Board Spotlight: Mark Anthony Florido

Dearest Community,

Her name was Ana, but we all called her Lola Ima. She was my maternal grandmother –  known for her sinigang and her love of shopping. She loved her grandkids, often sneaking us little spoonfuls of coffee as a treat! It’s been more than a decade since she’s passed, but I’ve been thinking about her a lot recently. As more and more news about Asian community members, particularly our elders, being subjected to anti-Asian violence come to light, I can’t help but see my Lola Ima in them. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to have a beloved member of my family be a victim to such hate. But I know, I must do something.

That’s where my role as a Board Member for Advancing Justice | Chicago comes in. I am thankful to be able to support efforts that honor my Lola Ima by engaging in work that uplifts the Asian American community and educates our community on how to protect others like her. For example, our bystander intervention training offerings give us some concrete tools that we can use to protect folks like Lola Ima during instances of anti-Asian bias motivated incidents. I am proud to know that through these trainings we are helping to create a safer world for all our Asian family members.

But the work doesn’t stop there. As one of the Core Leaders for A Just Chi, I am in awe of the community’s endeavors to ensure that immigrants like my Lola have equitable access to resources and that they can live their lives without fear. (more…)

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Welcoming City Ordinance is a win by-and-for our communities

Welcoming City Ordinance is a win by-and-for our communities
But work remains to be done to make Chicago truly welcoming to ALL

STATEMENT from the Chicago Immigration Working Group:

As members of the Chicago Immigration Working Group, we organize in order to honor the humanity of our communities, because too often our city and our institutions have not. Our five year effort to amend the Welcoming City Ordinance was a campaign of humanity – one that recognized that no matter someone’s history, layering deportation on top of an already flawed and racist criminal justice system is a discriminatory and wrong. Everyone deserves to live free from fear of deportation. Enacting these amendments brings Chicago a step closer to living up to its values of being a “welcoming” city, and the amendments begin to address one of the many conflicts that exist between police and communities throughout our city by limiting the role of police in our city.

Throughout this campaign we heard directly from undocumented Chicagoans directly affected by the loopholes in the ordinance. We held rallies at City Hall, hosted neighborhood teach-ins, circulated petitions, won the support of city council members, got mayoral candidates on the record, and built a strong, cross-city movement. Today, our organizing has led to a victory that ensures the Chicago Police Department will not honor ANY Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers or warrants, cooperate with ANY immigration enforcement operations, or directly share ANY information with ICE. This is a huge win for our communities, full stop. We recognize all of the elected officials that responded to the demands of the community.

But Chicago still cannot claim to be a truly welcoming city for all. While these amendments go a long way towards cutting off ties from federal immigration enforcement, we do not live single-issue lives. A lack of a real system of police accountability continues to be a serious challenge in our city while resources, priority, and attention continue to be given to structures that exclude, criminalize, and imprison Black, brown, and immigrant communities at the expense of health care, housing, education, and other resources that specifically address root causes. These amendments illustrate that police accountability is possible and necessary, and we have an opportunity to build upon this important victory. To fully achieve our vision of equity, and to be a true welcoming city, Chicago must start to divest from criminalization, begin to invest in our communities, and ensure true police accountability.

We have shown that we can organize and win, and we will continue to do so until the city truly lives up to its “welcoming” name.

Members of the Chicago Immigration Working Group: Access Living, AFIRE Chicago, Arab American Action Network, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Chicago, Beyond Legal Aid, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, Chicago Community and Workers’ Rights, Chicago Jobs with Justice, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, Enlace Chicago, Grassroots Collaborative, HANA Center, The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Latino Union of Chicago, National Immigrant Justice Center, Organized Communities Against Deportations

Brandon Lee, ICIRR
773-259-5288 (call or text)

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U.S. Citizenship Act Makes Strides for Pathway to Citizenship, Family Immigration

U.S. Citizenship Act Makes Strides for Pathway to Citizenship, Family Immigration

Asian Americans Advancing Justice welcomes immigration bill as a start to a more inclusive immigration system

NATIONWIDE – Congresswoman Linda Sanchez introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act, President Biden’s immigration proposal that would offer 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. a path to citizenship with a faster path for DACA recipients and Temporary Protected Status holders. Senator Menendez plans to introduce the same legislation on Monday in the Senate. Among other provisions, the bill also includes Congresswoman Judy Chu’s Reuniting Families Act and her No Ban Act, two pieces of priority legislation for Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice, an affiliation of five independent Asian American civil rights organizations, issues the following statement:

“Tireless advocacy from organizers and communities across the country has led to the inclusion of key measures that will start the process of truly transforming our deeply flawed immigration system. Asian Americans Advancing Justice commends the President and Congressional leaders in their fulfillment of a campaign promise to offer a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients, and TPS holders that includes 15,000 people from Nepal. Yet several key aspects of the bill fall significantly short of the long-term promise to undo harms levied against immigrants and transform our immigration system.

We celebrate the inclusion of Congresswoman Chu’s Reuniting Families Act and the No Ban Act in today’s legislation. The No Ban Act would restrict the executive power to enact future discriminatory bans such as the Muslim and African Bans and prohibit religious discrimination in our immigration laws. The Reuniting Families Act would start to clear the family-based and employment-based backlogs, providing relief to separated families and Indian families stuck in temporary nonimmigrant visa status. The bill also includes LGBTQ equality provisions in our immigration laws, repeals the harsh three and 10-year and permanent bars to inadmissibility and other relief for immigrant communities. It would also expand the diversity visa program, a main pathway for immigrants from Africa.

While these provisions would positively impact many Asian American and Arab Middle Eastern Muslim and South Asian (AMEMSA) community members, the bill includes harmful provisions as well. Specifically, the bill includes new additional criminal grounds of inadmissibility which will further punish vulnerable members of our communities. Immigrants with criminal convictions have already suffered cruelty and racial targeting in our justice system; they should not be doubly punished. The provisions originally in the Reuniting Families Act provided vital protections through waivers, but those presented in this bill fall short and exclude some community members. This comes at a time when large numbers of Southeast Asian refugees continue to be ripped from their communities and deported, often to countries they have never known and mass prosecutions of Asian American and immigrant scholars for espionage-related and large numbers of Asian American and immigrant researchers and scholars are being profiled, targeted and prosecuted for espionage and related crimes when they are not spies.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice will continue to strive to build support in Congress and among the public for truly transformative change in our immigration system including for those with criminal convictions.” (more…)

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Advancing Justice | Chicago Joins AARP, the Chicago Urban League, The Resurrection Project on New “Disrupting Disparities” Initiative

Monika Wnuk, AARP Illinois / (773) 742-3743

Waiting for Vaccines, New Data Shows Black, Latino and Asian American Seniors Dying of COVID-19 at Alarmingly Higher Rates

State Lawmakers, Racial Justice Advocacy Groups Call for Solutions to Deep Disparities in Health, Economic Security and Connectivity in Illinois

CHICAGO – As older adults anxiously await vaccines to protect them, African American/Black, Latino and Asian American older adults in Chicago and statewide are getting sick and dying of COVID-19 at rates much higher than their share of the population, according to new data from AARP Illinois, the Chicago Urban League, The Resurrection Project, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago released today.

The sobering statistics – evidence that longstanding inequities have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – have prompted the creation of a collaboration to urge officials and influencers across the state to find ways to create systemic policy changes on behalf of, and with, older adults of color.

“The disproportionate number of Illinois’ older adults of color dying from COVID-19, while heartbreaking, is not an anomaly,” said Rosanna Marquez, AARP Illinois State Volunteer President. “It is evidence of longstanding inequities, from the social conditions that lead to poor health to unequal access to quality care, to limited economic resources, which have existed for years.”

During a press conference, Marquez and leaders from the groups pledged to do their part to “Disrupt Disparities” in Illinois and create an Illinois where older adults across communities can age with the economic stability, health care resources, and digital connectivity they need to lead healthy, stable, and rewarding lives. They were joined by Illinois Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins, Senator Robert Peters, Representative Theresa Mah, and other elected officials.

“We’ve seen that racial economic disparities can accumulate over the course of someone’s lifetime to create widening wealth gaps in communities of color,” said Illinois State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins. “This study of the experiences and needs of older adults of color is an essential first step in creating an Illinois where older adults can age with financial security, healthcare that meets their needs, and the digital resources they need to lead healthy, productive, and rewarding lives.”

“The COVID-19 public health crisis has wreaked havoc on our older adults of color, and has brought to the forefront the deep disparities that exist in these communities in the areas of health, economic security, and connectivity,” said Illinois State Senator Robert Peters. “It has never been more important or more urgent to bring about the systemic and structural change needed to promote equitable solutions for older adults of color and their families.”

“Older adults of color have suffered from the effects of disparities that lead to health problems, unequal access to reliable health care, and limited economic resources for far too long,” said State Representative Theresa Mah. “The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all the devastating impact of these inequities, and that urgent action must be taken to ensure that our adults of color can live healthy and fulfilling lives.”

Collaborators on the “Disrupt Disparities” initiative called for immediate action and recommended policy solutions for many of the disparities outlined in the report.

“We’re proud to be a collaborator on this groundbreaking report that shows how structural inequities are impacting older adults across communities of color, including the Asian American community,” said Andy Kang, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago. “Asian Americans are often left out of conversations regarding racial disparities due to the ‘model minority’ myth, when in fact, many are suffering due to economic disparities, lack of resources, and other factors. This report emphasizes the need not only for more data on Asian American communities, but more disaggregated data, to really understand the impact of these disparities on our communities.”

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Asian American History Curriculum Bill Introduced

Asian American History Curriculum Bill Introduced

New initiative spearheaded by Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago calls for the inclusion of an Asian American history curriculum in Illinois public schools

SPRINGFIELD — February 3, 2021 —  Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago and a coalition of over 20 Illinois organizations applaud the introduction of the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History (TEAACH) Act (HB376). Sponsored by Sen. Ram Villivalam and Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, the bill would add an Asian American history curriculum to the Illinois School Code and in all public schools across the state.

“I’m proud to sponsor the Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History (TEAACH) Act. The perspectives and contributions of Asian Americans are invaluable to understanding American history,” said Rep. Gong-Gershowitz. “The TEAACH Act helps create a more inclusive and comprehensive understanding of American history for all students in Illinois and helps fight anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. For the 100,000 Asian American K-12 students in Illinois, it ensures they see themselves accurately represented. Asian American history is American history.”

“Students from all backgrounds need to learn about the history of people from different cultures and ethnicities to help them understand the systemic inequities that exist today,” said Sen. Villivalam. “The TEAACH Act will build on the inclusive curriculum measures we passed last year and ensure that Asian American history will be taught alongside the history of other historically marginalized groups.”

Americans have seen racial tensions come to a head over the last year, including the violent white supremacist attack on the Capitol in early January, the summer of uprisings in response to the murder of George Floyd, and COVID-19 related racism against Asian Americans. Young people are trying to make sense of what is happening in the world around them. Implementing an inclusive and diverse history curriculum such as TEAACH will help bridge the racial divide by giving young generations of Americans a deeper understanding of communities other than their own. 

“In combatting xenophobic and racist narratives about our communities, we must ensure that our students understand the role that our communities have played in the United States and the broad spectrum of who Asian Americans are, have been, and could be,” said Justin Valas, policy director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice | Chicago.  

Asian Americans are one of the fastest growing populations in the United States, yet they are often overlooked in history books. The TEAACH Act would ensure that Illinois students learn a more complete picture of our country’s history that includes the many legacies and contributions of Asian Americans, such as the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, the contributions of Filipino farm worker organizing in the 60s, the resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees after the Vietnam War, and other important stories.

“When you think about U.S. History, nobody thinks about Asian Americans, but we have been in this country for centuries,” said Melody Sok, a leader with the Cambodian Association of Illinois. “We have built essential infrastructure, been a part of social movements, organized for civil rights, and contributed to art and culture. Knowing these stories allows us to connect with our communities, and to be proud of being Asian Americans.”

“The lessons taken from Asian American history will empower students to question our past to make a better future,” said Lisa Doi, president of the Japanese American Citizens League Chicago Chapter. “In teaching Japanese American history, we get to explore a moment where lack of public understanding and racism led to mass incarceration based on ethnic identity. The TEAACH Act will help to ensure that Asian Americans are no longer missing in history and that this history does not repeat itself.” 

To learn more about the TEAACH Act or submit your testimony about why you support the bill, visit (more…)

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