really important issues that are relevant to all of us. So, pay attention to that, pay attention to who your district council members are.�

Stephania Rodriguez

Stephania Rodriguez is a Depaul University student majoring in Journalism and minoring in Latinx Media and Communication.

Stephania was one of six fellows in the inaugural Journalism Camp: Covering Race, Ethnicity, and Culture sponsored by the Hortencia Zavala Foundation (HZF).

The annual first-in-class free 12-week program led by the Owner/Publisher of the Latino News Network and twice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), Hugo Balta provides practical guidelines for fair and accurate storytelling.

IL Latino News partners with DePaul University and many schools of higher education in providing students mentoring and real work experiences.

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What is the State of Menstrual Equity in Illinois?

Scotland made international headlines in August becoming the first country to provide free period products to its citizens. While the U.S. isn’t there, legislation supporting menstrual equity has been cycling through multiple states increasingly over the last few years. Illinois has been progressive on this issue, becoming the third state to end the “tampon tax� in 2016, and introducing and implementing several bills into law in 2021 and 2022.

States highlighted in red currently implement the “tampon tax” on menstrual hygiene items such as pantyliners, tampons and menstrual pads.

With so many bills being introduced, it can be difficult to keep track of what’s become the law of the land. IL Latino News spoke to legislators and other parties involved to figure out who these laws are designed to support.

Low-income people

16.9 million U.S. menstruators live in poverty, making the price of hygiene products extra costly. Without government aid, some people in need rely on community-driven initiatives for pads, tampons and pantyliners. 

“I’m hoping that the bill HB 155 can close a part of that gap because right now you can get menstrual hygiene products in food pantries or little donation events here and there however, it’s not enough,� said House Representative Barbara Hernandez.

Rep. Hernandez introduced the bill to allow SNAP and WIC recipients to use their benefits to purchase diapers and period products. It is already a public act, effective January 2022. In theory, it would benefit a percentage of the 1,090,161 Illinois households receiving SNAP. In actuality, no one is benefitting right now. 

Because SNAP and WIC are federally funded programs, the state initiative cannot be enacted upon without a waiver approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service. 

“I’ve been trying to contact a few Congress individuals that can push this to increase the funding for SNAP but also include menstrual hygiene products in SNAP in order for us to apply for this waiver and make it legal in Illinois,� said Hernandez.

People experiencing housing insecurity 

House Representative LaToya N. Greenwood sponsored the Feminine Hygiene Products for the Homeless Act in 2021, providing free products in all shelters that serve temporary housing to women or youth.

She said hearing stories of what people used to supplement products prompted her into action.

“The reusing feminine napkins, makeshift napkins, paper towels and newspapers, it was like where are we living? We’re living in the United States, why is this happening? I couldn’t comprehend it but I knew that it was something that needed to change.�

This law states that shelters are only required to comply if they have availability of funds in their general budget for products. Rep. Greenwood expressed her desire to follow up and hold institutions accountable.

“I think sometimes we pass legislation and we just think everything is going the way we intended it to go and then you find out it’s absolutely not going the way you intended it to go, so we need to have some real conversations about that with directors of departments to find out where we are at,� she said.

Public schools students

2017’s Learn with Dignity Act mandated public schools (grades 6-12) to provide free “feminine hygieneâ€� products in restrooms. 2021’s House Bill 156, led by Rep. Hernandez, switched the original gendered language to “menstrual hygieneâ€�, expanded coverage to fourth grade, and required boys and gender-neutral bathrooms to contain free products as well.  

“That one got the most pushback because the concept of the whole ‘what is a woman’ and ‘men don’t have periods.’ That was a big effort to create awareness, educate the public and really get people to get on board,� said Maureen Keane, Co-founder of She Votes IL.

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) introduced girls+ and boys+ restrooms in 2021 as a gender-affirming initiative for students, despite backlash from some parents.

“The reality is that in a few years we might see more transgender youth and I want to make sure that we’re taking those steps ahead now to make sure that they feel comfortable going to those restrooms whenever they need,” said Hernandez.

“Our goal is really [to have products] in all buildings, all bathrooms,� said CPS Executive Director of the Office of Student Health and Wellness (OSHW) Tarrah DeClemente.

The products are stored in metal dispensers traditionally found in public restrooms. According to DeClemente, a supply chain issue of these dispensers has slowed the integration of free products in all required restrooms.

“All schools have product, it’s just a matter of getting it into the boys+ restrooms, but all schools have dispensers and products in girls+,â€� she explained. 

Anecdotal research by NPR Illinois suggested that products were not available in all public Illinois schools in 2020. IL Latino News is investigating the current status of implementation in CPS.       

Incarcerated Illinoisians

Rep. Hernandez’s HB 4218 passed in December, requiring all Illinois Department of Corrections facilities to provide menstrual hygiene products for free and as needed, for all incarcerated people who menstruate. 

She Votes IL worked heavily on drafts of this bill and Keene says they were adamant about including underwear as period supplies – an item that usually isn’t included on these lists and an essential that isn’t accessible to all committed people. 

“If you need new underwear you need to buy them at the commissary. If you need more than six pads you need to buy them at the commissary,� she said. Under the new policy, free underwear must be given free of charge, and upon request, including multiple requests.

“It’s a denial of basic human rights to expect incarcerated Illinoisans to manage on a limited supply, said Rep. Hernandez

The future of menstrual equity 

2022 closed with initiatives produced by Illinois legislators at the federal level.

“It’s picking up. People are being open minded about this and I know here in the state some people looked at me like ‘why are we talking about this? Why are we legislating about it?… But I realized that it is a big issue, not only in Illinois but across the country,â€� said Rep. Hernandez.

IL Congressman Sean Casten and NY Congresswoman introduced the Period PROUD Act of 2022 to make menstruation more affordable for all Americans. 

In the press release, Rep. Casten stated “The Period PROUD Act removes that cost-barrier for the 22 million women living in poverty and ensures that a period will never have to prevent someone from going to school or showing up to work. Menstruation is a natural process and the products it requires should be freely accessible.�


Publisher’s Note: “What is the State of Menstrual Equity in Illinois?â€� is part of a series of stories on period poverty in Illinois supported by the USC-Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. ILLN Editor, 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. 

Please consider participating in the Addressing Period Poverty or Abordando La Pobreza Menstrual surveys. We want to know your experiences dealing with menstruation and/or period poverty. In collecting this information, we hope to gain insight on how this issue affects those in our communities. 

We hope to use the data collected from this survey to shape our storytelling and provide the answers you most want to hear during our upcoming event with WBEZ “Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty?� on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

For more information please contact

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Community Conversation: What is Period Poverty?

About 26 percent of the world population menstruates. Shame and stigma inhibits education and access to essential hygiene products for people who menstruate, and it happens everywhere. In the U.S., nearly two-thirds of low-income women couldn’t afford tampons or pads in 2018. Period poverty particularly impacts low income and unhoused communities, as well as people in Black and Brown communities.

Join Illinois Latino News and WBEZ for a free virtual conversation defining period poverty and exploring its covert effects on people across Chicago and around the world. During the program, we’ll hear from panelists like Ida Melbye, the executive director of the Period Collective, and Abigail Suleman, co-founder of the Blood Buds UIC initiative, plus more. Reporter and editor of ILLN Annabel Rocha will host the event.

You can participate by sharing your experiences with menstruation through this survey.

SUGGESTION: Period Poverty In Illinois: Community-Driven Solutions

Publisher’s note: “Period Poverty in Illinois: Community-Driven Solutions� is part of a series of stories on period poverty in Illinois supported by the USC-Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. IL Latino News Editor, 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. 

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El Mercado Navideño

The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago’s Lower West Side is home to one of the country’s largest Mexican art collections, including more than 18,000 seminal pieces from ancient Mexico to the present.

The museum hosted its annual Mercado Navideño highlighting hand-crafted holiday gift ideas from Mexico including ornaments, nativity scenes, art, jewelry, apparel and toys.

Story by Citlalli Magali Sotelo, Columbia College Chicago

In 1982, Carlos Tortolero organized a group of fellow educators and founded the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, which opened its doors in 1987. The goal was to establish an arts and cultural organization committed to accessibility, education and social justice.

In 2001, the museum expanded to a 48,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Pilsen and in 2006 we unveiled a new name, the National Museum of Mexican Art.

National Museum of Mexican Art,
1852 W 19th Street, Chicago, IL 60608

The National Museum of Mexican Art also hosts cultural programs — including symposia, theater, dance, music, authors and performance companies — that share the rich diversity of the Mexican culture.

For more information click HERE.

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.

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Gentrifying Latino neighborhoods see taxes jump dramatically

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.

CHICAGO | Property taxes are up in Cook County; on average, homeowners saw an increase of 8 percent this year.

According to an analysis from Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas’ office, taxes levied on real estate rose by 3.8 percent, to $16.7 billion, in 2021. The total amount billed countywide increased by $614 million over the previous tax year. As a result, homeowners are picking up $330 million.

Some gentrifying working-class Latino neighborhoods in Chicago saw their taxes jump dramatically. On the primarily Latino Lower West Side, homeowner’s median tax bill rose to $7,239 from $2,275 in 2020.

“The system is broken,â€� said Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez, whose 25th Ward covers much of the Lower West Side that saw the biggest hikes. â€œThis is simply unethical.â€� Sigcho-Lopez blamed corrupt politicians and called for reforms to the property tax system.

“‘My property tax is too damn high’ – they have to pass it on to the renters,â€� said Moises Moreno, who runs The Pilsen Alliance, a social justice organization. Moreno said homeowners will feel the effects of the spike first, and renters will feel it on their next lease.

Pilsen neighborhood (Pictures by Hugo Balta)

“There are still inequities in our property tax system and we need to straighten it out,â€� Pappas said. The increased tax burden is not shared equally. Homeowners will pay 54 percent of the rise, while businesses will pay 46 percent, the treasurer said.

Not all taxes are going up. Relief is coming to owners in predominantly Black neighborhoods. In West Garfield Park, homeowner taxes dropped by almost 45 percent. Decreases of $1,000 or more in commercial median taxes occurred on the South Side, including the Pullman, Burnside, Chatham, Calumet and South Chicago areas, reports The Real Deal.

Purple shows the parts of Chicago seeing the sharpest spikes in property taxes.
The areas in pink saw the sharpest drops. 
(Cook County Treasurer)

Pappas pointed to several reasons behind the hikes:

  • Tax increment financing districts
  • Rising property assessments
  • New state law allowing local governments to recoup losses from reassessed property taxes

The Cook County Treasurer called the law, known as a recapture provision, an “automatic tax increaseâ€� with “no oversight whatsoever.â€� That provision alone added $131 million to the county tax bill and accounted for one-fifth of the increase.

Pappas said the majority of property tax money goes to funding schools. To save homeowners from being priced out, she said county residents need to consider funding schools in other ways.

Property taxes also go toward infrastructure, public works projects, first responders, and more. Bills are calculated after several steps:

  • Local governments, including school and park districts, set their property tax levy to help pay for operations
  • The assessor sets the values of properties, then makes adjustments for exemptions or other incentives. 
  • The clerk then determines tax rates based on various levies and overall assessed values for each unit of government. 
  • The treasurer then sends out the bills, collects payments and distributes the money to local governments.

“The lack of political willingness to address this issue has cost us,â€� said 25th Ward Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez, who represents the Lower West Side. “Thousands of residents have been displaced, and when is it going to be enough? 

Editor’s Notes: Homeowners can find their property tax bill by clicking HERE.

IL Latino News 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.


This story was first published as “Neighborhoods Gentrifying Fastest See Property Tax Skyrocket� in The Chicago Reporter (TCR).

ILLN and TCR, partners in best serving the Latino community.

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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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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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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.

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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.

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