Communities United’s Immigrant Rights Organizing Initiative is aimed at securing policy changes at all levels of government that strengthen immigrant families.
Hundreds Receiving Temporary Visitor Driver's License
On November 09, 2013, Communities United (formerly known as Albany Park Neighborhood Council) hosted a workshop at Our Lady of Mercy Church to familiarize and prepare the immigrant residents of all the requirements in order to apply for the Temporary Visitor’s Driver Licenses. Over 600 Albany Park and surrounding neighborhood residents attended the workshop. The State of Illinois started giving out the "Temporary Visitor Driver's License" to the undocumented residents, there have been about 8,500 TVDLs have been issued. The demand for TVDL has exceeded expectations; the Secretory of State office is receiving almost 10,000 requests for appointments to apply for Temporary Visitor Driver's License.
Appointments can be made through the Secretary of State website at www.cyberdriveillinois.com, or by calling (855) 212-2687 Monday through Friday 8 am to 4:00 pm. (There are only 800 appointments available each day, please call early in the morning to make an appointments).
Putting an end to Deportations
As a result of grassroots organizing efforts across the country, the Obama Administration recently announced the Morton Memo on Prosecutorial Discretion, which deprioritizes the deportations of young people and adults who pose no serious threat to public safety or national security. Communities United is working with local Congressional leaders to ensure that community members are fully aware of this announcement and that families facing deportation are able to access the legal help needed to benefit from this announcement. Recognizing that this is only one small step forward at the national level, Communities United leaders also continue their organizing efforts as part of the ongoing struggle for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and the DREAM Act.
Strengthening Chicago’s Status as a “Sanctuary City”
In 2006 a 21-year-old leader of Communities United was sitting on a parked motor cycle that wasn’t even turned on and was approached by two men wearing U.S. Border patrol hats. The agents proceeded to ask Ernesto for his social security number, question him about his legal status and taunt him with racial slurs as they took him into the 17th District Police station. After a dozen leaders immediately went to the police station and questioned the Commander, Communities United discovered that the officers were actually on-duty 17th District Police officers who had purchased the U.S. Border Patrol hats online. While the Commander tried to spin the issue as the officers “being out of uniform,” Communities United was clear that these officers were posing as federal border patrol agents for the sole purpose of striking fear in the minds of immigrants. Youth leaders, along with adult allies, conducted a 100-person march through the community to the police station and held a rally there demanding that accountability be placed on these officers. While this specific problem has not happened again and despite Chicago’s status as a “Sanctuary City” young people in Albany Park continue to be profiled on the basis of their race and age. Communties United youth and adult leaders have spearheaded a campaign to strengthen Chicago’s status as a “Sanctuary City” that protects the rights of the undocumented and creates accountability measures for abuses of the Sanctuary City Ordinance.
Increasing Access to Higher Education for Undocumented Students
In 2003 Communities United youth leaders were at the forefront of efforts to create a statewide policy change granting in-state tuition to undocumented students. While this policy change has opened up access to higher education for the undocumented, persistent financial barriers remain to these students who are unable to gain access to federal financial aid programs. In conjunction with ongoing efforts to push for the DREAM Act at the federal level, Communities United youth leaders have been pushing for additional local and state level policy changes to address this issue. Communities United recently worked with other groups in collaboration with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights to successfully create a new statewide policy, the Illinois DREAM Act, which will establish a State Commission to make private scholarships available to undocumented students, and require the re-training of high school guidance counselors and college admissions officers to ensure that they are providing all students, regardless of immigration status, accurate and up-to-date information about the admissions process and resources available to students and families.