Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday unveiled a ground-breaking plan aimed at integrating immigrants into the mainstream of Chicago's economy and growing their small businesses to create up to 50,000 jobs.
"You cannot be pro-small business and be anti-immigrant. It's inconsistent," the mayor told a news conference at Erie Neighborhood House, 1347 West Erie.
"This is in our self-interest as a city. No other city has put together as comprehensive a plan about welcoming immigrants to the city."
Two months after taking office, Emanuel created an Office of New Americans charged with making Chicago the nation's "most immigrant-friendly" city.
He then asked a 50-member advisory committee with representatives from the business, academic, civic and philanthropic communities to identify challenges confronted by immigrants and devise a three-year plan to confront those issues.
The product of their work was unveiled Tuesday: 27 initiatives aimed at educating immigrants and their children, growing their businesses and creating a market for their products.
Proposals range from creating a "small business incubator" and increasing exports from immigrant-owned businesses to establishing a "chamber university" to train leaders of local chambers of commerce.
The report talks about creating "pop-up" city services in immigrant neighborhoods, promoting tourism in immigrant neighorhoods and about expanding GED and English as a Second Language programs.
It also recommends increasing access to college savings programs, expanding parent mentoring, creating more "parent engagement centers" and about passing a "language access policy" that guarantees access to critical services and information "in the most common languages spoken" in Chicago.
The report even talks about creating "welcome stations" where immigrants can access targeted resources and health screenings and about providing "cultural sensitivity training" to city employees.
Under questioning, Emanuel refused to put a price tag on the increased bureaucracy. He simply urged reporters to consider "how much would cost if you don't do this."