WBEZ | Immigration http://www.wbez.org/news/immigration Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Protesters want Obama to end mass deportations http://www.wbez.org/news/protesters-want-obama-end-mass-deportations-109982 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/protest1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than 200 people, including groups of children, are staging a two-day march drawing attention to mass deportations of undocumented immigrants. The protesters want the Obama administration to end the practice by executive order.</p><p>The march, which began this morning at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in downtown Chicago before heading west. It is an extension of this past weekend&rsquo;s National Day of Action against deportations.</p><p>As of this month, around 2 million undocumented people have been deported since Barack Obama took office, which is approaching the record set by his predecessor, George W. Bush.</p><p>Immigration reform advocates have shifted their focus recently&nbsp; to putting an emphasis on the number of mass deportations. Previously their priority was pushing for immigration reform legislation. An immigration bill passed the U.S. Senate early last year but has stalled in the House since June).</p><p>&ldquo;Two million (is) too many,&rdquo; says Rosi Carrasco, with Organized Communities Against Deportations. &ldquo;It is possible to stop deportations with the organization, determination, and strength of our community. President Obama can use his executive authority to avoid that detention centers continue to profit from human suffering.&rdquo;</p><p>The Chicago-area protests will continue into tomorrow. Lawrence Benito is executive director of the Illinois Commission for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and he says the focus on mass deportations highlights the continued frustration he has with Obama -- who he said pledged to pursue immigration reform as an agenda item he would tackle during his second term.</p><p>&ldquo;He promised our communities that passing immigration reform would be a priority,&rdquo; says Benito. &ldquo;Instead he has prioritized enforcement. He can remedy the situation while Congress debates immigration reform, through administrative relief.&rdquo;</p><p>Advocates want the president to take the same approach he did in 2012 when he ended the deportation for so-called &ldquo;Dreamers,&rdquo; young people who were brought into the country with undocumented relatives.&nbsp;</p><p>Marchers began their demonstration at ICE shortly after 10 a.m today. Their route wends through the city, including a stop in the heavily Latino South Side community of Pilsen, before decamping tonight in the western suburbs.</p><p>Tuesday&rsquo;s events are scheduled to start at the Broadview Detention Center. That is where more people are scheduled to take part in civil disobedience protests.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Host/Producer Yolanda Perdomo on <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a></em></p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 12:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/protesters-want-obama-end-mass-deportations-109982 Metal shredder proposed for Pilsen clears zoning hurdle http://www.wbez.org/news/metal-shredder-proposed-pilsen-clears-zoning-hurdle-109755 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/NuestroPilsenSCALED.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 212px; width: 300px;" title="Before a Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Friday, neighborhood residents in favor of the facility tout the jobs it would create and downplay environmental concerns. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />A proposed metal shredder near a high school on Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side&nbsp;has cleared a key hurdle.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously Friday night to approve a special-use application for the project, according to Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, which provides the board&rsquo;s staffing.</p><p>Board chairman Jonathan Swain and members Catherine Budzinski and Sol Flores were present for the closed-door vote, Strazzabosco said.</p><p>The application came from Pure Metal Recycling, LLC, a company with ties to Acme Metal Refinery, a major contributor to a campaign fund controlled by Pilsen&rsquo;s alderman, Danny Solis (25th). Acme was in the public eye last August after the Internal Revenue Service raided the company&rsquo;s Bridgeport headquarters.</p><p>Solis endorsed the proposed Pilsen metal shredder in a letter presented to the zoning board Friday.</p><p>The board vote followed more than four hours of testimony. Rev. Emma Lozano, an immigrant-rights advocate and pastor of nearby Lincoln United Methodist, led neighborhood residents in favor of the metal shredder.</p><p>&ldquo;The residents of Pilsen, including the members of my church, want Pilsen to be a place where we can both live and work,&rdquo; Lozano told the board, noting the neighborhood&rsquo;s creeping gentrification. &ldquo;We want to live in a community which is mixed &mdash; residential and manufacturing.&rdquo;</p><p>Mark Swedlow, Pure Metal Recycling&rsquo;s president, last week signed a one-page &ldquo;covenant&rdquo; with Solis and community residents. In the document, the company vows to give &ldquo;first priority in hiring to Pilsen residents&rdquo; and to not discriminate against them &ldquo;because of immigration status or past criminal records.&rdquo;</p><p>The metal shredder would stand on a 15-acre industrial parcel along South Loomis Avenue just south of West Cermak Road. The land is across the road from Benito Juárez Community Academy, the neighborhood&rsquo;s biggest high school.</p><p>The project&rsquo;s opponents, including the Pilsen Alliance and the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO), are complaining about Acme&rsquo;s record in Bridgeport and warning that metal shredders are known for pollution, fires and explosions. They are also voicing concerns about increased traffic and noise.</p><p>&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t want another Sims in the neighborhood,&rdquo; PERRO organizer Jerry Mead-Lucero said, referring to an existing Pilsen metal shredder owned by Australian-based Sims Metal Management.</p><p>Pilsen environmentalists led a campaign to close Fisk Generating Station, a coal-fired power plant that had operated in the neighborhood for more than a century. In 2012, California-based Edison International shut down Fisk and a coal-fired generator in nearby Little Village.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Sun, 23 Feb 2014 21:53:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/metal-shredder-proposed-pilsen-clears-zoning-hurdle-109755 Immigrants face barriers on health care site http://www.wbez.org/news/immigrants-face-barriers-health-care-site-109698 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ACA immigrants_web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than two months after the Obama administration declared <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/">healthcare.gov</a> working &ldquo;smoothly for the vast majority of users,&rdquo; immigrants who try to sign up are still encountering serious glitches.</p><p>On Wednesday, federal officials <a href="http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2014pres/02/20140212a.html">trumpeted</a> the fact that more than 1 million people signed up for private insurance in January, with Illinois accounting for nearly 89,000 of those enrollees. With fewer than 40 days until the deadline to enroll without incurring a penalty, much of the attention has turned to so-called &ldquo;young invincibles,&rdquo; a term for young, healthy people who will likely have lower health care costs.</p><p>There&rsquo;s no similar focus on immigrants, WBEZ has found, who continue to face significant hurdles with identity and citizenship verification, and faulty determinations of eligibility for Medicaid. In Illinois, the task of finding and navigating around those barriers often falls to scrappy enrollment specialists who work directly with those clients at community health centers. On top of their jobs, they are finding themselves tasked with bringing the glitches to the attention to state and federal authorities, and lobbying for them to be fixes.</p><p>Illinois, which is one of seven states to engage in a state-federal partnership, relies on the federal site to handle the enrollment function for plans offered on the state&rsquo;s insurance marketplace. Under the Affordable Care Act, immigrants are required to have insurance if they reside lawfully in the U.S. &ndash; even if they are not citizens.</p><p>&ldquo;Since November I have frequently made visits, and every time I made a visit I&rsquo;ve stayed at least 3-4 hours,&rdquo; said Zejna Belko, a 51-year old Bosnian immigrant who described her attempt to enroll in the healthcare exchange with the help of enrollment counselors at the Hamdard Center on Chicago&rsquo;s far North Side. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve also had individuals from other agencies try to help us out.&rdquo;</p><p>Belko, who&rsquo;s lived in the U.S. with a green card for 16 years, said she&rsquo;s spent up to 30 hours working with enrollment specialists. Still, they haven&rsquo;t even been able to start her application because the system cannot verify her identity. So far, Belko has twice mailed identifying documents, such as copies of her green card and social security card, to the Department of Health and Human Services, to no avail.</p><p>&ldquo;My blood pressure rises,&rdquo; she said through a translator. &ldquo;I get very frustrated and angry because I&rsquo;m an honest person and I&rsquo;m not hiding anything, and I don&rsquo;t understand what the problem is. I just want to get health care coverage.&rdquo;</p><p>In a small health center in Wicker Park, Graciela Guzman said she sees these cases all the time. Most frequently, the issues with identity verification is done via checking an applicant&rsquo;s credit history &ndash; something Guzman said many newer immigrants don&rsquo;t yet have.</p><p>&ldquo;They haven&rsquo;t been here long enough to be considered &lsquo;bankable,&rsquo;&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Like a lot of them have been paid by cash. Maybe they don&rsquo;t have banks. Maybe they don&rsquo;t own property. So the system has a harder time just finding them.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The Morning Shift: How an ACA enrollment specialist is helping immigrants in Chicago</strong></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/134626873&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Guzman works with a team of five enrollment specialists at <a href="http://www.primecarechi.org/">PrimeCare Community Health</a>, a small clinic based in St. Elizabeth&rsquo;s Hospital in Chicago&rsquo;s Wicker Park neighborhood. About half of their clients are immigrants. Her team encounters hurdles to enrollment so frequently, they&rsquo;ve managed to cobble together a complicated flow sheet of workarounds. For identity verification problems, they&rsquo;ve found that calling the federal Health Insurance Marketplace Call Center, and later uploading or mailing a client&rsquo;s identification documents, usually helps to get an application started</p><p>But there are other barriers. Through trial and error, they found success in ignoring the site&rsquo;s directions to fill out information completely, and instead repeatedly clicking &ldquo;continue and save&rdquo; when they get an error on citizenship verification. The most significant challenge, however, appears not to have a workaround.</p><p>&ldquo;Most of our clients receive incorrect eligibility determinations, that tell them that they&rsquo;re eligible for Medicaid,&rdquo; said Guzman.</p><p>This is the case for lawful permanent residents whose incomes would qualify for Medicaid, but who are barred from enrolling in that program because they&rsquo;ve lived in the U.S. less than five years. Once the site directs an enrollee to apply for Medicaid, it does not allow them back onto the private healthcare exchange, where these clients should be.</p><p>&ldquo;We have brought this to the attention of our federal counterparts,&rdquo; said a state spokesman, &ldquo;and we believe they have been working to address it by adding new questions to <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/">healthcare.gov</a> late last week that will allow people to get through to the Marketplace once they have been issued a denial.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, immigrants are advised to apply for Medicaid even when they know they are ineligible for it, just to receive a denial. But since Medicaid eligibility was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, a backlog in applications has led to significantly longer processing times.&nbsp;</p><p>Guzman and her team of so-called &ldquo;navigators&rdquo; say, as they discover glitches, they&rsquo;ve relayed them to state and federal officials. So far, they have enrolled more than 600 immigrants to the healthcare exchange. In addition to the discoveries they&rsquo;ve made about getting through the technical difficulties, the team is also working out ways to handle the unexpected emotional impact of the job.</p><p>&ldquo;On our days off, we&rsquo;re constantly thinking about patients, which is like ludicrous,&rdquo; said Martin Jurado, who works with Guzman at PrimeCare. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think anybody else does that. You know? Somebody that you&rsquo;ve barely met, you barely know, yet you know everything about their life, what they&rsquo;re going through, and you&rsquo;re carrying that, and a lot of people didn&rsquo;t tell you that, starting off the bat.&rdquo;</p><p>Guzman found that <a href="http://guzmangraciela.wordpress.com/">blogging </a>helps her process their experiences. She writes of frustrations with the healthcare exchange website, but also about clients that stick in her head.</p><p>&ldquo;People really weren&rsquo;t hearing the complexity of the website, they weren&rsquo;t hearing people&rsquo;s fears and difficulties in getting through the website,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And so we wanted to share some of what&rsquo;s going on.&rdquo;</p><p>Together, she said, they have come to realize they are witnessing a moment: droves of people are coming out of the shadows because the law requires them to &ndash; and they&rsquo;re coming with needs that extend far beyond just health care.</p><p>&ldquo;We get them comfortable and primed, hopefully, for enrollment,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;but then they&rsquo;ll turn around and kind of like almost offhandedly be like, &lsquo;so you helped me with this, can you help me with housing? Can you help me with food stamps? I have some domestic stuff going on, where do I go?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Guzman said she believes they&rsquo;re on the frontier of a new phase. She, Jurado, and the rest of their team will stick around after the crush of enrollment ends March 31st, helping people change or update their health plans. But she said they&rsquo;ll also continue to serve as access points to community resources when immigrants don&rsquo;t know where to go.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef" style="text-decoration:none;">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" style="text-decoration:none;">@WBEZoutloud</a></em></p></p> Thu, 13 Feb 2014 12:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/immigrants-face-barriers-health-care-site-109698 Obama meets with immigration reform hunger strikers http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-meets-immigration-reform-hunger-strikers-109282 <p><p>Monday will mark Rudy Lopez&rsquo;s 12th day of going without food, including on Thanksgiving Day when so many Americans are feasting, not fasting.</p><p>But Lopez, a resident of East Chicago, Indiana, says he and 19 other activists are fasting to bring attention to the plight of immigrants in the U.S. illegally.<br /><br />&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been fasting only on water to sustain us. And we have a core of four fasters who are on their 20th day,&rdquo; Lopez told WBEZ on Sunday.<br />The activists main goal is to pressure U.S. House Speaker John Boehner to bring a vote to the floor on an immigration reform bill.</p><p>Lopez says the group is tired and hungry.</p><p>&ldquo;But we&rsquo;re more hungry for movement on such an important piece of legislation and something that&rsquo;s going to change the lives of so many,&rdquo; Lopez said.<br /><br />The group received an unexpected visit from President Barack Obama on Friday.&nbsp;The President told them that their &quot;commitment to change&quot; ultimately will help pressure lawmakers to act.<br /><br />On the day after the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving marked by an abundance of food, Obama stopped in at a heated, white tent on the National Mall where some activists have consumed only water since Nov. 12 in support of immigration legislation.<br /><br />Obama mentioned the activists in an immigration speech in San Francisco earlier this week. He delivered his message in person on Friday, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama.<br /><br />&quot;I want everybody to know I remain optimistic that we&#39;re going to get this done,&quot; he said, according to video of his remarks. He said passage of an immigration bill was &quot;more a question of when than if.&quot;&nbsp;&quot;But I&#39;d rather get this done sooner rather than later,&quot; Obama said.<br /><br />The White House issued a statement after the approximately 40-minute visit that said Obama thanked the hunger strikers &quot;for their sacrifice and dedication and told them that the country is behind them on immigration reform.&quot;<br /><br />Organizers of the fast said Obama expressed concern for the health of the hunger strikers, and held the shoe of an immigrant who died in the Arizona desert while trying to enter the U.S.<br /><br />House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has refused to schedule a vote on a comprehensive immigration measure the Senate passed this summer. The House prefers a piecemeal approach, but Boehner hasn&#39;t said whether lawmakers will consider any bills this year or whether the issue will slip into next year, when midterm-election politics will make legislative action less likely.<br /><br />The House has moved too slowly to satisfy immigration advocates, including those on the hunger strike as well as a man who shouted during Obama&rsquo;s speech in California for the president to stop separating families by deporting people who are living in the country illegally.<br /><br />The president was the latest administration official to meet with the activists. Vice President Joe Biden, Cabinet secretaries and top White House advisers have also visited.</p><p>Follow WBEZ Reporter Michael Puente on Twitter <a href="http://@MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</p></p> Mon, 02 Dec 2013 09:58:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/obama-meets-immigration-reform-hunger-strikers-109282 Sheriff slams Secretary of State on driver's license rollout http://www.wbez.org/news/sheriff-slams-secretary-state-drivers-license-rollout-109216 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/MarkCurran.JPG" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 233px; width: 275px;" title="Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran says Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White’s office is dragging its feet on setting up a driver’s license program for immigrants who are in the country illegally. (Photo courtesy of Lake County Sheriff’s office)" />A suburban Chicago sheriff says Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White&rsquo;s office is dragging its feet on setting up a driver&rsquo;s license program for immigrants who are in the country illegally.<br /><br />Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran points out that White&rsquo;s office, which is launching a pilot phase of the program, is scheduling just 120 appointments a day for applicants to present their proof of state residence and take their driving exams.<br /><br />The pilot phase comes almost 10 months after Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a measure making as many as 500,000 immigrants in Illinois eligible for a &ldquo;temporary visitor&rsquo;s&rdquo; license.<br /><br />&ldquo;I would expect this type of a pace if the law passed in Alabama, where we have a hostile immigrant tone,&rdquo; said Curran, a Republican who pushed for the law. &ldquo;But, in Illinois, there was overwhelming support for this legislation.&rdquo;</p><p>White, a Democrat, announced his support for the measure but Curran is questioning the secretary of state&rsquo;s sincerity in light of the law&rsquo;s implementation. &ldquo;Actions sometimes speak louder than words,&rdquo; the sheriff said.<br /><br />Curran says the secretary of state&rsquo;s office should have set up the program faster because many of the immigrants are already behind the wheel. &ldquo;We want people to have taken a driver&rsquo;s test,&rdquo; Curran said. &ldquo;We want people to have insurance. We want people to understand the rules of the road.&rdquo;<br /><br />Henry Haupt, a spokesman for White, bristled at the criticism. &ldquo;It would be irresponsible and reckless for our office to roll out a program of this magnitude statewide without first thoroughly testing it,&rdquo; Haupt said.<br /><br />&ldquo;Keep in mind that the state of California has been given approximately two years to implement [a similar] program,&rdquo; Haupt said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve had to set all of this up without any additional revenue provided by the General Assembly. To just open up facilities throughout the state without testing it and potentially have thousands upon thousands of individuals showing up at facilities wouldn&rsquo;t do anyone any good.&rdquo;<br /><br />Haupt says the appointment scheduling will get faster in mid-December. By February, he said, the secretary of state&rsquo;s office will offer the appointments at 36 facilities statewide.<br /><br />Another suburban sheriff who helped push the measure into law says the pace of its implementation doesn&rsquo;t bother him. &ldquo;If the program is rolling out slower than expected, I would rather see it done slowly and correctly than to push it and have it done fast and mistakes be made,&rdquo; said Kane County Sheriff Patrick Perez, a Democrat.</p><p>But that approach will keep many immigrant drivers unlicensed for months to come. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been in the United States for 23 years,&rdquo; said a stay-at-home mother of Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side who drives her children to school and her father to dialysis appointments. &ldquo;We need that document to live well here,&rdquo; she said, asking that her name not be published.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 21 Nov 2013 13:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/sheriff-slams-secretary-state-drivers-license-rollout-109216 Illinois slowly begins issuing temporary driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants http://www.wbez.org/news/immigration/illinois-slowly-begins-issuing-temporary-driver%E2%80%99s-licenses-undocumented-immigrants <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/license delay_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Busy phone lines and websites reaching capacity: It isn&rsquo;t the federal health care program or the Chicago Transit Authority&rsquo;s Ventra system &mdash; it&rsquo;s Illinois&rsquo; launch of the <a href="http://www.cyberdriveillinois.com/departments/drivers/TVDL/home.html">Temporary Visitor Driver&rsquo;s License</a> sign up.</p><p dir="ltr">But this time, the state says it&rsquo;s slow on purpose.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this week, undocumented immigrants started signing up for appointments with the Secretary of State&rsquo;s office to receive a temporary license.</p><p dir="ltr">Organizations like the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said many were frustrated when they couldn&rsquo;t sign up on the first days; that it wasn&rsquo;t clear that this is a pilot phase.</p><p dir="ltr">People can sign up for an appointment by going online or calling to schedule a time. Appointments can be scheduled 90 days in advance but, so far, the state has reached capacity everyday.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We had to design the system in a way with four pilot facilities available launching on Dec. 3 and 10, that we could study how this works in this controlled environment,&quot; said Secretary of State spokesman Henry Haupt. &quot;And this is giving us the opportunity to make any adjustments.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Haput said the pilot program is working as planned. The state intentionally limited the appointment numbers to 117 a day. Twenty-one additional facilities are scheduled to open in January, and Haupt said that will allow the state to increase its capacity for appointments starting later in December.</p><p dir="ltr">Until then, people can continue trying to sign up on a daily basis until slots are full.</p><p dir="ltr">Ere Rendon with ICIRR said about 10 out of 100 people her organization worked with were successful in scheduling an appointment.</p><p dir="ltr">She thinks the pilot program could have been communicated better from the beginning so people wouldn&rsquo;t feel panicked when they couldn&rsquo;t get through.</p><p dir="ltr">Rendon said it isn&rsquo;t a matter of convenience that people are clamoring to sign up, but a matter of protection. Getting pulled over without a license can mean high fees and jail time.</p><p dir="ltr">Separately, the state is warning people to watch out for scams related to the temporary driver&rsquo;s licenses. Some may try to claim they can offer an expedited license for a fee. The state said the document can only be obtained through the Secretary of State&rsquo;s office.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Susie An is a business reporter at WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/soosieon">@soosieon</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 14 Nov 2013 16:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/immigration/illinois-slowly-begins-issuing-temporary-driver%E2%80%99s-licenses-undocumented-immigrants Nail salon workers to get access to Asian language licensing exams http://www.wbez.org/news/nail-salon-workers-get-access-asian-language-licensing-exams-109099 <p><p>It&rsquo;s no surprise to walk into a nail salon and find mostly Asian staff. But despite a concentration of Vietnamese, Korean and Chinese professionals in the cosmetology and nail technology industries, Illinois has never offered the licensing exams in Asian languages. Now the state is looking to change that.</p><p>&ldquo;You know why I opened a cosmetology school in Chinatown?&rdquo; said Mora Zheng, owner of the Elle International Beauty Academy in Chinatown. &ldquo;Because I just want to let more Chinese people work legally, have good benefits, have a good salary.&rdquo;</p><p>As a small group of students sat huddled around a table in a nearby room, applying fake nail tips to plastic mannequin hands, Zheng explained that jobs in the beauty industry are popular with Asian immigrants because the schooling only takes a few months. She said that allows them to start earning money quickly. According to the <a href="http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes395092.htm" target="_blank">Bureau of Labor Statistics</a>, average yearly income for manicurists and pedicurists in Illinois is $26,720.</p><p>But Zheng said she&rsquo;s noticed a disturbing trend: lots of students finish school, but don&rsquo;t get licensed to practice.</p><p>&ldquo;Some people, they (are) scared (of the) English written examination,&rdquo; said Zheng, referring to the licensing exam administered by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re scared to fail.&rdquo;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.idfpr.com/profs/info/NailTech.asp" target="_blank">IDFPR</a> offers the cosmetology and nail technician licensing exams in English and Spanish. Zheng said it&rsquo;s time to add Chinese, because otherwise, qualified professionals end up working illegally in nail salons, and they are not paid fair wages.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Nail%20tech%20exam%203.JPG" style="height: 201px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Most of the students at the Botanic School of Nail Technology on Chicago’s North Side are native speakers of Vietnamese, Korean, or Chinese. School owner Rosemary Hyunh has crafted a bilingual curriculum to help them pass the written licensing exam in English. (WBEZ/Jian Chung Lee)" />&ldquo;We shouldn&rsquo;t have to work harder if there&rsquo;s no rational basis for the exams to only be in English,&rdquo; said Anne Shaw, a lawyer and advocate for Chicago&rsquo;s Chinese-American community. Zheng enlisted Shaw&rsquo;s support when she started to cast around for allies to bring the issue to the state&rsquo;s attention. Shaw said the fact that the exam is already offered in Spanish shows that the state does not deem English to be an essential skill for the profession.</p><p>Shaw believes expanding language access to the licensing exams will have far-ranging, positive effects. She argued that not only would it make it easier for immigrants to earn an honest living, but that the overall state economy would benefit by easing the way for small business owners.</p><p>Still, Shaw was surprised to learn from Zheng that the licensing exams weren&rsquo;t already offered in Asian languages.</p><p>&ldquo;You know, I really don&rsquo;t believe there was any intent to discriminate,&rdquo; Shaw said. &ldquo;This is one of the downsides of not having someone that&rsquo;s elected that has an Asian-American background. We have zero state legislators that are Asian-American.&rdquo;</p><p>But Shaw and Zheng found an ally in the office Governor Pat Quinn with his appointment of Theresa Mah. Mah is a longtime activist and organizer in Chicago who serves as Gov. Quinn&rsquo;s chief liaison to the Asian-American community. The IDFPR will soon offer the cosmetology licensing exam in Chinese, and plans to offer translations of the nail technician licensing exam in Korean and Vietnamese. According to <a href="http://files.nailsmag.com/Market-Research/NAILSbb12-13stats.pdf" target="_blank">Nails Magazine</a>, Illinois is among the ten states with the largest number of Vietnamese nail technicians.</p><p>But some argue that translating the licensing exams could harm the industry.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Nail%20tech%20exam%202.JPG" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="Mora Zheng, owner of the Elle International Beauty Academy in Chinatown, says many educated nail technicians work without licenses because they fear they will fail the English written exam. She is pushing to have the exam translated into Chinese. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" />&ldquo;I really think it shouldn&rsquo;t be translated,&rdquo; said Rosemary Hyunh, owner of the Botanic School of Nail Technology on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s just going to be too many nail salons,&rdquo; she explained. Hyunh, a Vietnamese-American raised in Chicago&rsquo;s Argyle Street neighborhood, said her views are shaped by her family&rsquo;s experience in the nail industry.</p><p>Hyunh said some of her relatives immigrated two decades ago to California, where they had successful nail shops. But she said their fortunes changed once California began offering its written manicurist exam in Vietnamese in 1996.</p><p>&ldquo;It got exploded so big over there that the prices started dropping,&rdquo; said Hyunh. &ldquo;So they had to find new states to start this whole new nail industry again.&rdquo; Hyunh said her aunts and uncles fled California to start new businesses in Chicago, a relatively unsaturated market.</p><p>Could something similar happen here? Chicago <a href="http://docs.chicityclerk.com/journal/2009/may13_2009/may13_2009_Zoning.pdf" target="_blank">zoning laws</a> prohibit personal service establishments, including nail salons, to locate within 1000 feet of each other. But Mora Zheng says even if competition heats up, that&rsquo;s no reason not to translate the tests. She tells her students if they do their best, they&rsquo;ll be fine.</p><p>&ldquo;Prepare yourself well, (and) you don&rsquo;t need to worry about others,&rdquo; Zheng declared. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s why I tell my students, &lsquo;in your heart, always sunshine.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Hyunh said even though most of her students don&rsquo;t speak English as a native language, she&rsquo;s crafted a bilingual curriculum that helps them pass the licensing exams in English. She understands that translating the tests could help some immigrants get on their feet faster, but Hyunh said she won&rsquo;t be changing her teaching methods.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" target="_blank">@WBEZOutLoud</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 06 Nov 2013 17:38:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/nail-salon-workers-get-access-asian-language-licensing-exams-109099 Stalled immigration reform takes toll on Polish theater group http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/stalled-immigration-reform-takes-toll-polish-theater-group-109029 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Republicans immigration.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A small Polish theater company says they&rsquo;re another victim of stalled legislation on immigration reform. Teatr Brama Goleniow is regrouping after U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services denied eight of their company members visas to bring a stage production to the Logan Square/Avondale neighborhood.</p><p>The group had planned Chicago showings of Emotions in Sound &nbsp;in late September, a production they&rsquo;ve previously brought to the Ukraine, Peru, Scotland and Greece. But the U.S. visa snafu has delayed their plans to share the production with U.S. audiences.</p><p>&ldquo;In the beginning we applied for tourist visas,&rdquo; explained Jennifer Crissey, actor and project manager at Teatr Brama.</p><p>Crissey said she had been advised by officials at the U.S. embassy in Warsaw to apply for B-visas because their company was small, and did not view their intended travel as one that would yield commercial profit.</p><p>&ldquo;The actors going wouldn&rsquo;t be receiving salary, they wouldn&rsquo;t be getting paid to do this project,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Crissey said when the group went to the U.S. embassy in Warsaw for their visa interview in August, however, they were told that they should instead apply for artists&rsquo; visas.</p><p>&ldquo;So they essentially advised us one thing, and then changed their mind,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Crissey said that&rsquo;s when she asked the company&rsquo;s Chicago-based partner, Voice of the City, to sponsor their petition for P-3 visas, a class of visa specific to culturally unique artists and entertainers.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it was very evident in the application that this was geared for commercial exchanges on a scale that we just weren&rsquo;t doing,&rdquo; said Dawn Marie Galtieri, artistic director of Voice of the City, an arts alliance based in the Logan Square/Avondale neighborhood, &ldquo;so it started to make us very nervous.&rdquo;</p><p>Galtieri said she had to obtain a letter from the American Guild of Musical Artists to support their petition, as well as provide additional paperwork attesting to the wages and hours of the actors, contracts detailing the parameters of the production, and flyers and press releases about the show.</p><p>&ldquo;Really, it&rsquo;s a process for big stars,&rdquo; Crissey said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s when some big name comes from another country to play here, and they&rsquo;re playing at like United Center or some big stage like that.&rdquo;</p><p>Crissey estimated that in total, Teatr Brama spent nearly $3,000 in applying for the visas. Still, they were denied.</p><p>&ldquo;And I never in a million year thought that after providing them with all of the evidence that they asked for that we would get such an empty answer like, &lsquo;this isn&rsquo;t culturally unique enough,&rsquo;&rdquo; said Crissey, &ldquo;because, who can be the judge of that?&rdquo;</p><p>Crissey and Galtieri said they are now cobbling together an ensemble of actors from Chicago and across Europe who have authorization to travel to the U.S., and that they plan to move forward with the production in the absence of the original cast.</p><p>The show will be staged in mid-November.</p><p>A representative from Congressman Michael Quigley&rsquo;s (D-Illinois) office said that if Congress had moved on immigration reform this summer, Teatr Brama&rsquo;s visa woes might not have happened.</p><p>Poland, unlike many of its European Union counterparts, is not included in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the U.S. without first obtaining visas. Quigley and other members of Illinois&rsquo;s congressional delegation have &nbsp;been <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/polish-community-may-get-travel-perk-immigration-reform-107412">pushing to expand the parameters of the program</a> to include more countries, such as Poland.</p><p>In addition to a standalone bill that he has introduced in the House, Quigley also helped ensure that language to broaden the program be included in immigration legislation that the U.S. Senate passed in June.</p><p>Meanwhile, with just 18 days left in the House legislative calendar this year, pressure continues to mount for U.S. House Republicans to take up an immigration bill.</p><p>On Tuesday, hundreds of conservatives from business, faith and law enforcement groups converged on Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers to nudge them toward bringing legislation to the floor for a vote.</p><p>&ldquo;Ultimately, if you&rsquo;re going against this legislation, you are absolutely going against the entire faith community and you are also going against essentially what every respected economist in America has been asking for,&rdquo; said Sheriff Mark Curran of Lake County.</p><p>Curran is among a handful of conservatives from Illinois joining the effort. The effort is organized by the Partnership for a New American Economy, the Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform network, FWD.us, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.</p><p>Earlier this month, House Democrats introduced a comprehensive immigration bill, after a bipartisan committee failed to produce its own bill. Congressman Jeff Denham (R-California) is the sole Republican to cosponsor the bill, along with 185 Democrats.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 29 Oct 2013 13:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/stalled-immigration-reform-takes-toll-polish-theater-group-109029 For one Pakistani man, love and sadness in post 9/11 America http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/one-pakistani-man-love-and-sadness-post-911-america-108618 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS7379_usman and malena-scr.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>In the year 2000, When Usman Ally left Pakistan to attend college in Portland, Oregon, it was still relatively easy for people coming from there to get a visa.&nbsp;</p><p>But then his life, like so many others, was forever changed by Sept. 11, 2001.&nbsp;</p><p>Ally joined his wife, Malena, at the Chicago StoryCorps booth to talk about identity and love in post-9/11 America.</p><p><strong>Malena</strong>: Talk a little bit about your experiences in Portland, what you were studying.</p><p><strong>Usman</strong>: Portland was fine. It was just very, very homogenous, and that was very difficult for me. Especially once 9/11 happened. I hate to say it, but sometimes I feel like my identity in this country is sort of defined by that event.&nbsp;</p><p>After 9/11, Arab and Muslim men from certain countries were required to go into the immigration office and sign up for &ldquo;Special Registration.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Usman</strong>: They would take all of your information, and then they would just ask these questions about who you are and where you&rsquo;re from and what your parents do. I had nothing to hide, but I just remember being terrified each time.</p><p><strong>Malena</strong>: And then we met in Chicago &hellip; What do you remember about me when we first met?</p><p><strong>Usman</strong>: ... I had a sort of nervous energy and an excitement to see you, and I was trying to figure you out a little bit. Trying to see if we were compatible at all, you know? Because we were from such different worlds.</p><p><strong>Malena</strong> &hellip; Obviously I made a good impression though, because you asked me to marry you.&nbsp;</p><p>After an arduous visa application process, Malena and Usman were married. But their wedding wasn&rsquo;t a completely happy occasion. Click on the audio above to find out why.</p><p><em>Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly described Pakistan as an Arab nation, and has been corrected. </em></p><p><em>Katie Mingle is a producer for WBEZ and the Third Coast Festival</em>.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Fplaylists%2F6250422" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 06 Sep 2013 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/one-pakistani-man-love-and-sadness-post-911-america-108618 Kirk, Quigley to talk visa-free travel for Polish http://www.wbez.org/news/kirk-quigley-talk-visa-free-travel-polish-108476 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP264306511866.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A Polish-American organization says two Illinois lawmakers plan to reiterate their support for giving Polish citizens the chance to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa.</p><p>U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk and U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley have been outspoken in support of including Poland in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program. The Polish American Association says both will speak Wednesday at its Chicago facility.</p><p>A provision to grant Poles visa-free travel is part of comprehensive immigration legislation.</p><p>Supporters say the city&#39;s large Polish-American community would make Chicago a popular destination for visitors. The Chicago area has one of the largest Polish populations outside of Poland.</p><p>Poland&#39;s consul general in Chicago, Paulina Kapuscinska, is scheduled to join the legislators at the event.</p></p> Wed, 21 Aug 2013 12:05:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/kirk-quigley-talk-visa-free-travel-polish-108476