Latinos United for Change (Latinos Unidos para Cambio) is a grassroots community organization in the Illinois rural heartland seeking to bring about progressive, people centered change. The mission of the organization is to empower Latinos and new immigrants to become full partners in the local, state and national dialogue on justice issues that affect their future. Resulting from a process of issue identification, direct action and reflection the current organizing issues include: comprehensive immigration reform, passage of a Illinois “Dream Act”, protecting undocumented worker rights, and stopping the pipeline from expulsion to prison for school age Latinos.
The group began formal organization building in the summer of 2008 with urban and rural Latinos from varying backgrounds including students, clergy, educators and workers coming together concerned with issues facing the Latino/immigrant community. The initial organizing effort was sparked from a series of grassroots public mobilizations on May 1st 2006 and 2007 with hundreds of Latinos from all walks of life rallying for immigration reform in downtown Bloomington, IL. The core group of leaders of these mobilizations became the nucleus of LUC. LUC is a member organization of Illinois People’s Action, a statewide community organization.
In a matter of a few years the group has grown to become the most significant rural/small community Latino grassroots organization in Illinois with a membership approaching 200 leaders. In March 2011 LUC organized the first “Brown and Black coalition” city council and school board candidate public forum in the history of Bloomington and Normal, IL (twin cities). This forum challenged candidates for their opinions on oppressive immigration enforcement on the municipal level and keeping Latino students in school. This was the only such Latino/immigration focused forum in rural Illinois. Other important organizing and issue accomplishments include:
• Raising their own grassroots funds for charter buses for immigrant families to attend comprehensive immigration reform rallies in Washington, D.C.
• Direct actions resulting in thousands of dollars in returned wages to immigrant hotel housekeepers whose labor had been stolen by unscrupulous contractors.
• Formal leadership training and Democracy School events for nearly one hundred Latinos and immigrant leaders.
• Three face-to-face meetings in 2010 with then “blue-dog” Democratic U.S. House representative Debbie Halvorson (IL-11) on comprehensive immigration reform.
• LUC student leaders get Illinois State University President Al Bowman to endorse the IL Dream Act April 2011