Chicago – Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday announced the creation of the Office of New Americans to provide support for Chicago's immigrant communities and strengthen their contributions to the city's economic, civic and cultural life.
"Chicago's vitality has been built on the strength of immigrant populations that have come to enjoy new freedoms and access new opportunities," Emanuel said in a statement.
"I want to make Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the world," the mayor said.
According to the mayor, who is thus fulfilling one of his campaign promises, the Office of New Americans will ensure that each immigrant has the necessary resources to become a productive member of society.
Among the tasks of the office is the creation of partnerships with community organizations, educational institutions and the private sector.
The new agency will seek to establish centralized policies to ensure that recently arrived immigrants have access to important information about education, public safety, health and municipal services.
The office will foster better coordination between municipal government and community organizations to increase access to existing programs on the municipal, state and federal levels.
Also, it will facilitate the establishment of businesses owned by immigrant businessmen and entrepreneurs.
In addition, it will foster participation by immigrant parents in activities of the Chicago Public Schools, whose 400,000-strong student body is roughly 40 percent Hispanic.
One model to follow, according to the mayor's office, is the Logan Square Neighborhood Associations' Parent-Mentor program, which operates in a mainly Puerto Rican area.
To help immigrants, it will also expand free English instruction at community colleges and other adult education centers.
The office, whose director has not yet been appointed, will also promote the acquisition of U.S. citizenship by eligible immigrants.
The project will be coordinated with community organizations, federal agencies and the Illinois state government, which has had a similar office for several years and two welcome centers for immigrants in the Chicago suburbs.
In addition, the new mayor confirmed his support for the Dream Act of Illinois, which would allow private funding to be provided for undocumented students so they can attend college.
In the initial report on Emanuel's priorities upon assuming office in May, it was established that the cost of pursuing higher education is the main reason why many people do not have access to universities in the United States.
Emanuel said that he will issue a call to businessmen and individuals to participate in the establishment of a financial support fund for undocumented students.
Currently in force in Chicago is an executive order issued by the former mayor, Richard M. Daley, prohibiting the police from cooperating with and acting as immigration agents.
Emanuel ratified the city's designation as a sanctuary for the more than 250,000 undocumented immigrants who live in the area, most of them of Mexican origin.