Hosted by: Enterprise, Metropolitan Planning Council
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Immigrants and undocumented residents are at heightened risk of being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are being left out of many solutions. Long considered a gateway metropolis, the Chicago region is home to over 1.5 million immigrants who today make up nearly 20% of the population. The recent surge in coronavirus cases in Latinx communities lays bare the heightened vulnerability of immigrant communities, due in part to precarious or unsafe work environments for essential workers and overcrowded housing related to the affordability crisis, making it hard for many to stay-at-home.
As our city faces health, economic, and racial challenges from the COVID-19 and the recent unrest, many people of color are losing their jobs and are excluded from temporary federal fixes like unemployment relief. What needs to be done to ensure that Chicago’s immigrant community stays housed and safe in these times of crises? How can the immigrant community support the current uprising movement that can truly build back better?
Join us for a lively discussion about what is currently in place and what else is needed to adequately address the needs of this vital population from our panel:
Fanny Lopez Benitez (she/her/hers)
Fanny is the Civic Engagement Manager for the Latino Policy Forum. Her work at the Forum involves managing and supporting the Civic Engagement team to coordinate our policy work in Housing, Immigration, the Illinois Latino Agenda, and the Multicultural Leadership Academy. She is a Mexican immigrant woman who is passionate about collaborating with marginalized and underprivileged communities of color to advance inclusive, equitable and culturally responsive public policies and programs that help us achieve our long term success and liberation. Fanny is also the first Latinx, formerly undocumented, youngest person to be elected Village Trustee in Hanover Park, IL. While she was undocumented, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology with a minor in Women & Gender Studies from Dominican University and a master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy.
Seri Lee (she/her/they/them)
Seri is a queer non-binary femme and child of the Korean diaspora. Born and raised in Chicago, they grew up in a working-class immigrant family. As a junior at Northwestern University, Seri is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Global History and Comparative Race & Ethnic Studies. On campus, they organize with the Latinx Asian American Collective (LAAC). Last year, Seri started Students Organizing for Labor Rights (SOLR), Northwestern’s chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops. As co-president of Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC), Seri also builds community and power for AAPI students on campus. In addition to student organizing, they are an advocate for the AAPI and LGBTQIA+ communities through their previous involvement with student government. They get out of bed every morning because they deeply love the people. Fundamentally, they believe in collective liberation and the power of the people.
Maria Said (she/her/hers)
Maria immigrated to the US about three years ago from Pakistan and lives in the West Ridge neighborhood of Chicago. She works as a volunteer coordinator and tutor at Forging Opportunities for Refugees in America (FORA), which is an NGO based in West Ridge that works to empower refugees through education. She is also a member of NAPAWF where she canvasses the neighborhood of West Ridge understanding and telling the stories of the residents. The roots in the neighborhood come from her own lived experience, the stories of the children she tutors, and the people she meets when canvassing door to door.
Fred Tsao (he/him/his)
Fred is the Senior Policy Counsel at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). He provides technical support, trainings, and presentations on immigration-related topics to service providers, immigrant community organizations, and others who work with immigrants. He also provides updates and analysis of changes in immigration policies and procedures to ICIRR members and allies, and assists with the coalition's legislative advocacy efforts. A self-described “recovering attorney,” Fred practiced law at the Rockford office of Prairie State Legal Services, where he worked after receiving his law degree from the University of Michigan. He has also worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, the Chicago Anti-Hunger Federation, and the Missouri Public Interest Research Group. A native of Chicago, Fred is the son of immigrants from China, and has had a lifelong concern with immigration issues.
This discussion is part of an ongoing series hosted by Enterprise Community Partners and the Metropolitan Planning Council.
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