After celebrating recent immigration reform advocates warn about fraud

pieChart_jpg (1)By Rachel White

President Barack Obama’s executive action to remove the threat of deportation from about 5 million undocumented immigrants was greeted with celebration by immigrant communities across the country and in Chicago. But now immigration advocates are worried about something else: fraud.

Immigrant advocates are concerned that undocumented immigrants eager to take advantage of Obama’s new policy will fall prey to scam artists who are looking for easy targets. In Hispanic neighborhoods such individuals offer their services as “notarios,” people who are authorized to perform some legal functions, including drawing up contracts or certifying contracts, deeds or other documents.

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West Side transition home helps recently released female inmates to re-enter society

Outside of the Grace House on the West Side of Chicago which houses recently released women from prison in order to help them re-build their lives.
Outside of the Grace House on the West Side of Chicago which houses recently released women from prison in order to help them re-build their lives.

By J’nelle Agee

Each year hundreds of women are released from the Illinois Department of Corrections system and are faced with the decision of whether they want to change their life or continue their personal downward spiral.

The Grace House, a transitional home on the West Side, has programs to help with self-growth and equip these women with life-skills to re-enter society.

The Grace House opened in 1994 under the umbrella of St. Leonard’s Ministries, an Episcopal organization that provides residential, case management and employment services for those recently released from prison. The ministry also has an interim housing facility for men. It provides residents of both houses with classes through the St. Leonard’s Alternative High School program, and pre-employment training through the Michael Barlow Educational Center.

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The road ahead: How Bruce Rauner might be able to work with the General Assembly

By Eric Cortellessa 

Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner unveils his transition team and discusses his plan to work with Democratic leadership in the General Assembly.
Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner unveils his transition team and discusses his plan to work with Democratic leadership in the General Assembly.

Republican Gov.-elect Bruce Rauner is vowing to make Illinois the most compassionate and competitive state in America. He ran his campaign based on restoring the health of the state’s fiscal house and improving its economy. But he hasn’t fleshed out any actual plan for how to accomplish his goals, according to many analysts who are watching his moves closely.

“So far we haven’t seen much out of Rauner as to what policies he is going to push for once he gets in office,” said Dick Simpson, professor of political science at University of Illinois Chicago and a former Chicago alderman.

With Rauner’s inauguration approaching, many political experts are wondering what course of action he will pursue once he takes office.

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Israel tourism slows down amidst escalating turmoil

By Eric Cortellessa

Tourists visit the Kotel, or the Western Wall, in Jerusalem.
Tourists visit the Kotel, or the Western Wall, in Jerusalem. Photo by Eric Cortellessa.
Israel's tourism rates have taken a sudden drop amidst turmoil.
Israel’s tourism rates have taken a sudden drop amidst turmoil.

Travel to the Middle East is not for the faint hearted and hasn’t been for a long time. But the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians has escalated in the last two weeks with a series of sporadic acts of violence, and that is causing some Midwesterners to reassess their travel plans to Israel.

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Chicagoans stage peaceful sit-in following Ferguson announcement

By Megan K. Rauch

Demonstrators camped outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office Tuesday to protest urban violence and racial discrimination.
Demonstrators camped outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office Tuesday to protest urban violence and racial discrimination.

More than 100 people gathered outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s fifth-floor office at City Hall Tuesday for a sit-in to address urban violence, police brutality and the lack of economic opportunity for blacks in Chicago.

The protest follows the announcement Monday that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will not face criminal indictment for fatally shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old.

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New recycling campaign encourages Chicagoans to put cartons in blue carts

By Alexandria Johnson

More than 360,000 new Chicago households received blue recycling carts for the first time last year. The city had a successful expansion of its recycling program, but some residents still do not know what can and cannot go in the carts.
More than 360,000 new Chicago households received blue recycling carts for the first time last year. The city had a successful expansion of its recycling program, but some residents still do not know what can and cannot go in the carts.

After expanding its blue-cart recycling program to about 560,000 total homes last year, the city of Chicago has greatly improved its once lackluster recycling program. Last year, the city collected more than 85,000 tons of recycling and is on track to collect more than 100,000 tons of recyclables in 2014.

Yet some residents remain confused about what exactly should go into the blue carts, specifically whether they can recycle cartons that contained milk, juice and other foods and beverages. In order to change the misconception that cartons cannot be recycled, the city launched a new advertising campaign this week in conjunction with the Carton Council, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping cartons out of landfills.

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Congregation Or Chadash welcomes the gay community

By Tanni Deb

Congregation Or Chadash was founded in 1976 as a response to the discrimination that gay and lesbian Jews experienced in many synagogues.
Congregation Or Chadash was founded in 1976 as a response to the discrimination that gay and lesbian Jews experienced in many synagogues.

Chicago resident Sara Fischer was raised as a Christian, but she never felt quite at home at her church. In addition to finding some Christian beliefs hard to swallow, she felt unwelcome because she is lesbian. In 2004, she discovered Congregation Or Chadash, a synagogue that embraces gay and lesbian members. The experience was so profound she converted to Judaism.

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Chicago works to close the breast cancer race gap

By Courtney Dillard

Attendees listen to the findings of the study at last week's Beyond October event at the Chicago Urban League.
Attendees listen to the findings of the study at last week’s Beyond October event at the Chicago Urban League.

The mortality gap in breast cancer between black women and white women in Chicago has decreased for the first time in 20 years. Up until 2007 it increased every year.

Now, a new study shows the gap has narrowed significantly. In 2007 black women in Chicago were dying of breast cancer at a rate 62 percent greater than white women. That disparity dropped suddenly to 40 percent between 2008 and 2010, which translates to 25 black women’s lives saved.

“We’ve saved 25 women, 25 mothers and 25 friends,” said Teena Francois-Blue, associate director of community initiative for the Metropolitan Chicago Breast Cancer Task Force.

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Immigration reform further divides President Obama and Congress

By Rachel White

The majority of Latinos still vote Democratically, however there has been a significant decrease in Latino Democratic voters since 2010.
The majority of Latinos still vote Democratically, however there has been a significant decrease in Latino Democratic voters since 2010.

President Barack Obama and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) agree on one thing: No legislation will be passed by 2016 without bipartisan compromise.

But on Wednesday, just one day after the midterm elections that gave Senate control to the GOP come January, President Obama furthered the divide between Republicans and Democrats in Washington by renewing the vow he made in September to reform immigration policy by the end of the year, by executive action if necessary.

Obama said in a news conference Wednesday he is still committed to working toward making life better for undocumented immigrants by decreasing deportations, granting work permits and improving border security.

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Quinn concedes to Rauner, hopes to raise minimum wage by end of term

By Eric Cortellessa

Gov. Pat Quinn concedes to Bruce Rauner in the Illinois governor's race. "It's clear that we do not have enough votes to win the election," he said.
Gov. Pat Quinn concedes to Bruce Rauner in the Illinois governor’s race. “It’s clear that we do not have enough votes to win the election,” he said.

Gov. Pat Quinn conceded Wednesday afternoon to his Republican opponent Bruce Rauner, officially concluding the most expensive gubernatorial contest in Illinois history.

Trailing Rauner by more than 172,000 votes, with 99 percent of precincts reported, Quinn held a news conference on the 15th floor of the Thompson Center to throw in the towel.

“It’s clear that we do not have the votes to win the election,” he said, a day after vowing to stay in the race until all the votes are counted.

Quinn appointed Ryan Croke, his chief of staff, to lead the transition team to help the Rauner Administration.

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Following re-election, will Attorney General Lisa Madigan run for higher office?

By Alexandria Johnson

Attorney General Lisa Madigan was reelected to a fourth term on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of Citizens for Lisa Madigan.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan was re-elected to a fourth term on Tuesday.
Photo courtesy of Citizens for Lisa Madigan.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan easily won re-election to a fourth term Tuesday, and discussions started up again about her political future.

“I would encourage her to look at the Senate in two years when [Republican] Mark Kirk’s seat is up, and he’s vulnerable,” said Leonard Cahmann, a Madigan supporter from Fort Sheridan. “The Democrats should put up a strong candidate.”

Madigan won 59 percent of the vote, to Republican Paul Schmipf’s 38 percent. Libertarian Ben Koyl received 3 percent.

In her last two elections, Madigan, 48, also won a large majority, with about 65 percent in 2010 and 72 percent in 2006, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections.

“It shows that she’s an extremely popular state official,” said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and former 44th Ward alderman. “She won handily. There was never any doubt, so it positions her if she wants to run for governor in four years … or she could decide to run for Senate for Kirk’s seat.”

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Same-day voter turnout much higher than expected, officials say

Jim Allen, spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections explains vote processing from precincts with faulty cartridges and other issues at the Chicago Election Board Warehouse.
Jim Allen, spokesperson for the Chicago Board of Elections explains vote processing from precincts with faulty cartridges and other issues at the Chicago Election Board Warehouse.

By Elizabeth Atkinson

After an unprecedented night of late-night voting, officials at the Chicago Board of Elections said there was no way they could have predicted that the turnout for same-day voter registration would have been as high as it was Tuesday.

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