PI Original Adam Doster Friday May 21st, 2010, 3:39pm

Latinos’ Future Is Illinois’ Future (VIDEO)

At a meeting in Chicago this morning, a group of Latino leaders told Gov. Pat Quinn that Illinois’ fastest growing population deserves more state investment.

To the delight of immigrant advocates statewide, the Illinois General Assembly did not attempt to craft a restrictive immigration bill this session like the controversial legislation that passed in Arizona. Still, Latino leaders across the Land of Lincoln feel state government has not paid sufficient attention to their community’s needs.

Their frustration is not without justification, as a new report from the Latino Policy Forum (LPF) demonstrates. In the past decade, Illinois’ Latino population grew by 30 percent and accounted for 90 percent of the state’s total population growth. Lawmakers in Springfield, however, have not made a proportional investment in that growing community.

For starters, when LPF evaluated the hiring patterns of 10 state agencies covering over 90 percent of the state’s workforce, they found that Latinos make up just 4.4 percent of the state workforce, compared to 14.3 percent statewide. (This trend is reflected in local hiring, as well.) Indeed, the organization found that only 218 of 3,681 hires last year were Latino. Meanwhile, Latinos have long claimed that they aren’t routinely considered for appointments to state boards and commissions, a complaint leaders reiterated today. “Critical decisions are being made at the state level without sufficient Latino representation,” said LPF executive director Sylvia Puente.

State spending for Latino community organizations isn’t keeping pace with population growth, either. In FY 2010, the report found that only 85 Latino organizations received grants from the state, down from 120 the year prior. Total spending also dropped by $6 million, a 13 percent cut. And like all social service providers across the state, these groups are now owed millions in back payments.

Just three weeks after Illinois’ own Rep. Luis Gutierrez delivered a laundry list of complaints about the governor’s outreach to Latinos, Gov. Quinn — along with Chief of Staff Jerry Stermer, Senior Adivser Billy Ocasio, and Office of New Americans Director Denise Martinez — took a major step to amend those concerns this morning by meeting with top LPF officials in Chicago. At a press briefing following the meeting, Puente told reporters that the governor was sympathetic to their message and will work to continue the dialogue with the organizations involved moving forward. Watch:

Working closely with the Latino Caucus, Puente said her organization has been feverishly wrangling lawmakers to discuss these issues the past month in Springfield. Given the influence Latino voters have had in key legislative races the past few cycles, lawmakers would be silly to ignore their research.

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