Chicago – At 29, Adolfo Hernandez is very proud of his Mexican roots and about the mission given him by Mayor Rahm Emanuel in the Office of New Americans to make Chicago into the city in the world that most welcomes immigrants.
To fulfill that task he will draw on his experience as the son of immigrants, raised and educated in Chicago's Little Village/La Villita neighborhood, and his eight years working on community initiatives related to the health and quality of life needs of minorities.
"I've already been on the other side of the table, I know very well what my parents suffered and had to overcome upon arriving in Chicago in the (19)70s without any kind of help, and I'm familiar with the barriers to be overcome," said Hernandez in an interview with Efe.
Undocumented and with few resources, "my parents struggled a great deal to become strong in their new situation," he added.
"I'm a product of this city's public education (system), bilingual by choice and with support from my parents' roots in (the Mexican states of) Jalisco and Durango, and very proud of my double nationality," he said.
"I feel very much at home in La Villita or on a corn and beans farm in the mountains of Jalisco, where they sent me to visit when I was little, to the home of my paternal grandfather," he added.
Hernandez said that the first thing he did upon being appointed by Emanuel was communicate the news to his parents and recall their beginnings as immigrants, when they used an interpreter at the bank, the doctor or restaurants because they did not speak English.
"As a boy, I learned to respect and understand my parents' story, which is the same as that of thousands of immigrants who come to this city seeking a better future and who I can now help," he added.
Upon announcing this week the fulfillment of one of his campaign promises, the creation of an office to deal with the problems of immigrants, Emanuel said that "Chicago is a global economic hub because of generations of immigrants who used their new freedoms and opportunities to make this city stronger and more vibrant."
With the creation of this office, Chicago will become "the most immigrant-friendly city in the world," the mayor vowed.
Hernandez said that Chicago and surrounding Cook County are a sanctuary for immigrants and the officials there are forbidden to ask the immigration status of people who seek help or advice.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights welcomed the creation of the office and praised the choice of Hernandez to lead it.
The state of Illinois has had a similar office since 2004 which is currently headed by Denise Martinez, a former political advisor to Gov. Pat Quinn.