Commitment to Making Chicago the Most Immigrant-Friendly City
With residents from over 140 countries and more than 100 languages spoken in our city, Chicago is a city of immigrants. Mayor Emanuel is committed to making Chicago the nation’s most immigrant-friendly city and has worked to improve the day-to-day experiences of our city’s 560,000 foreign-born residents, while delivering economic, social, and cultural benefits for all Chicagoans.
- Introduced the Welcoming City Ordinance. In September 2012, City Council approved Mayor Emanuel’s Welcoming City Ordinance, which expanded the City’s current policy that bans agencies and police officers from inquiring into the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses, or anyone seeking City services to ensure that undocumented Chicagoans will only be detained if they are wanted on a criminal warrant by local or federal authorities or if they have been convicted of a serious crime and remain in the United States illegally.
- Established the Office of New Americans. The Office of New Americans (ONA) is dedicated to improving services and engaging Chicago’s global immigrant communities through enhanced collaboration with community organizations, academic institutions, and the private sector. Through the creation of the ONA, the City has affirmed and strengthened its support for immigrant communities, entrepreneurs, and businesses. It’s the first time the City has had an office dedicated to immigrant integration.
- Created the New Americans Advisory Committee. The New Americans Advisory Committee is comprised of 50 leaders representing Chicago’s business, academic, civic, and philanthropic communities. The committee will identify challenges and barriers to immigrant integration and recommend strategies and solutions for integrating Chicago’s immigrants.
- Created the Chicago New Americans Plan. In December 2012, Mayor Emanuel announced the release of the Chicago New Americans Plan. The plan, the first of its kind in the country, is a comprehensive immigrant integration plan that recommends a broad array of new programs and initiatives, which are designed to improve the day-to-day lives of immigrants while promoting Chicago’s economic growth and cultural vitality.
As we build a 21st century economy, we must work together to attract and retain immigrants by helping them to succeed and grow in a safe and welcoming city.
Expanded ESL and GED offsite locations. Through a partnership between the City Colleges of Chicago and community based organizations, 31 new locations are now open in neighborhoods from Brighton Park to Avondale, supporting adults looking to earn a GED, improve their English language skills or become college ready.
- Started the New Americans Small Business Series. The New Americans Small Business Series is a series of quarterly events that foster small business growth in immigrant communities throughout Chicago by creating temporary one-stop-shops in community settings. Immigrants in Chicago are 50% more likely to open up a small business and the one-stop-shops will ease the process by providing technical advice on how to start a small business, navigate the licensing process, comply with tax laws, interact with chambers of commerce, and access capital.
- Created the Restaurant Startup Guide and made it accessible to Latino entrepreneurs. The restaurant start up guide and program make the process of opening up a business in Chicago smarter. The program streamlines the application process and ensures restaurants undergo the necessary zoning and location reviews up front, minimizing the risk that owners will need to make expensive course corrections. Providing the guide and multiple other languages ensures that we remove one of the biggest barriers immigrants face when opening a business: language access.
- Co-launched the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC). The coalition will consist of bipartisan business leaders, business groups, trade associations, and immigrant rights groups to reach both parties in Congress to enact legislation that will provide Illinois companies with both the high-skilled and low-skilled talent that they need, and promote the integration of immigrants into our economy as consumers, workers, and entrepreneurs with a path to legal status and full citizenship.
By working with community-based organizations, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) and other key stakeholders, Mayor Emanuel has taken steps to help immigrant youth succeed in high school and college. Within Chicago Public Schools, 16.3% of students are English Language Learners (ELL), and over 19,000 students under age 18 are undocumented immigrants. In addition, the Mayor remains committed to providing high-quality early childhood education for all of Chicago’s children.
- Improved Early Learning Support for Immigrant Children. As suggested in response to the City’s question on how to better support our youngest learners on CHIdeas, the online community forum, the City will develop comprehensive early education support for immigrant children and their families. This initiative will include parent engagement efforts and support for families navigating early education opportunities to determine the best fit for their children. The Department of Family and Support Services invested $325,000 for this effort.
The City of Chicago’s Support for Undocumented Students
In Chicago, it is estimated that over 19,000 students under age 18 are undocumented, and about 28,000 young adults ages 18-24 are undocumented. City Colleges of Chicago also estimates that between 5-15% of all students are undocumented. Since taking office, Mayor Emanuel, along with City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools, and City Colleges of Chicago staff, have launched a series of initiatives that improve undocumented student’s access to resources and higher education.
Created the Chicago STAR Scholarship. In October 2014, Mayor Emanuel and Chancellor Hyman Announced the Chicago STAR Scholarship, which will provide qualifying CPS students the opportunity to earn an Associate Degree with no out of pocket costs. Building on the efforts to make Chicago America’s most immigrant-friendly city, this STAR scholarship opportunity is open all undocumented students.
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Initiatives
- As part of the Chicago New Americans Plan, and in collaboration with community-based organizations and legal services providers, CPS counselors and career coaches are being trained to support undocumented student success. CPS is the first school system in the country that requires this training, and over 400 participants have already been trained to date.
- Launched in 2013 by the Office of College and Career Success, the CPS Dream Fund provides scholarships to assist talented undocumented CPS students in their quest to pursue a post-secondary education and is funded largely by donations from CPS staff.
- CPS regularly hosts DREAMers Forums and Conferences to provide students and families with information about college access and financial aid.
- CPS has created a scholarship guide for students and includes a list of scholarships that are open to undocumented students.
- CPS has a section of their “Choose Your Future” website for students focused on college-going resources for undocumented students https://www.chooseyourfuture.org/college/undocumented-students.
City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) Initiatives
- 95% of privately funded scholarships at CCC do not request or require US citizenship.
- Recipients of Illinois DREAM Fund scholarships can attend College to Careers programs at CCC.
- Through a partnership between the CCC and community based organizations, 34 new locations are now open in neighborhoods from Brighton Park to Avondale, supporting adults looking to earn a GED, improve their English language skills or become college ready.
- CCC held 3 Workshops at Truman, Wright, and Daley College in Fall 2012 in response to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), assisting over 150 CCC students to receive protection against deportation and 2-year renewable legal work authorization.
- Over 20 free drop-in legal screening sessions took place at CCC during 2013 for over 100 students to receive free, confidential review to determine eligibility to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) or other form of immigration relief.
Illinois DREAM Fund
- In August 2012, Mayor Emanuel secured $275,000 in private donations for the Illinois DREAM Fund. With this donation, nearly 100 undocumented students are able to complete their first year in City Colleges of Chicago’s College to Career program, ensuring that they have the skills to meet the demand for careers in growing fields.
- In January 2013, Mayor Emanuel announced that $100,000 of the $275,000 privately raised donations to the Illinois DREAM Fund would be used to grant scholarships to undocumented JROTC students throughout the State of Illinois.
- City of Chicago Internships and Job Opportunities
- In April 2014, Mayor Emanuel announced that it will begin accepting applications from undocumented youth for approximately 500 City internships, volunteer, and job opportunities offered year-round, 30 Mayor’s Office Fellowships, as well as more than 22,000 opportunities to participate in summer jobs, internships and job training programs offered through the One Summer Chicago program.
- Launched a Youth Summer Job Program to Engage Communities on President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration. Building on the success of the One Summer Chicago initiative, Mayor Emanuel and DFSS created a new summer jobs program for DACA beneficiaries, as well as other Chicago youth, to conduct civic outreach and disseminate information in their communities about the application process for the programs provided for under President Obama’s November 2014 executive actions on immigration.
- Passed a Language Access Ordinance. In April 2015, City Council approved the City’s first Language Access Ordinance, ensuring that immigrants and limited-English-proficient (LEP) residents have meaningful access to City services, resources, and programs in the top five languages spoken in Chicago, including Spanish, Polish, Mandarin, Hindi, and Arabic.
- Established a Municipal ID Working Group. In June 2015, Mayor Emanuel formally launched a working group that will be tasked with exploring whether the City of Chicago should pursue a Municipal ID program that can be used to connect Chicago residents with City services, programs, and benefits, regardless of immigration status, homeless status, or gender identify.
The City of Chicago’s Efforts to Increase Naturalization Rates
Launched Cities for Citizenship. Mayor Emanuel partnered with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Citi to jointly launch Cities for Citizenship, which will enable cities to expand naturalization and financial capability programs, access to legal assistance, as well as microloans and financial counseling, boosting economic opportunity for immigrants and communities nationwide. Chicago secured $250,000 in funding from Citigroup to expand citizenship corners at ten Chicago Public Library branches in partnership with community organizations that will provide workshops, legal screenings, and financial literacy information sessions at these branches.
- Launched the Chicago New Americans Initiative. The Chicago New Americans Initiative offers naturalization assistance to 10,000 eligible, law abiding, permanent residents in Chicago through a collaboration of the City, state, and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
- Supported a Reduction in Citizenship Fees. Mayor Emanuel and Congressman Luis Gutierrez are calling on USCIS to review their fees and create a common-sense fee structure to ensure that eligible permanent legal residents who are already in this country don’t have their path to citizenship blocked by onerous fees.
- Launched Citizenship Corners at Chicago Public Libraries. Citizenship Corners are a result of a partnership between the Mayor’s Office, Chicago Public Libraries, and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to host citizenship workshops and disseminate information on the naturalization process at select Chicago Public Library locations. Known as “Citizenship Corners “and “Citizenship Hubs,” the program will be one of the first of its kind and most comprehensive in the nation and a crucial resource to help residents obtain resources and guidance on the citizenship process.
- Hosted Naturalization Ceremonies in City Hall. In June 2012, Mayor Emanuel hosted the first ever Citizenship swearing-in ceremony in Chicago’s City Council Chambers, in which 25 Chicagoans become naturalized citizens. These ceremonies have been an ongoing occurrence, highlighting the city’s pride in our immigrant communities, and Mayor Emanuel has hosted eight ceremonies to date.
- Joined Coalition of Mayors to Support President Obama’s Executive Actions on Immigration. In April 2015, Mayor Emanuel and the City of Chicago joined 73 cities and counties, the National League of Cities, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors in filing a friend of the Court (Amicus) brief in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals expressing their support of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
- Coordinated City’s Efforts on Administrative Relief. Mayor Emanuel worked alongside Congressman Gutierrez, City departments and community partners across various sectors to disseminate information about the President’s recent executive actions on immigration, protect consumers from fraudulent immigration service providers, and assist thousands of residents to take advantage of administrative relief. In December of 2014, Mayor Emanuel and Congressman Gutierrez hosted the first of many large scale workshops with over 600 people attending and receiving information about how they may qualify and prepare for Administrative Relief.
- Instituted a Policy to Accept TVDL’s at all Chicago Public Libraries. In September 2014, Mayor Emanuel announced that Chicago Public Libraries will now accept all forms of State ID, including the Temporary Visitor Driver's License (TVDL), to issue library cards to residents so that all Chicago Public Libraries, their books, information, and programs, are made accessible to every residents of Chicago, regardless of his or her immigration status.
- Made Chicago a Safe Haven for Unaccompanied Children. In consultation with the federal government, the Emanuel Administration worked with local organizations to create space for hundreds of additional unaccompanied children migrants fleeing violence in Central America. To ensure that children that are currently sheltered in the Chicago area have strengthened legal representation, the Mayor allocated $100,000 in matching funds from the 2015 City Budget to match a federal grant that will provide additional legal services via the national Immigrant Children’s Defense Corps, an initiative of the Justice AmeriCorps program. Should the need arise to open up additional temporary shelters, Chicago will continue to remain in the mix as a welcoming city.
- Launched an Immigration Fraud Enforcement Campaign. In March of 2013, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) targeted 54 known immigration service providers and found that 44 percent of the businesses visited by City inspectors were not in compliance with the City ordinance regulating immigration service providers. These businesses violated consumer protection requirements strengthened by Mayor Emanuel’s licensing reform ordinance, which the City Council authorized in May 2012.
- Launched Chicago Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Campaign. Many hard-working families are missing out on thousands of dollars every year at tax time, and Mayor Emanuel is committed to ensuring that the EITC puts money back in the pockets of working people by launching the Chicago EITC campaign to promote participation in the City’s free Tax Preparation Assistance Program. In partnership with the Center for Economic Progress, and Ladder Up, the City’s program assisted 23,000 working families with free tax preparation assistance in English and Spanish at 20 sites across the city.