It’s easy to forget how great the Midwestern emptiness is once you escape Chicago’s city limits. The city keeps us alive, with constant light and noise and movement; out here, the horizon and the highway are one and the same. A gray and rainy dawn broke over our drive towards Springfield.
JCUA members were making our way to the capital to campaign with our partners in the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR). This legislative session, we platformed on three main positions; the first, which pushed for equitable tax credits for any person in Illinois, regardless of immigrant status; the second, which stressed healthcare for all low-income adults in Illinois ages 18 to 55; and the third, which pushed for the state to allot an extra $3 million in to provide legal and material services to immigrant communities. We came with our ICIRR coalition partners to speak with representatives and senators to win their support for our platform.
Before heading into the Capitol Building to approach lawmakers, we met with dozens of other coalitions and organizations at a church nearby. This rendezvous ensured that we had the tools and means to communicate effectively with our representatives. It also bolstered a real sense of camaraderie and determination among the countless organizations present; it’s incredibly empowering to recognize that every single person in a space like this is here for the same reasons that you are.
I was motivated to join this particular action for a handful of reasons. My mother and father both come from families that immigrated to the United States in fairly recent history; my mom is a third-generation Mexican immigrant and my dad’s grandparents came to New York City just shy of a century ago. In both instances, these families sought greater economic opportunity, increased social security and safety, academic pursuits, and refuge from persecution. This personal tie to action around immigration, as well as core Jewish values of protecting human life and strengthening community, is what ultimately drove me to join ICIRR and my fellow JCUA members in Springfield.
Although we didn’t get the opportunity to talk to any of our senators or representatives one-on-one, we were able to speak to countless individuals and create a tangible impact. We stood in one large huddle on the polished floors of the Capitol Building, surrounded by ornate architecture and intertwined conversation, pushing ICIRR’s platform on the representatives who passed by. Ultimately this time felt worthwhile and fulfilling. Immigration platforming and campaigning is often only framed in the actual physical act of immigration itself. Many organizing groups, though they are not misguided in pushing for safe and secure immigration, often forget that once immigrants arrive in a state, that there is still endless work to be done to ensure their equity and well-being.
This trip to Springfield was certainly one of the longest organizing events I’ve participated in; we spent roughly 12 hours traveling, preparing, and campaigning. Every minute of this day was worth it. While protests, pickets, strikes, and other action items undoubtedly have their place, it’s sometimes easy to forget that often we can always take our platform to those who have the power to materialize it.