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New Americans

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Mayor Emanuel has been committed to making Chicago the most immigrant-friendly city in the nation by improving access to services, expanding new and existing immigrant businesses, and welcoming and celebrating Chicago’s diverse immigrant communities. Throughout its history, Chicago has benefited from the immeasurable cultural and economic contributions of its immigrant populations, and from the rich fabric of distinct and vibrant neighborhoods they have helped to create. Over the past eight years, Chicago has built momentum and established itself as a place where all are welcome to call home. 

  1. During his first year in office, Mayor Emanuel established the Office of New Americans (ONA) to improve services for Chicago’s 560,000 foreign-born residents. The office serves global immigrant communities through enhanced collaboration with community organizations, academic institutions, and the private sector. Through the creation of the ONA, the City has affirmed and strengthened its support for immigrant communities, entrepreneurs, and businesses.

  2. In 2016, Mayor Emanuel allocated $1.3 million toward the City of Chicago’s first-ever Legal Protection Fund. Through the fund, nine immigrant-serving organizations across the City receive funding to provide free legal services to immigrants and refugees. Since the program was established, 60,000 immigrants and refugees have been served through “Know Your Rights” workshops, legal screenings with attorneys, and immigration clinics hosted across the City of Chicago.  

  3. In January 2017, Mayor Rahm Emanuel convened the Chicago is With You Task Force, a collaborative community outreach effort aimed at connecting immigrant and refugee communities to mental health and legal services, as well as providing diversity training for employers and educational institutions.

  4. In 2016, Mayor Emanuel invested $1 million to build the City of Chicago’s municipal identification program and the Chicago CityKey in 2018. The Chicago CityKey is a government-issued ID card that reduces barriers to those who have difficulty accessing government-issued identification and includes discounts and other benefits for all of Chicago’s 2.7 million residents. In addition to serving as a valid government-issued ID, residents can use their CityKey as a Ventra card, library card, and can get discounts on select prescription medication. In its first year, more than 32,000 residents representing all 50 wards have accessed their CityKey.  

  5. In September 2012, City Council approved Mayor Emanuel’s Welcoming City Ordinance, which expanded the City’s policy banning agencies and police officers from inquiring into the immigration status of crime victims, witnesses, or anyone seeking City services. The ordinance ensures that undocumented Chicagoans will only be detained if they are wanted on a criminal warrant by local or federal authorities or if they have been convicted of a serious crime and remain in the United States illegally. 

  6. In June 2012, Mayor Emanuel hosted the first-ever citizenship swearing-in ceremony in Chicago’s City Council Chambers, during which 25 Chicagoans become naturalized citizens. Since then, Mayor Emanuel has hosted ten naturalization ceremonies at City Council Chambers, Harold Washington Library and the Chicago Cultural Center.   

Read more about the New Americans progress made over the last eight years.