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Chicago to host national Latino summit

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Chicago will host a national Latino summit this month – a nod to the leadership role lllinois has taken on immigration issues, and an opportunity for local community leaders to influence the national Latino agenda, host committee members said Wednesday.

The sixth annual National Latino Congreso [2] takes place May 17 to 19 at the Arturo Velasquez Institute, 2800 S. Western, with a youth convention planned for May 16.

“The Congreso’s timing just days before NATO – also being held in Chicago for the first time – presents a unique opportunity to explore transnational issues related to immigration and security from both a Latino and a Midwestern perspective,” according to a statement from local hosts.

The Latino political and policy convention will focus on economic justice, immigration policy, and electoral and civic engagement, said Oscar Chacon, executive director of the National Association of Latin American and Caribbean Communities [3], one of seven national organizations convening the event.

It’s structured around workshops and panels to maximize dialogue among participants, he said.  First held in 2006, previous Congresos have been held in California and Texas.

One theme that emerged at a press conference at Casa Michoacan was holding politicians accountable after they are elected.

“Latinos are more and more important in elections, but time and time again, our issues and concerns are not addressed after the election is over,” Chacon said.  “We can no longer accept lip service on our issues.”

“We know how to do the work – we are the people who knock on the doors and get people elected,” said  Jesse Rios, executive director of the Chicago Metro Labor Council for Latin American Advancement.  “We have to follow up and knock on the doors of the congressmen and senators and ask what happened to the concerns we gave you.”

Chacon noted that the problem is not unique to Latinos:  “By and large, elected officials are not accountable to the people of the U.S.,” he said.  “The people they hear from day in and day out are the corporate lobbyists.

“When money calls the shots and the people don’t, that’s a huge problem, and we need to tackle it,” he said.