A few dozen newly naturalized American citizens living in Chicago voted Tuesday afternoon for the first time in a U.S. election, casting ballots during the early voting period for the March 15 Illinois primary.
Representatives from the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) assisted the new Americans of Polish, Irish and Mexican descent in the naturalization and voter registration process.
ICIRR representatives led the group on a march in downtown Chicago that started at the Dirksen Federal Building, where the long-term immigrants were naturalized as new American citizens. Afterward, the group headed to the Chicago Board of Elections. There, the new Americans registered to vote and voted early.
"Fortunately, we have early voting and grace period registration to facilitate people who are just getting naturalized now a few days before the primary to be able to still have the opportunity to vote," said ICIRR's Fred Tsao. "It used to be that if you missed the voter registration deadline four weeks before the election, you were out of luck."
Tsao said important issues are at stake for immigrants in the 2016 elections.
"There's a lot of really hateful rhetoric with respect to immigrants being voiced by candidates out there," he explained. "We want to show that immigrants are patriotic, contributing and eager to participate in the political process and to integrate into society."
Tsao said ICIRR plans to resume voter registration efforts -- including those geared toward new Americans -- after next Tuesday's Illinois primary in the lead up to the November general election.
Regarding more immediate next steps, ICIRR members and other immigrant advocates plan to make an appearance at Friday's rally to protest Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's planned campaign event at the UIC Pavilion. Trump is slated to give a speech at 6 p.m.
ICIRR is also set to respond to GOP presidential contender Ted Cruz's appearance Friday in Chicago at the Governor's Dinner, a "high dollar fundraiser" hosted by the Illinois Republican Party at the Palmer House Hilton.
Check back with Progress Illinois for our coverage of Friday's anti-Trump rally, an event that has garnered thousands of RSVP's thus far on Facebook.
Image: Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights