Mayor Rahm Emanuel named Mexican-American activist Adolfo Hernandez the first director of Chicago’s new Office of New Americans on Monday. Hernandez is a Chicago-native and a long-time leader in the immigrant community; he previously served as board president of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, a grassroots organization based in Chicago’s northwest side.
The Office of New Americans, launched in July with the help of the New York Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, is “dedicated to improving services and engaging Chicago’s global immigrant communities through enhanced collaboration with community organizations, educational institutions and the private sector.” Hernandez will oversee several new initiatives to promote immigrant integration. These include workshops for small business owners on how to access local, state and federal resources, programs to increase parent engagement in Chicago public schools and free English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, among others.
Hernandez will also ensure the implementation of the Illinois Dream Act, which was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn in May. Supported by Mayor Emanuel, the act created a private “DREAM Fund” to support immigrant students who want to go to college, regardless of their documentation status.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) released a press release yesterday congratulating Hernandez on his appointment. “Immigrants are the engine of our economy,” said ICIRR Deputy Director Lawrence Benito in a statement, “and we appreciate that the new Office of New Americans is particularly focused on promoting job creation and entrepreneurship.”