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Aug 20th
Home Sections Politics Asian Americans Launch Caucus in Chicago
Asian Americans Launch Caucus in Chicago PDF Print E-mail
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Sections - Politics
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 04:32


(© 2013 Fil Am Extra Exchange)


C HICAGO (FAXX/jGLi) – E Pluribus Unum. This Latin phrase for “Out of Many, One” that used to adorn the great seal of the United States until replaced by “In God We Trust” as an official motto might as well apply to the Asian-American Caucus in Chicago, Illinois. Alderman Ameya Pawar of the 47th Ward of Chicago is the caucus' prime mover.

Last June 26, Mr. Pawar, the only Asian-American member of the Chicago City Council composed of 50 aldermen and alderwomen, announced the birth of Asian-American Caucus that “will build a coalition of Chicago legislators to advocate on behalf of Asian communities, businesses, and health and human service organizations in Chicago.”

The AAC was actually preceded by the first Asian-American Legislative Caucus (AALC) in Illinois formed last year (July, 2012) composed of nine of the the 117-member 98th General Assembly in Springfield although it has yet to elect an Asian-American legislator. The closest legislator, who happened to be a member of the AALC is just an Asian American by affinity in Latino (Puerto Rican) Rep. Fred Crespo (D-44th) of Streamwood, who is married to a Filipino American, Dorothy Acacio Luz, a native of Baguio City in the Philippines. AALC is headed by State Rep. Louis I. Lang (D-16th), deputy majority leader of the Illinois General Assembly.

Alderman Pawar, an Indian American, said the vision of the AAC is to work with City departments and City Council to address issues facing Asian communities in the City of Chicago (e.g. language access, public health concerns such as Hepatitis B, business licensing and inspection challenges). It will partner with organizations, which work on advocacy, health, human services, education and business in Asian-American communities.

AAC will insure Asian-American communities and organizations to have on-going access to representatives and City departments working.

During the announcement of the formation of the AAC, Alderman Dick Mell (37th ward) said what makes Asian Americans exciting is that their parents’ emphasis for their children is on education. “They believe education is their way out to become even better. What brings us together is a lot more than what separates us.”




For his part, Alderman James Balcer (11th Ward) said, “My father was born in Chinatown. My work with (Asian Americans) goes back many years, among them with the Chinese, Vietnamese, Koreans and Filipinos. They all give their best to this country by working hard and thru their dedication, they create Chicago as a great community.”

Alderman Pawar said at the moment “we are active partner with (commission on human relations under Mona Noriega) on language bank. We can use this fund for 9-1-1 and to increase language access.”

Aside from Aldermen Pawar, Mell and Balcer, the other aldermen who joined the caucus’ launching were Pat O’Connor (40th), Marge Laurino (39th), Danny Solis (25th), Joe Moore (49th), Debra Silverstein (50th), Harry Osterman (48th), James Cappleman (46th) and Brendan Reilly (42nd). Their wards have big presence of Asian Americans.

Also on hand to support the caucus were Mona Noriega of the human relations and Mr. Fernandez of the New Americans office of the Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Pawar also said, “I want to thank all of you for working with my office and colleagues on Wednesday’s launch of the Asian-American Caucus! As the first Asian American elected to Chicago City Council, I am proud to be able to convene this group – that said, you have all been working to move issues in our community for decades.  Your leadership is greatly appreciated and we look forward to partnering with you. And personally, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from your experiences and work with you on issues in the coming months and years.




“In the last 24 hours, more aldermen joined the caucus – Aldermen Walter Burnett (27th), Bob Fioretti (2nd) and Will Burns (4th).

Pawar added, “In the coming months, the caucus will be working to advance the following issues: 

1.      Working with the Office of New Americans and other City Council caucuses to pass a language access ordinance.

2.      Identify funding to expand the City’s use of the language bank.

3.      Partner with the State of Illinois Health Care Exchange to address language access issues.

 “Thank you again. The caucus is excited to partner with you.”

Meanwhile, Tuyet Le, executive director of Advancing Justice – Chicago, said, “Advancing Justice—Chicago celebrates this news as a victory for Chicago’s Asian-American community and we applaud the announcement as a positive step towards improving the dialogue between our city’s elected leaders and the Asian American community.”

“We are extremely thankful for the leadership of Alderman Pawar in making this Chicago Asian-American Caucus a reality and we look forward to working with him on addressing the community’s most pressing issues,” said Dary Mien, executive director of Cambodian Association of Illinois, which is located in the 47th Ward.

The formation of the Chicago Asian-American Caucus is clear evidence of the increasing political significance of Asian-American voters in Chicago. Over the last decade, Chicago’s Asian-American community grew by more than 25,000 people, a 19% increase.

Last year, Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Chicago and its Pan-Asian Voter Empowerment (PAVE) coalition registered nearly 4,000 voters and made over 100,000 voter contacts. “This is an exciting moment for the Asian-American community, but it’s crucial that Asian Americans in Chicago continue to vote in order to guarantee that the Asian-American perspective is always considered by Chicago policy makers,” said Kathleen Fernicola, policy director of Advancing Justice—Chicago.

"We are so thrilled by today's announcement," AAAF-GC president Jae Choi Kim said. "Language access issues have historically been a struggle for many Asians living in Chicago. Collaborations like this are a critical first step to tackling that problem."

“By bringing these issues to the fore, the Asian-American Caucus has the potential to revolutionize the way city services are communicated and delivered to these populations. AAAF-GC fully supports this vision and looks forward to an engaging conversation and ongoing effort to improve delivery of government services.”

There are currently eight Chicago wards that are over 10% Asian American and five wards that are over 15% Asian American. The 50th Ward, which is represented by Alderman Debra Silverstein and includes much of the well-known South-Asian community along Devon Avenue, is currently over 20% Asian American. The 11th Ward, which is represented by Alderman James Balcer and includes a large part of the greater Chinatown community, is currently over 30% Asian American.

During the Chicago ward redistricting process in 2011 and early 2012, Advancing Justice-Chicago worked with its PAVE partners to advocate for a ward map that respected well-known Asian-American neighborhoods by placing them within in single wards. (


Joseph G. Lariosa
Fil Am Extra Exchange
Journal Group Link International
P. O. Box 30110
Chicago, IL 60630
Tel. 312.772.5454
Telefax 312.428.5714

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