When hundreds of thousands of Chicago residents took to the streets in 2006 to protest congressional efforts to criminalize illegal immigrants, they joined millions across the nation in pledging: "Today we march, tomorrow we vote." Two years later, many of ...
When hundreds of thousands of Chicago residents took to the streets in 2006 to protest congressional efforts to criminalize illegal immigrants, they joined millions across the nation in pledging: "Today we march, tomorrow we vote."
Two years later, many of those same folks poised to deliver on that message. At a pre-election rally on Chicago's Near West Side last night, motivated activists and volunteers geared up to move more than 100,000 immigrant voters to the polls on November 4.
By mobilizing voters in key congressional districts -- including 33,000 in IL-10 and IL-11 alone -- organizers at Illinois Immigrant Action (IIA) are confident that this election cycle will broaden the political influence of the state's immigrant population.
This new wave of voters could have a dramatic effect on the tight race for the 10th Congressional District. In recent months, IIA organizers have registered and connected with thousands of voters there, primarily in the Latino stronghold of Waukegan. Considering GOP Rep. Mark Kirk's anti-immigration record, this demographic is likely to lean strongly towards Democratic challenger Dan Seals.
"We will drown them out with our vote," said U.S. Rep. Luis Guiterrez at last night's rally, which the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) organized. He told those gathered in the Teamsters Hall ballroom that it's time to target legislators who've supported increasingly punitive immigration policies.
Beyond Gutierrez, the event featured speeches from Mayor Richard Daley, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and City Clerk Miguel del Valle. This impressive roster is a testament to how ICIRR has outgrown its origins as a small coalition of Chicago nonprofits and emerged as an electoral force and a leader in the nation's immigration debate.
The prospect of tipping the balance of power to a clear Democratic majority in the U.S. House by getting a few thousands new voters out to the polls in places like Joliet, Aurora, and Waukegan has members of Illinois' immigrant community increasingly optimistic that comprehensive reform may be within reach during the next Congress.
"Your votes will be heard," a red-faced Daley shouted to the crowded hall of voters from all seven continents. Decrying the ongoing immigration raids nationwide, he added: "This is not the America we believe in. We believe in fairness, of children and families staying together."