On Wednesday, June 26, 2013 CAIR-Chicago staff, law clerks, and interns attended the first Chicago City Council Asian American Caucus press conference. Aldermen, community leaders, and other government officials gathered in City Hall to welcome this new body of change. Alderman Ameya Pawar of Chicago’s 47th ward, the first Asian American elected to City Council, opened the press conference with the Caucus’ first challenge: removing the language barrier.
The Caucus is comprised of 12 aldermen, most of whom represent the Asian communities of Chicago. According to the 2010 census, Asians are the fastest growing ethnic group in Chicago with an increase from 423,032 to 583,563. Although the Asian community is one of the smallest in the city, it is one of the most represented ethnic groups in small businesses. During the press conference, Alderman Marge Laurino expressed that language barriers create business licensing and inspection challenges for her Korean small business owners in the 39th ward. The issue of language barriers are a part of a bigger problem: immigration reform.
Currently, an immigration bill is in Congress and 11 million people are awaiting a life-changing decision. Alderman Solis believes that, “Chicago will need the ability to help the new immigrants,” and that, “the Asian American Caucus will be a tool.” When comprehensive immigration reform is passed, members of the Caucus are hoping that more money will be invested in language banks. Therefore, when members of different communities call to access city services, they will be able to choose languages other than Spanish and English.
A representative from the Director of the Mayor’s Office of New Americans said, “When Asian communities thrive, Chicago thrives.” To help this statement hold, the Asian American Caucus plans to help Asian communities obtain access to better education, government and health services.
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