Mobilizing Immigrant Communities in Chicago to Vote

May 20, 2015

The Youth Civic Leadership Academy (YCLA) unites recent Chicago-area college graduates, both immigrant and native-born, to learn about the democratic process and how to mobilize their communities in local and national election cycles.

One of YCLA’s flagship programs is the New Americans Democracy Project. During the 2014 midterm election cycle, with support from the Voqal Fund, twenty-two YCLA “democracy fellows” worked with 200 volunteers to educate 150,000 immigrants on how democracy works in the United States. They successfully registered more than 27,000 immigrant-citizens to vote.

Idalia Cervantes served as one of YCLA’s fellows. She has undocumented parents and siblings. Her personal experiences motivated Idalia to participate in YCLA: “When I turned 18 years old, I was the only person that could vote in my family, and now we’re here five years later and the immigration system has not been fixed and this needs to change. We need immigration reform that gives a path to citizenship so that my parents can vote.”

Illinois is home to nearly 777,000 children of immigrants. YCLA was established to unite this diverse community and feed their unprecedented hunger for civic engagement. YCLA believes today’s immigrant youth are poised to create meaningful change within their communities by securing necessary policy reform through the ballot box.