I was driving down Clark Street yesterday afternoon from Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood to get to Andersonville. While waiting for the light to change at the intersection of Clark and Granville, I turned my head to gaze at the office of Centro Romero, a nonprofit agency that serves the immigrant and refugee community. My eyes were transfixed on something I had never seen before. I saw hand-painted on their office window the words: No Budget. No Service. No Justice.
“Did they close their doors for good?” was my first thought. I couldn’t tell for sure because it was Sunday and no one was around. Then the light changed. Driving off, the question “Was this the aftermath of the state budget cuts?” popped immediately into my head.
Two months ago, I had lunch with Daysi Funes, Centro Romero’s Executive Director. Back then, she expressed a deep concern for what could potentially become the fate of nonprofits after Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announces the state budget in July. Now that we’ve turned that corner, I’m seeing signs that point toward difficult times ahead. Just the other day, a friend told me that he was laid off from a community organization also serving immigrants and their families.
Nonprofits like Centro Romero work to keep immigrant families together, help people from this community find jobs and provide them access to healthcare. The state budget is a reflection of how little value elected officials put on the lives of people who have the weakest ability to find resources for building a sustainable home. It’s seems so easy for someone in power to forget how this country was built in the first place. From where he stands, he sees today’s immigrant community as having no impact on the status quo that he’s trying to protect. But what he fails to see is the reality that immigrants shape the future of this country, whether or not he accepts it. This is how it has always been throughout our history, and how it always will be.
Listen to three success stories that shed light on the immigrant community. More than that, they are stories of courage, perseverance and compassion. What may seem to be foreign at first is, in reality, ideally American.