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Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Tue Nov 16, 2010

Number Of The Day: 35 Percent

That's the number of Latino four-year-olds who attended pre-school in Illinois, which is well below the national average, according to a new study out of the Institute of Human Development at the University of California-Berkeley. Two-thirds of white and Asian-American children and 54 percent of African-American children are generally enrolled.

The discrepancy is in part cultural, particularly among recent immigrants; language barriers and immigration status questions, the author found, lead more parents in Latino communities to keep their child at home with family. The effects, however, are clear. As early as age two, Latino children begin to lag behind their peers in early reading skills. That's because early intervention plays a crucial role in the lives of children, specifically those from underprivileged backgrounds.

This year, the General Assembly mandated that public schools with pre-school programs must offer a bilingual education to kids for which English is a second language, the first state government in the nation to do so. And the governor used his special budget authority to restore early ed cuts for the current fiscal year. But until the budget crisis is fixed, school funding will remain in flux.

Quick Hit
by Micah Maidenberg
Tue Nov 2, 2010

A Young Voter's Motivation: Immigration Reform And Obama

An interview with a younger Latino voter outside of Yates Elementary School on Chicago's Northwest Side this morning illustrated one of the big issues motivating the Latino community to the polls this year: immigration reform, or the lack of it. Marchello Calixta, pictured at the right, said he wanted to cast a ballot today specifically for Congressman Luis Gutierrez (4th District), who has championed comprehensive immigration reform legislation on Capitol Hill, and Democratic U.S. Senate nominee Alexi Giannoulias, who Calixta hopes will help get an immigration reform bill passed in the Senate.

"They know what issues are big here in Illinois. One of them is immigration," he said about the state treasurer's campaign. Calixta, 30, is of Puerto Rican descent, meaning that his family is not ensnared by the legal limbo of having an undocumented status. But he still feels solidarity with immigrants who are. "They're still our brothers," he says. "We have to look out for them."

In Illinois, an estimated 10 percent of the registered electorate two years ago were "New American voters" -- immigrants or the children of immigrants. It's a big voting bloc that's looking for leadership on immigration reform in Washington, and that may drive up turnout here and in other races around the country. Recent polling data from the pollster Latino Decisions shows that the number of Latino voters (both immigrant and native born) enthusiastic about the midterms jumped in the last weeks of October. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, meanwhile, plans to mobilize more than 133,000 immigrants to the polls today, according to a press release.

Calixta, before he left Yates, also said he was motivated to vote today for another basic reason: to back Chicago's hometown president. "The big thing is Obama and supporting him," he said. That's something Democratic candidates up and down the ticket this Election Day are hoping will make a difference for them by the time the polls close this evening.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Fri Oct 29, 2010

Religious Leaders: Who Is The Real Mark Kirk?

Immigration reform advocates in Illinois are none too pleased with U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kirk. The Republican nominee admitted again during a debate last week that it's "not the time" to pass the DREAM Act, which would provide upstanding undocumented children a pathway to citizenship should they complete two years of college or military service. Outside of his Chicago campaign office this morning, a series of religious figures questioned why Kirk hasn't made any time to discuss the issue with them over the past two years. "Request after request," says Lawrence Benito of Illinois Immigrant Action, "[and] no answer." Watch it:

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Tue Oct 26, 2010

Latino Voters Are Revved Up About Election Day

One in ten registered voters in Illinois is either an immigrant or a child of an immigrant. Latinos make up a huge portion of that voting population. And new polling data from Latino Decisions shows that the number of Latino voters (both immigrant and native born) enthusiastic about the midterms jumped by 18 points in just the last four weeks. "With close statewide elections for Governor and U.S. Senate in nearly a dozen states with sizable Latino electorates," the pollster writes, "Latino voter turnout could make the difference in many of these contests."

Last week, we wrote about several immigrant rights groups who were beefing up their voter outreach efforts as Election Day draws closer. This morning, Illinois Immigrant Action released a quirky new ad targeted directly at young Latino voters in Illinois who could benefit from the DREAM Act. Watch it below:

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Fri Oct 22, 2010

Turning Out The Immigrant Vote

At Tuesday night's U.S. Senate debate, Republican nominee Mark Kirk told the crowd that it's "not the time" to pass the DREAM Act, a stance he took publicly in an interview a few weeks ago. Click through to watch the immigration portion of the debate put together by the Huffington Post.

Following the debate, however, the Daily Herald got Kirk to admit that the bill "needed more study." That seems to imply he wouldn't support it at any time, a position immigration reform advocates abhor. Next week, ** Illinois Immigrant Action will hold a "week of actions" in response to Kirk's disclosure. Spokesperson Catherine Salgado says the organization has put in 64 calls to the congressman's office asking to discuss the legislation, which would give upstanding undocumented children a pathway to citizenship should they complete two years of college or military service. The details of the events are still being worked out, but she hinted that some will be conducted outside of Kirk's campaign offices and will feature young people "who feel strongly about defending the country they feel is theirs."

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and its allies, meanwhile, are also ramping up their voter outreach. Earlier this year, the organization registered 10,533 new voters in the immigrant community through its One Nation, One Dream: Standing for Families campaign. They now have 12 fellows working solely on GOTV efforts and have trained dozens of volunteers to hit the streets in the coming weeks. Similarly, leaders of the Muslim community are hoping to mobilize 20,000 Muslim voters to turn out this cycle. "Immigrants want to show their numbers can make a difference [in tight races]," Salgado says.

The more that immigrant supporters make their voices heard, the less likely it is that the General Assembly takes up draconian immigration enforcement laws, as is favored by State Rep. Randy Ramey (R-Carol Stream). Yesterday, he told the Daily Herald he would introduce an "Arizona-type immigration law" after next month's election. (For more on the pitfalls of that approach, check out our post on the topic here.)

** UPDATE (10/25): This post has been updated for clarity.