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Illinois Expands Reach Of Summer Meal Programs, But 686,000 Kids Still Missing Out

More low-income Illinois children are participating in summer meal programs, but there are still nearly 686,000 eligible kids missing out, a new report shows.

About 112,000 low-income Illinois children received summer meals on a daily basis last July, according to the report by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), a national anti-hunger group.

That figure represents a 4.7 percent increase from July 2014, when about 107,000 low-income Illinois children accessed summer meal programs each day.

While advocates are pleased by the 4.7 percent increase, they point out that summer meals are reaching only one in seven low-income Illinois children who need them.

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Illinois Immigration Reform Advocates Vow To Press On After Supreme Court's Split Vote On Executive Orders (VIDEO)

The U.S. Supreme Court announced a 4-4 split on the case challenging President Barack Obama's executive orders on immigration reform and Illinois advocates are expressing their dismay as they plan to press their efforts forward.

The deadlock vote means the president's November 2014 orders to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and install the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) have been blocked for the time being.

The programs would have deferred deportation for three years for undocumented immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens and green card holders, while also expanding protections for people who were brought to the U.S. as minors and were not covered by the original DACA program. More than 4 million immigrants would have benefited from the orders, 280,000 people living in Illinois.

"This ruling is deeply frustrating and disappointing for all immigrant communities," said Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights CEO Lawrence Benito.  "Instead of being able to move forward with our lives and contributing further to our entire community, immigrants remain vulnerable to the knock on the door that could separate them from their families and from the lives they have made in this country."

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Chicago Community Groups To Rauner: Fund Summer Youth Job Programs

With Chicago facing a spike in gun violence, community activists and clergy gathered Thursday morning outside the Cook County Jail to demand state funding for summer youth employment programs.

Youth advocates from the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and other groups urged the governor to immediately address the lack of state funding going toward summer jobs during the budget impasse.

Summer jobs, the advocates say, are a key to combating violence. So far this year, the city of Chicago has recorded roughly 1,800 shootings and more than 300 homicides.

"Governor Rauner, this is not about politics. This is about life or death," said Parrish Brown, 20, a KOCO youth leader. "About 1,800 people have already been shot -- and it's June. Something has to be done with the violence in our communities. ... There is evidence that shows that violence decreases amongst youth when they have summer jobs and resources in their communities."

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Op-Ed: Choice Is A Right We All Must Defend

The following is written by Oren Jacobson, executive director and co-founder of Men4Choice, "an organization that serves as a point of entry for young men to join the fight to protect and expand women's reproductive rights and make choice a voting issue for men."

In November 2010, Tea Party-aligned politicians swept into office at all levels of government under the guise of reducing government influence in our daily lives. That promise was quickly broken by many of those elected, who have since seemed more interested in using the authority of the state to severely limit access to reproductive health services and marginalize the women who make use of them. During the last 6 years, we have actually seen as many anti-choice pieces of legislation adopted by the states as the previous 15 years combined. In 2015, at least one piece of legislation was filed per day that would strip women of their basic rights.

These efforts aren't simply about preventing abortions, though. They are actually designed to make it harder to access basic health care and contraceptive services. For example, Planned Parenthood's abortion services make up roughly three percent of the organization's work, but that hasn't stopped anti-choice legislators from pushing to defund this vital organization that helps millions across the country receive affordable, critical healthcare.

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