ICIRR Celebrates 25 Years of Unifying Voices

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - BusinessOver the past 25 years, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) has been a fundamental voice for the rights of the immigrant community in the state of Illinois. ICIRR is dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. In partnership with its 138 member organizations, ICIRR educates and organizes immigrant and refugee communities to assert their rights; promotes citizenship and civic participation; monitors, analyzes, and advocates on immigrant-related issues; and, informs the general public about the contributions of immigrants and refugees. ICIRR envisions a future where all immigrants can live free of fear and out of the shadows.

ICIRR Beginning

In 1986, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF) and the Travelers and Immigrants Aid (TIA) formed the Chicago Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Protection -now known as the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). The coalition came together in response to the landmark Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) which restructured significant aspects of U.S. immigration policy, creating “legalization” opportunities for more than 167,000 undocumented Illinois residents, while sanctioning employers for hiring undocumented immigrant workers.
At the same time that the immigrant population grew, ICIRR worked to develop an agenda at the state level that would support the immigrant integration of the diverse immigrant community across the state. Latino, Chinese, African, Korean, Polish and Arab and Muslim leaders became an integral part of the planning and strategizing for immigrant power. This success culminated in the signing of the Executive Order in 2005 and in the recognition of the organization and its work with the state of Illinois in 2010 with the prestigious E Pluribus Unum Award. The New Americans Initiative, which grew out of this work has assisted 51,692 immigrants become U.S. Citizens.

Building Power
As the years passed and the membership grew and became more sophisticated in its policy and political agenda, ICIRR began to engage in an integrated civic participation that has become the most robust and respected immigrant civic participation model in the nation. The New Americans Democracy Project (NADP) has developed models for getting immigrants and children of immigrants registered to vote, getting out to vote and invested in elections at the local, state and national levels. Since 2004, NADP has registered 103,404 immigrants and children of immigrants. All along, the membership of ICIRR has been at the center of the decision making and strategizing on the issues most important to the community. Issues of immigration reform and its impact on families, education of immigrant youth, civil rights and worker protections have been the priorities of the advocacy agenda for ICIRR.

Here and Now and into the Future…
Today, ICIRR continues to be a leader, along with its member organizations, in the fight for the rights of all immigrants to assert their rights and build immigrant power; promote citizenship and civic engagement; monitor, analyze and advocate on immigrant-related issues and inform the public about the positive contributions of newcomers to the quality of life in the U.S. The 2010 census shows extraordinary growth and population shifts in Illinois that policy and political officials will need to continue to focus on. For ICIRR, standing with families and the building of bridges between communities is at the center of the work moving forward into the near future. Join us as we celebrate 25 years of empowering our community on Thursday, June 2 for our annual fundraiser at Galleria Marchetti, 825 W. Erie St. For more information, visit www.icirr.org.

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