Originally published by LA Times
After 20 years of incarceration, a woman was released from prison in December 2015. Being away for so long, even the process of getting an identification card, a requirement for her parole, was nearly impossible to navigate. Her family no longer living in Chicago, this woman had little support or community. After connecting with local organizations, she was able to access the support and resources needed. Though she still struggles with the effects of incarceration, she rebuilt her community. Today, she is a published author, an organizer and an advocate.
In 2002, in another case, a woman was driving in Pennsylvania on her way back home to Chicago when a flat tire led her to being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in front of her young children. In order to see her kids, she signed her voluntary departure. She was sure she was going to get deported. Today, she is a legal permanent resident. She found organizations and an attorney who helped her win her case.
We ran for public office because of stories like these so we could be in a position to move legislation forward to protect our families. In some of our communities, immigrant families live with the constant threat of being destroyed through deportation. Other families have been destroyed through mass incarceration and its devastating effects. For too long, our communities were left to fend for themselves, often without adequate legal information or support.
Each community faces unique challenges, each has its own strengths and resources. But we can be better neighbors and accomplish more together than we can apart.
The Access to Justice Program Act (House Bill 131/Senate Bill 2249) does just that. This bill will direct funds toward providing holistic legal and support assistance for Illinois’ marginalized communities. Access to Justice will strengthen the existing infrastructure of our resilient legal community organizations, faith-based institutions, and local businesses by providing the funding they need to train community navigators, hire and retain talented attorneys, and connect clients to mental health programs and job training programs.
We are at our best when we don’t leave anyone behind. Mass incarceration and deportations have sabotaged our most vulnerable communities for decades. Our complex legal system is stacked against those who can’t afford a lawyer. Too many of us face obstacles when finding and keeping stable employment. As leaders, we can’t allow this to continue any further.
— Reps. Fred Crespo and Art Turner, and Sens. Omar Aquino and Kimberly A. Lightford
United against gun violence
Congratulations to Mayor Lori Lightfoot. There are many difficult problems that lie ahead for the city of Chicago. One of the main problems is gun violence. Last year, about 560 homicides were committed in Chicago, leaving grieving families profoundly helpless and asking why. The Chicago Police Department has done a poor job in solving these killings.
To everyone who is against gun violence, we have not done enough, and we must stand together. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, AARP and NAACP, among others, must rise and speak in one voice. People who are activists and advocates must do the same.
And it is imperative that we establish a national organization to promote gun control by lobbying Congress to enact laws. Those laws then must be enforced to be effective.
Also, we must add chapters in each of the 50 states to promote continuity. Finally, the main headquarters should be launched in Chicago. In unity, there is strength to do the impossible. Our lives depend on us doing the right thing.