Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday announced in the Mexican neighborhood of La Villita in Chicago a series of workshops to train and promote among immigrants the creation and expansion of small businesses.

The New Americans Small Business Series, which is being organized by the city office created to deal with the problems of local immigrants, will begin on March 31 at the National Museum of Mexican Art.

Four workshops will be held each year, one every three months, to train immigrant small businesspeople to be able to access available local, state and federal resources.

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"During the course of its history, Chicago has benefitted and grown with the incredible effort of its immigrant community," Emanuel said at a round table held in the Mi Tierra Mexican restaurant.

"Today, we want to be sure that the next generation of immigrants can achieve their dreams, support their families, create jobs in the neighborhoods and help the city define its future," the mayor said.

Emanuel was accompanied by several elected Latino officials, among them Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who emphasized "the benefits the city receives by investing in its immigrants."

At the same event, a donation of $25,000 from Western Union to the private Illinois DREAM fund was announced to be used for providing scholarships to undocumented students to pursue their college studies.

Gutierrez said that "there's an enormous outcry" about immigrants during the current election campaign, and so "it's very good to see a corporation, a mayor and a whole city rolling up their sleeves and asking 'what can we do to help?'"

The same company will also finance the workshops through the New Americans Office and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to train immigrants in how to open a business, make their way through the licensing process, comply with fiscal laws and interact with chambers of commerce.

According to Census information, one in every five Chicago residents is an immigrant and the people in this group are 50 percent more likely to open a business than people born in the United States.

Clemente Nicado, the publication director of "Negocios Now" directed at the city's Latino small businesspeople, told Efe that the main problem in the sector is the lack of access to capital.

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He said that in Illinois there are 56,000 immigrant-owned businesses of which 22,000 are in the Chicago area.

However, commercial corridors like 26th Street in La Villita "have been hit hard by the crisis, particularly by the very high price of rents," Nicado said.

Adolfo Hernandez, the director of the New Americans Office, said Thursday at the round table that "our challenge is for all immigrants to have the right to pursue the American Dream."

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