ALMAS “Beyond Borders” panel discusses immigration challenges

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The Alliance of Latinos Motivating Action in the Suburbs (ALMAS) and Indivisible Naperville held their “Beyond Borders” discussion panel on Wednesday at the Naperville Municipal Center.  

Speakers on the panel included:

  • Dagmara Avelar: Illinois State Representative for the 85th District
  • Erica Bray-Parker: Wheaton City Council member
  • Don Puchalski: Immigration attorney
  • Andre Gordillo: Director of New Vecinos at the New Life Centers of Chicagoland
  • Jane Lombardi: Senior Director of Immigrant Justice Partnerships at The Resurrection Project

Topics discussed included the state of the current immigration system, the need for government collaboration, and the necessity for more funding Illinois.

The state of the immigration system

Dagmara Avelar spoke on the current immigration system in America.

“When we talk about what is the current immigration landscape, I would say that it’s complicated. I think that needless to say, and we’ve said this time and time again, we do have a broken immigration system,” said Avelar.

She believes the politics around immigration is causing harm to the process as a whole, referring to the crisis as “a political tactic to create chaos”.

Erica Bray-Parker suggested more communication and collaboration between governments is necessary to improve the immigration system.

“Reach out to your elected officials – local, county, state, federal, and city of Chicago – to encourage them to communicate with each other,” said Bray-Parker. “When the staff is talking to each other, you get the politics out of it.”

The need for additional funding in Illinois 

Avelar also spoke on the limited power the state has in assisting immigration.

“The state cannot grant work permits [and] the state cannot put people on a pathway to citizenship because those are things that are within the federal government’s purview,” said Avelar.

She said the state has been communicating with the federal government for additional funding. 

“I think we are the number two state when it comes to resettling new arrivals. Yet the only help that we’ve gotten from the federal government, I think it’s somewhere in the tune of $30 million, which doesn’t even cover a month,” said Avelar.

The majority of funds allocated by the federal government go to border states, not interior states like Illinois, according to Avelar.

More federal dollars needed 

When discussing improvements, Avelar said the federal government needs to give Illinois more funding to maximize its resources.

“Money needs to come to Illinois. That should be the ask. We need to get more money to Illinois to make sure that we are able to respond to this crisis,” said Avelar.

She also stressed the importance of communication at all government levels and advised community members to contact their elected officials to ask for a change in the immigration process.

“We need to make sure that in order for us to be able to address this migrant wave, that we do it in collaboration with the federal, state, as well as local elected officials,” said Avelar.

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