‘Know Your Rights’ Forum this Saturday for Berwyn Immigrant Community

By Jocelyn Cano

President-elect Donald Trump’s often harsh rhetoric on immigration has some Berwyn leaders worried, and they’re taking action to make sure residents are protected.

They’ve put together a “Know Your Rights” forum for Berwyn residents this Saturday, Dec. 17 from 9:30 a.m.­­­–1 p.m. at Sokol Tabor Hall at 1602 Clarence Ave.

Elizabeth O. Jiménez, the first Latina to serve on the Board of Education for Berwyn’s South School District 100, and Cynthia Gutierrez, who is running for Berwyn city treasurer, have been the main force behind making this event happen.

“As a teacher and a school board member I feel obligated to ease the community and our student’s anxiety,” Jiménez said, “[Cynthia and I] started going to different workshops that other communities similar to ours were doing in reference to immigration rights and DACA students. We thought that we needed to respond to our community [and] the fears of our community.”

The “Know Your Rights” Forum will cover topics relating to issues facing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), as well as other legal matters regarding immigration, bullying and how to get civically engaged in Berwyn.

“With this forum we hope to give our community the facts and the tools that will help them make informed decisions or simply help them make a plan,” Jiménez said.

The forum will also host speakers such as Illinois 24th District Representative Elizabeth Hernandez and students who have gone through the DACA process. Organizations such as the Hispanic Lawyer Association of Illinois, and the Chicago Hispanic Community for Peace will also be in attendance providing attendees with expert advice and resources.

“I applaud the efforts of the different organizations that are coming together and the different media that is sharing this information so that it can get to the right hands, so that it can get to the students, the families, the communities because in the end that’s what it’s about,” Gutierrez said. “It’s feeling that safety and knowing that there is something being done,”

Gutierrez and Jiménez said that in a community that identifies as 59 percent Hispanic or Latino, according to Berwyn’s 2010 census, there has been a lack of safe spaces post-election. Gutierrez and Jiménez have seen the fear and anxiety in their students, families, and colleagues, but noticed that no one was doing anything to calm these fears or answer the questions left unanswered

“Now that more and more people are hearing about this, people are reaching out and wanting to be together” Gutierrez said, “It’s been great to see that because we were grasping for [resources] and we see that …once we have this event its going to open even more people’s eyes. Due to the population in Berwyn is why we reached out to the Mexican consulate, but we are very aware that DACA and Dreamers are not only the Latino community, but the event will be in English and in Spanish.”

Gutierrez and Jiménez hope that this event will lead to a series of more events and movements to help Berwyn. They have a long-term goal and it is to make a positive impact in their community.

“This is only a beginning for us,” Jiménez said, “At least that’s what we’re thinking. We would like to see more organizations supporting the community in different areas. It could be immigration, education, civic engagement, different areas that resident’s might want to do. But like I said there aren’t to many resources in Berwyn, so that would be our goal, to continue programs like this that so we can educate families and communities.”

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