On November 22nd, over 160 students, activists, community leaders and participants in the USMF’s 1000 Dreamers-1000 Leaders and Dreamers Without Borders Programs gathered at the Arturo Velasquez Institute of the Richard J. Daley College for the 1000 Dreamers-1000 Leaders Chicago Reception. The 1000 Dreamers-1000 Leaders Program is a binational mentorship and professional development program for college-aged Dreamers focused on helping them attain their full professional potential. The event provided an opportunity for participants in the program to connect with their peers and other attendees as well as a chance to present the program to the audience and invite them to join this growing network. The reception also featured a screening of the new USMF supported documentary “Beyond Borders,” as well as a panel discussion and speakers on the key issues impacting the Dreamer community, especially in light of the election.
Dr. Jose Aybar, President of the Richard J. Daley College welcomed the attendees to the Arturo Velasquez Institute. In his remarks, he spoke of the college’s role as a Hispanic serving institution and the importance of the school remaining a welcoming place for all its students. Dr. Aybar also encouraged the attendees to pursue their educational aspirations, saying “education is the one thing no one can take away from you. It prepares you for your future.”
Dr. Aybar welcomes attendees
Rebeca Vargas, President and CEO of the USMF thanked the event partners and welcomed attendees to the event, in particular the participants in the USMF’s programs. She spoke of the USMF’s support for the Dreamer community through programs such as 1000 Dreamers-1000 Leaders and the Dreamers Without Borders Program. Rebeca also highlighted the importance of the USMF’s work to strengthen binational understanding and cooperation, noting that “today, more than ever, we need to continue building bridges between our two countries.” Horacio Ramirez, of Juntos Podemos, also spoke at the event, explaining his organization’s support for the Mexican heritage community in the US through funding for programs like 1000 Dreamers-1000 Leaders.
Rebeca Vargas speaks at the event
Subsequently, the attendees enjoyed a screening of “Beyond Borders,” a powerful new documentary, directed by Micah Fink, and produced by The Independent Production Fund (IPF), Editorial Clio and Fábrica de Cine, which presents an intimate look at the struggles, contributions and aspirations of undocumented Mexican-Americans and their families in the US.
Over 160 people attended the reception
After the screening, Chef Carlos Gaytan, Executive Chef and Owner of Mexique Chicago shared his story of rising from a job as a dishwasher as a young immigrant in Chicago to become the owner of a highly successful restaurant and the first Latino to earn a Michelin star. “We often set up barriers for ourselves, but there are opportunities here. We need to think about what this country can offer us, but also what we can offer to this country. I never imagined my success, I just worked hard for my family.”
Chef Gaytan speaks at the event
After Chef Gaytan’s inspirational words, the event continued with a panel discussion featuring Marcelino Miranda, Head of the Office of Protection at the Consulate of Mexico in Chicago, Jesse Ruiz, President of the Chicago Park Board of Commissioners, Professor Xóchitl Bada, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Andrea Aguilera, a Dreamer student and activist and a participant in the Dreamers Without Borders Program, moderated by Rebeca Vargas. The discussion focused largely on the path forward for the Dreamer and undocumented community, given the uncertainty generated by the election. Marcelino Miranda presented the 11 actions the Mexican government is taking to protect its citizens in the US, including expanding consular services, focusing on labor rights and coordinating with partner organizations and exhorted the community to not return to the shadows but rather stand proud. Jesee Ruiz noted that Chicago is a sanctuary city, committed to protecting all its residents and adding that “I am only here because of the efforts of an undocumented immigrant, my father.” Professor Bada shared her colleagues and her efforts to declare UIC a sanctuary campus, saying “we need to defend those who are undocumented.”
The panel discussion also touched on the importance of education and professional development for the Dreamer community. Professor Bada highlighted UIC’s efforts to attract and support more Latinos and immigrants in STEM fields. Adrea Aguilar spoke of her activism on the Illinois Student Access Bill, which would provide equitable access to financial aid to undocumented students. The panel also included a question and answer session for members of the audience.
Panelists at the event
Following the panel, attendees enjoyed a networking reception, allowing them to connect with one another, meet the panelists and discuss questions with them and learn more about the 1000 Dreamers-1000 Leaders Program.
The USMF is proud of its work to support the Dreamer community through programs such as 1000 Dreamers-1000 Leaders and to strengthen understanding and cooperation between Mexico and the United States, a mission that is today more important than ever.