WBEZ | Immigration http://www.wbez.org/news/immigration Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Global Activism: 'ConTextos' aiding children in Central America through literacy education http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA-debra_gittler.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr"><span id="docs-internal-guid-5ec3e45c-419f-6c53-a54b-a65dded641a7">While Central American children flood into the U.S. to escape crime &amp; poverty, Chicagoan Debra Gittler works to create conditions on-the-ground through literacy education, opportunity &amp; advocacy, that she hopes will help these children thrive and keep them in their home countries. Debra moved to Central America to start <a href="http://contextos.org/">ConTextos</a>. The group says &ldquo;[We do] more than just develop the mechanical skills of sounding out words. We encourage kids to think deeply, to be curious, and to question their environment.&rdquo; For <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism">Global Activism</a></em>, Gittler tells us how her work is spreading across Central America.</span></p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-5ec3e45c-4188-13cc-6742-dee95fbd88c5"><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/159145115&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe>When we asked Debra to tell us about the importance of her work, she wrote:</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I want to emphasize the relevance of our work in Central America, especially given the refugee kids at the border. To emphasize that the reality is, these kids have access to schools, but no education; ConTextos changes that. We are growing throughout the region and looking for greater support in our hometown here in Chicago. Those kids at the border... those are the same kids that we serve.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Just the other day, I was at a school in Usulutan, one of the areas of El Salvador that has had an explosion of violence post the gang truce. I sat with Manuel, a first grader, who told me: &quot;I have lots of family in the United States,&quot; he explained. &quot;Cousins and aunts and uncles. But I want to stay here in El Salvador. I like my school.&quot;</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">Before ConTextos, Manuel had no books and his entire experience was copy and dictation. He went to school four hours a day. Now, his school is open to him all day long, he has access to books and other materials, and he has real conversations in his classroom. We read a book called &quot;Where are the Giants&quot; about hidden magic in the world. Manuel says to me (I&#39;m translating): &quot;You know--and this isn&#39;t in the news, but it&#39;s true-- I&#39;ve heard that there are fairies in Mexico...&quot;</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">I asked his teacher about Manuel. She said that before, she used to scold him for his imagination. Now she encourages it. Her students are encouraged to think and imagine and explore. Classroom attendance is up.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">And this school is in the midst of gang territory. MS 18 is scribbled on the walls of the school. Manuel&#39;s photo is below.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">It&#39;s important to realize that even though we are a literacy organization-- and the only org in the region with the goal and implementation in multiple countries; whereas Africa and Asia have multiple orgs addressing the lack of resources and training across countries, Central Am/ Latin Am have NONE-- we go far beyond just teaching reading.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">At one of our schools--an area of extreme poverty where most live as subsistence farmers-- the school ran out of space for their school garden. &quot;Why can&#39;t we plant on the roof?&quot; asked one of the 5th graders. At first, the teacher balked that it was a ridiculous idea. Now they are growing basil and mint on their roof. The teacher explained: &quot;by changing how we teach-- asking questions, encouraging the kids to question-- we&#39;ve seen changes in how they approach life.&quot; These kids live in areas with plenty of problems. With ConTextos&#39; intervention, they&#39;re encouraged to think about those problems.</p><p style="margin-left:1.0in;">That school was one of our first schools. There&#39;s now 13 schools in their network. Kids read at a &quot;1st world&quot; level. The Ministry uses the schools as models for teacher development.</p></p> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 09:14:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-contextos-aiding-children-central-america-through-literacy Left out of economic recovery, workers go underground http://www.wbez.org/news/left-out-economic-recovery-workers-go-underground-110399 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Santana%20CROP.jpg" style="height: 377px; width: 300px; float: right; margin-top: 4px; margin-bottom: 4px;" title="‘I barely make ends meet. Why should I pay taxes?’ a Chicago ice-cream vendor asks. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />Santana does not want to be part of Chicago&rsquo;s underground economy but says he has struck out everywhere else.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve tried getting a formal job at Menard&rsquo;s, Home Depot, Target, Walmart &mdash; all these big corporations, which usually do hire a lot of ethnicity people,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I have not been called back for an interview.&rdquo;</p><p>So Santana &mdash; who, like other workers in this story, spoke on condition we not publish his full name &mdash; spends most days pushing an ice-cream cart in Little Village, a Mexican-American neighborhood.</p><p>Santana does not earn much. &ldquo;On a decent day, maybe about $90,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>And he comes from a low-income family. &ldquo;I actually have to claim homelessness to get funds from the government such as a Link card,&rdquo; he said, referring to Illinois&rsquo;s food-stamp program. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been paying rent at my mom&rsquo;s since I was 16.&rdquo;</p><p>So Santana says he has good reason to skip paying taxes on his income.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s all off the books,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Five years since the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has grown but a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/left-out-economic-recovery-workers-go-underground-110399#charts" target="_self">key labor-market gauge</a> shows little evidence of the recovery. As of May, more than 41 percent of the working-age population lacked employment, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on civilian, noninstitutionalized individuals. The most recent figure for Chicago, from 2012, is almost 44 percent.<br /><br />Many of the jobless folks are, like Santana, finding other ways to earn money. And there is reason to believe this shadow economy is expanding.<br /><br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Down but not out</span><br /><br />It is hard to know how many jobless individuals have resorted to working off the books. Few economists will even hazard a guess.<br /><br />But Edgar Feige, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, estimates that income not reported to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is as high as $2 trillion a year &mdash; equivalent to roughly 20 percent of the nation&rsquo;s total adjusted gross income. Feige said that number is &ldquo;approaching the levels that we observed during the Great Depression.&rdquo;</p><p>He means the one in the 1930s.<br /><br />Nowadays a business may look legitimate from the street while most of its staff works off the books.</p><p>&ldquo;I get paid $8 an hour to basically just clean this restaurant,&rdquo; a 25-year-old man said as he hosed off a grill in back of a South Side jerk chicken joint. &ldquo;No one here ever gets a check or pay stub. It&rsquo;s all paid in cash.&rdquo;<br /><br />What is driving people to take these shady jobs? Many of the workers say formal employment is beyond their reach. The labor market is particularly tough for young workers, African Americans, people with a criminal record, immigrants in the country illegally and high-school dropouts.<br /><br />And it can be tough even with a college degree. &ldquo;I have a bachelor&rsquo;s in information technology and I&rsquo;d like to be a Web developer,&rdquo; said a man I&rsquo;ll call Jonathan, a 27-year-old in Flossmoor, a suburb south of Chicago.<br /><br />Jonathan says he came up with nothing in searches for an internship or apprenticeship &mdash; anything that would put food on the table while he developed his skills. So he works on cars.</p><p>&ldquo;I go to the junkyard and I pick out an engine,&rdquo; he said. In his mom&rsquo;s garage, he installs those engines in cars he finds on Craigslist. Then he sells the cars.<br /><br />And the title on those vehicles?</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t even transfer the title into my name first,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I actually just pass it straight on to the person that&rsquo;s buying because I&rsquo;ve reached my limit as far as how many cars I can sell.&rdquo;<br /><br />Jonathan admits he is paying no income tax on this work. &ldquo;The choice is, Do I pay my water bill or do I pay my taxes?&rdquo; he said.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Everyone affected</span><br /><br />If you think Chicago&rsquo;s underground economy operates only in low-income neighborhoods, you are wrong.<br /><br />&ldquo;I live on the North Side of Chicago,&rdquo; said a 45-year-old woman I&rsquo;ll call Jennifer. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a presentation designer and writer. I&rsquo;ve had no full-time employment since 2008.&rdquo;<br /><br />Jennifer does get freelance gigs in her field. &ldquo;But that&rsquo;s infrequent,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />So she resorts to other paid work, much of it off-the-books. It includes dog walking, cat sitting and handing out swag at trade shows and street festivals. &ldquo;Then I figure out what things probably won&rsquo;t go noticed if I don&rsquo;t claim them,&rdquo; Jennifer said.<br /><br />She&rsquo;s not talking about hiding income from the IRS but from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. She doesn&rsquo;t want officials there to dock her unemployment checks.<br /><br />Jennifer says her options are few. &ldquo;Right now, I don&rsquo;t have electricity,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;My electricity was turned off five weeks ago. And I guess I owe ComEd $500 and I have no idea how I&rsquo;m going to get that $500.&rdquo;<br /><br />Even if people report all their income and pay taxes on it, they might still have close ties to the shadow economy. Maybe they have a nanny and do not report her pay to the IRS.</p><p>Or maybe the taxpayers shop at a big-box store. The prices might be great, but that could owe partly to shady contractors that clean the place at night. Those contractors might bring in janitors working off-the-books.<br /><br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Drawbacks</span><br /><br />&ldquo;You can think of these underground economies as actually being a buffer that helps families get through difficult times,&rdquo; said Feige, the economist, pointing out that people making money off-the-books also spend it. &ldquo;It contributes to economic growth in the official economy as well.&rdquo;<br /><br />The informal economy does have its downsides. It does not generate many tax dollars to fund the job training or social services that some workers might need. The workers may also lack benefits and protections such as unemployment compensation and a minimum wage.<br /><br />&ldquo;A young person will have fewer and fewer contacts to the outside regional economy,&rdquo; said Steven Pitts, a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ll have a résumé that&rsquo;s undeveloped for use in that economy. So you may get a reproduction of poverty because of that.&rdquo;<br /><br />There are other risks, especially when the work is further outside the law, such as drug dealing.<br /><br />On Chicago&rsquo;s West Side, a 23-year-old who calls herself Ebony faces workplace hazards every day. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a prostitute,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I work the streets.&rdquo;<br /><br />Ebony, a Chicago Public Schools graduate, says she does not enjoy her trade but considers it her best option. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve applied for McDonald&rsquo;s, Walmart, White Castle,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />Employers have all passed on her &ldquo;because I don&rsquo;t have a work history,&rdquo; she said. Or at least not a formal work history.<br /><br />Ebony says she has been earning a living since she was 16.</p><p>&ldquo;I stand and wait for guys to pick me up,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;You get in a car. They ask you, &lsquo;How much is this?&rsquo; and &lsquo;How much is that?&rsquo; You give them a price. They give you the money. You either do it in the car, you rent rooms from people, or you go to a hotel.&rdquo;<br /><br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Desperate measures</span></p><p>That brings us back to Santana, the young man who pushes the ice-cream cart. Even without paying taxes, he says he is not making enough money. And he could be heading down the same road as Ebony.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve actually even considered being a sugar baby,&rdquo; Santana said, describing that as spending time with an older woman and providing her all sorts of services. &ldquo;She&rsquo;d be a cougar. I&rsquo;d be a cub. She&rsquo;d basically pay for my bills and stuff like that.&rdquo;<br /><br />To become a sugar baby &mdash; to find his sugar mama &mdash; Santana says he might have to become a stripper.</p><p>With that in mind, he says, he has been lifting weights. He has the shoulders and arms to prove it. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m never going to look this good again in my life,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>In Chicago&rsquo;s underground economy, Santana figures his body might be the best thing he&rsquo;s got.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Employment-population ratio<a name="charts"></a></span></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart%201.PNG" style="height: 370px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart%202.PNG" style="height: 390px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart%203.PNG" style="height: 478px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart%204.PNG" style="height: 426px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div></div></div></div></div></div><p><em><strong>SOURCE:</strong> U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. <strong>NOTES: </strong>The employment-population ratio is the proportion of the U.S. working-age population (ages 16 and over) that is employed, either full- or part-time. That population includes everyone except members of the military and institutionalized persons. A 2013 figure for the city of Chicago is not yet available. Annual figures are averages of monthly figures. <strong>REPORTER:</strong>&nbsp;</em><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> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 14:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/left-out-economic-recovery-workers-go-underground-110399 Critics blast CPS immigration test question as offensive, inaccurate http://www.wbez.org/news/critics-blast-cps-immigration-test-question-offensive-inaccurate-110232 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2014-05-26 at 12.22.12 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p><em>CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the immigration test question was restored to an online &ldquo;performance task&rdquo; database. WBEZ regrets the error.&nbsp;</em></p><p><o:p></o:p><em>UPDATE: This article was updated on 5/27/14 at 5:50 p.m. with new information from Chicago Public Schools.</em></p><p><o:p></o:p></p><p>A test question for Chicago Public Schools seventh graders is being called &ldquo;offensive,&rdquo; &ldquo;<a href="http://cps299.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/chicagos-racist-test-questions/" target="_blank">racist</a>,&rdquo; and factually inaccurate by groups as disparate as the Illinois GOP and the Chicago Teachers Union.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this month the district &nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/afternoonshiftwbez/chicago-public-schools-test-question-on-immigration-causes-controversy" target="_blank">yanked the controversial question</a>&mdash;part of a new battery of tests meant to determine the effectiveness of teachers&mdash;with schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett issuing an apology for it. But WBEZ has learned that the district&nbsp;did not prohibit teachers from continuing to give the test. It &ldquo;recommended&rdquo; an alternative test, but allowed the immigration question to be administered with an &ldquo;addendum&rdquo; read aloud by the teacher.</p><p><o:p></o:p></p><p dir="ltr">The question asks pupils to read two commentaries&mdash;both opposed to undocumented immigrants becoming U.S. citizens&mdash;and evaluate the text and the authors&rsquo; biographies to determine which is &ldquo;the most authoritative and relevant to support your argument OPPOSING a pathway to citizenship.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s best to keep America for Americans and those who know how to speak English properly,&rdquo; says the first text. &ldquo;Save America for those of us who know how to behave in law abiding ways.&rdquo; The article says undocumented immigrants &ldquo;should go back to where they came from,&rdquo; and the author says he &ldquo;dream(s) of a time when we ban all new immigrants to America both legal and illegal.&rdquo; &nbsp;The author is pictured as a black man named Arie Payo, identified as a former aide to &ldquo;President Bush&rsquo;s Immigration Taskforce&rdquo; and a contributor to the &quot;Conservative Journal.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But it turns out that Payo, his opinions, his credentials and even the &ldquo;Conservative Journal&rdquo; are all made up; so is the second text, in which small business owner &ldquo;Stella Luna&rdquo;&mdash; coincidentally the title of a children&rsquo;s book&mdash;is identified as the author of &ldquo;The Dream Act is a Nightmare.&rdquo; She worries that giving citizenship to immigrants &ldquo;will increase the number of poor people in town.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Eighty-five percent of CPS students are low-income. &nbsp;Many are immigrants or children of immigrants.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Shame on CPS, shame on whoever wrote this test question. From beginning to end I think it&rsquo;s egregious,&rdquo; said Sylvia Puente, director of Chicago&rsquo;s Latino Policy Forum, which works on both immigration and education issues. Puente said working on the 45-minute test question could be emotionally stressful for children living in situations the authors berate.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The language in these is really, really offensive and disconcerting and really reinforces negative stereotypes about immigrants,&rdquo; Puente said. &ldquo;As a seventh-grade child, I would say, &lsquo;What are they saying about me? What does this say about who I am?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The controversial immigration test question was first made public on social media. CPS officials removed it from the testing lineup after a predominantly Latino school on the Southwest Side refused to give the exam earlier this month. &nbsp;The &ldquo;addendum&rdquo; the district issued to the &nbsp;immigration question instructs teachers to remind students they were tested on two pro-immigration viewpoints at the beginning of the school year and says they will now encounter two viewpoints opposing immigration.</p><p>&ldquo;That addendum was sent to teachers because a number of the tests had been printed and distributed and CPS did not want students taking the exam without the broader context,&rdquo; said CPS spokesman Joel Hood. &ldquo;We have no reports of any additional students actually taking it.&rdquo;</p><p><o:p></o:p></p><p>The district said just 32 students from two different schools were given the immigration question before it was temporarily pulled. The alternative test is about climate change.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The Latino Policy Forum&#39;s Puente questioned why the district is using made-up opinion pieces to teach kids which sources are &ldquo;authoritative.&rdquo; She pointed out factual errors even in the set-up to the question, which states that &ldquo;in January 2013, president Obama and Congress unveiled plans for immigration reform that included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">That never happened.</p><p dir="ltr">And Puente is not the only one to find inaccuracies in the question. The fact that the comments were presented as those of a high-level Republican aide irked Illinois GOP leaders.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Ironically, it probably would have taken less time to just research and cite a real Republican viewpoint than it must have taken to make this nonsense up,&rdquo; said Jay Reyes, Republican state central committeeman from the heavily immigrant 4th Congressional District. Reyes said the question is &ldquo;an unfair, uninformed take on a Republican viewpoint.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The question is one of more than 160 &ldquo;<a href="http://www.cps.edu/sitecollectiondocuments/REACHStudentsPerformanceTasks.pdf" target="_blank">REACH performance tasks</a>&rdquo; that are part of the district&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.cps.edu/Pages/reachstudents.aspx" target="_blank">new teacher evaluation system</a>. The tasks, given in all district-run schools this month, are designed to show how much students have learned this school year&mdash;and by extension, how effective their teachers are. The immigration question was being used to evaluate the effectiveness of school librarians. Performance tasks like this one count for between 10 and 15 percent of a teacher&rsquo;s evaluation this year.</p><p dir="ltr">Byrd-Bennett apologized: &ldquo;Teaching children the importance of diversity, acceptance, and independent thinking are important values at CPS. We apologize for any misunderstanding and have provided librarians an alternative test to administer to students,&quot; she said in a written statement earlier this month. She said the test question &ldquo;was intended for students to evaluate the biases, credibility and point of view of sources.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The district said a beginning-of-the-year exam asked students to consider two opinions from pro-immigration advocates. CPS said no concerns were raised about that activity.</p><p dir="ltr">The district said just 32 students from two different schools were given the immigration question before it was temporarily pulled. The alternative test is about climate change.</p><p dir="ltr">Officials said they do not know exactly who wrote the test question, but CPS said, in general, REACH performance tasks have been designed by teachers, including librarians, &ldquo;in partnership with (the Chicago Teachers Union).&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Carol Caref, who works on teacher evaluation issues for the union, said CTU doesn&rsquo;t know what revisions take place to REACH questions between the time teachers help create them and the time they become official CPS &ldquo;performance tasks.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t believe that very many eyes were on this particular performance task,&rdquo; Caref said. &quot;Because I can&#39;t believe there isn&#39;t someone who would have looked at this and said, &lsquo;Whoa.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Caref said the district has raced to get things like performance tasks in place; state law requires that student growth be a factor in teachers&rsquo; performance evaluations. But at the time the district <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-unveils-new-system-rating-teachers-97770" target="_blank">adopted</a> its new teacher evaluation system in 2012, CPS &nbsp;had no formal way to measure how much individual teachers were contributing to student learning.</p><p dir="ltr">Caref said the immigration question &ldquo;raises a lot of questions about the validity of these performance tasks&hellip;. The system is not set up to carefully do this. It&rsquo;s done in a hurried way.&rdquo; This is the second year CPS has administered performance tasks; it&#39;s unclear whether any students took the immigration exam last year.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago parent Cassie Creswell, an organizer with the anti-testing group More Than a Score, said the immigration question highlights how testing in schools is shifting education.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s pretty easy to say (the test) is racist. And to just present that to a student with no context?&quot; Creswell said the test wasn&#39;t designed by teachers to &quot;fit into a classroom discussion or as an exercise for the students where they&#39;ve had a lot of context leading up to it. That&#39;s the problem with a lot of standardized testing is that it&#39;s not really part of the curriculum,&quot; she says.</p><p>The pro- and anti-immigration test questions are posted below, along with the &quot;addendum.&quot;</p><p>Linda Lutton is the WBEZ education reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@wbezeducation</a>.</p></p> Mon, 26 May 2014 11:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/critics-blast-cps-immigration-test-question-offensive-inaccurate-110232 U.S. mulls letting young illegal immigrants enlist http://www.wbez.org/news/us-mulls-letting-young-illegal-immigrants-enlist-110201 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/DurbinMilitaryTHUMB_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>President Barack Obama&rsquo;s administration may allow military enlistment by thousands of immigrants living in the country illegally, a top U.S. Department of Defense official said Monday.<br /><br />Jessica L. Wright, the department&rsquo;s acting undersecretary for personnel and readiness, described the immigrants, known as DREAMers, as &ldquo;some of the best and brightest in America that we could capitalize on.&rdquo;</p><p>Wright said the decision would come by summer&rsquo;s end and involved the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the White House.<br /><br />Her comments came at a Chicago hearing held by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), chair of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, who wants the Obama administration to open the military to immigrants eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and provide them a path to citizenship. DACA, a program set up by the administration in 2012, has provided work papers and deportation reprieves to hundreds of thousands of youths.<br /><br />Federal law limits military enlistment to U.S. nationals and legal permanent residents but allows exceptions if &ldquo;vital to the national interest.&rdquo; In 2008, President George W. Bush&rsquo;s administration made exceptions for immigrant enlistees with certain language and health-care skills.</p><p>Durbin held the hearing at Phoenix Military Academy, a public high school on Chicago&rsquo;s West Side and the site of a large Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program. The witnesses included uniformed Phoenix students living in the country illegally.</p><p>One of them, Jessica Calderón, a junior at the school, said her mother sent her to the United States from Mexico at age 3. &ldquo;I was raised in America and really consider myself to be a citizen even though some numbers and papers do not say so,&rdquo; Calderón said.<br /><br />Calderón said her dream is to attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and, from there, become an Army officer. &ldquo;The only thing that holds me back from accomplishing my goals is my status as an undocumented immigrant,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Durbin said it was time for the United States to open the military to Calderón and other young unauthorized immigrants who would benefit from stalled legislation known as the DREAM Act.</p><p>&ldquo;The question is this,&rdquo; Durbin said. &ldquo;Will America be a stronger country if we deport our DREAMers to countries they barely remember or if we allow them to contribute more fully to the country whose flag they&rsquo;ve pledged allegiance to every day they&rsquo;ve been in school?&rdquo;<br /><br />Durbin pointed to the military&rsquo;s history. &ldquo;Back in World War II, when the nation was divided by race, even much worse than it is today, President Roosevelt decided to end racial discrimination in the recruitment of men and women into the military,&rdquo; the senator said. &ldquo;So, in a way, the military has been a leader in America as we&rsquo;ve evolved on issues like race.&rdquo;</p><p>But the idea of opening the armed services to these unauthorized immigrants &mdash; and providing them a path to citizenship &mdash; is drawing fire from two directions.</p><p>Outside the hearing, a dozen peace activists chanted through a megaphone and spoke to reporters. &ldquo;We oppose strongly this idea of Durbin&rsquo;s that undocumented young people should be cannon fodder for the U.S. military in these endless wars,&rdquo; Laura Guerra of Chicago said.</p><p>Durbin&rsquo;s push is also stirring up some conservatives. Last week a House Republican leader <a href="http://bigstory.ap.org/article/fight-looming-military-immigration-measure" target="_blank">indicated he would block</a> a similar proposal.</p><p>Daniel Horowitz, policy director of a Tea Party campaign-funding group called the Madison Project, said allowing illegal immigrants to enlist would send the wrong message. &ldquo;Join the military and you get legal status,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Horowitz also warned of what he called a military security threat. &ldquo;We certainly don&rsquo;t want to invite in bad actors who have very shady backgrounds, no documentation,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />But Calderón, the high-school student born in Mexico, assured the audience at the hearing that she has only one loyalty. &ldquo;I pledge allegiance to this nation every day and I wouldn&rsquo;t feel comfortable defending any other nation but America,&rdquo; she testified. &ldquo;I will never stop working as hard as I can until I get to serve this nation.&rdquo;</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> Mon, 19 May 2014 18:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/us-mulls-letting-young-illegal-immigrants-enlist-110201 Refugees raise vegetables, put down roots at urban garden http://www.wbez.org/news/refugees-raise-vegetables-put-down-roots-urban-garden-110149 <p><p>On a recent afternoon in Chicago&rsquo;s Albany Park neighborhood, Linda Seyler chirped at a small crew of helpers from Nepal: &ldquo;Stay there,&rdquo; she said to a group ranging from small boys to grown men. Seyler pulled out a measuring tape as she knelt in a tarp-covered ditch. &ldquo;From here to here is two feet&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>Seyler was helping two more refugee families measure out their new vegetable plots at the Global Garden Refugee Training Farm, located on busy Lawrence Avenue. It was a cool Sunday, but several families were there, eager to start preparing their long, skinny garden beds for spring planting.</p><p>Janet Saidi, a Congolese refugee who came to Chicago more than a year ago stood next to her family&rsquo;s plot, number 95, rattling off what she&rsquo;s grown. &ldquo;Onion, okra, beans,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;The name of this one I don&rsquo;t know. It&rsquo;s like mushroom? Yes.&rdquo;</p><p>Saidi and the other refugees who garden here all farmed in their native countries. Most hail from conflict-ridden places like Bhutan and Burma, and often don&rsquo;t know any English when they arrive. With the language barriers and the sense that their farming skills have no use in a big, American city, many battle feelings of isolation as they try to settle in.</p><p>&ldquo;Being here (in the city) they feel themselves really worthless,&rdquo; said Hasta Bhattarai, a Bhutanese refugee who now volunteers as an an interpreter for some of the gardeners. &ldquo;But once they are here (in the garden) and once they are able to produce something, that really makes them happy from inside,&rdquo; he continued, &ldquo;and they feel themselves (like) they are back home, and that gives them some kind of spiritual happiness.&ldquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Refugee-Garden-2.jpg" title="Janet Saidi, a refugee from the Congo, grows okra, onions and beans on her small plot. She said she never imagined she would grow her family’s food in the U.S., as she did in her native country. (WBEZ/Odette Yousef)" /></div><p>The garden began with a grant from the Refugee Agricultural Partnership Program, under the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. Seyler, at the time working for the Coalition of Limited English Speaking Elderly in Chicago, applied for the three-year, nonrenewable grant. In its first year, the garden had 42 families with plots.</p><p>Now in its third growing season, the garden has more than 100 vegetable beds jammed haphazardly against each other, with additional areas reserved for new commercial plots and a quarter-acre reserved for use by the Peterson Garden Project. In all, the refugees use about one acre of the 1.33 acre area. They grow bittermelon, bok choy, okra, mustard greens, and roselles -- a plant related to hibiscus. It&rsquo;s a cheap and convenient way to find the vegetables that they traditionally use for cooking, which may be less common in U.S. supermarkets.</p><p>&ldquo;This garden, it&rsquo;s really changed my life,&rdquo; said Mary Thehtoe, a Burmese refugee whose family had a large farm in her native country. Thehtoe got a plot at the garden when it began, during her first year in the U.S., in 2012.&nbsp; She said at that time she knew no English, and cried every night after she came to the U.S., until she met her refugee case worker. That was the first person she met in Chicago who spoke her language.</p><p>&ldquo;If I don&rsquo;t have garden, I always go to the appointments,&rdquo; Thehtoe said through an interpreter. &ldquo;I have a lot of appointments, like medical appointments, And I stay working at home, and just do house chores, take care of my kids, those kinds of thing. When I got the garden, all the sickness and stress, depression, go away, Because I always think about the garden.&rdquo;</p><p>Thehtoe said she comes to the garden every day.</p><p>Saidi said she never imagined that in the U.S. she would be growing her own food, as she did in the Congo. &ldquo;When I came here, I said, &lsquo;Oh my God, I don&rsquo;t know (if in) America, if they have fresh food,&rsquo;&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Yes, they are also farming, and I said &lsquo;Oh my God,&rsquo; it was exciting.&rdquo;</p><p>The garden&rsquo;s success has earned attention from the Governor&rsquo;s office, which wants to replicate it in places like Rockford, Elgin and Aurora. Meanwhile, the grant that started the garden has run out. Its organizers are planning to make the garden self-sustaining with commercial production and an expansion of the farm&rsquo;s community supported agriculture program, which allows individuals to buy &ldquo;shares&rdquo; in the garden&rsquo;s seasonal produce.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2Foyousef&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHKQ6bayggMubwgs9U53FsOML-b9A">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https%3A%2F%2Ftwitter.com%2FWBEZoutloud&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGciFiqidUKx7xm655BDbaPU9eB3g">@WBEZoutloud</a>.</em></p><p><em>Correction: This article incorrectly referred to the Peterson Garden Project. It has been corrected.</em></p></p> Wed, 07 May 2014 15:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/refugees-raise-vegetables-put-down-roots-urban-garden-110149 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 Global Activism: GirlForward continues to uplift refugee girls http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-girlforward-continues-uplift-refugee-girls-110288 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ga brett.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Blair Brettschneider, founder of <a href="http://www.girlforward.org/">GirlForward</a>, has been quite busy since first being featured on our Global Activism series. She&rsquo;s expanded her work helping refugee girls find new lives in America from just one girl from Tanzania, to scores around the world. She was also featured as a &ldquo;<a href="http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/2013.heroes/blair.brettschneider.html">CNN Hero</a>.&quot;<iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/138260504&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;visual=true" width="100%"></iframe><em>Blair will update us on all of the changes in her work and life and talk about GirlForward&rsquo;s upcoming event: &ldquo;Girl Jam 2014&rdquo;, Tuesday March 11, 7pm at Revolution Brewing, 2323 N. Milwaukee, Chicago</em></p></p> Thu, 06 Mar 2014 09:25:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-girlforward-continues-uplift-refugee-girls-110288 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