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Training the Next Generation of Illinois' Immigration Activists

This month a group of immigrant students in Chicago will be learning how to become advocates for their communities. (American Friends Service Committee)
This month a group of immigrant students in Chicago will be learning how to become advocates for their communities. (American Friends Service Committee)
July 7, 2016

CHICAGO - As immigration issues continue to top national conversations on the presidential campaign trail, one group is looking to train the next generation of immigration activists in Illinois. In all, 28 students from the Chicago Public Schools system will be working on becoming advocates for change to help the people who are most affected by immigration policies.

Darlene Gramigna, program director of the Chicago Youth Peace Building and Justice Program with the American Friends Service Committee is heading up the training program. She said many of the students are from Mexico, Central America, the Middle East, Myanmar and several African countries.

"This is our opportunity to meet with them over the summer and help them develop themselves into immigration activists, which we think is needed for the next period of time," she said. "And they're the next generation of people that should be ready to do this work."

The immigrant activist training starts this week and will run through the end of July. Gramigna said one of the goals is to help improve access to higher education for immigrants in the state.

Immigration issues have become a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail. A recent Washington Post analysis shows the pool of immigrant voters is getting larger. In light of that, Gramigna argues it's more important than ever to help young immigrants make their voices heard.

"Immigrants are in a kind of difficult position now with the up and coming election," she added. "We think immigrants have kind of been targeted in a negative way. Certainly, Muslim students feel that way and also Mexican students feel that way by some of the comments by the candidates."

As part of the training, the group also will be participating in a food-rescue project hosted by the group Zero Percent, which aims to redistribute unused food items from local restaurants and commercial kitchens.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL