In keeping with its mission to empower new immigrants to fully participate in the community, CASL has been involved in advocacy activities since its early days, frequently engaged in advocacy rallies, visiting legislators, and also in education workshops on civic engagement topics.
CASL is one of the founding member organizations of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community (CBCAC), whose mission is to empower Chinese American communities in Greater Chicago through organizing, civic participation, education and coalition building. Over the course of 2008 to 2010, volunteers registered 2,690 new voters in Chinatown as part of the New American Democracy Project (NADP) under the umbrella of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Also as part of CBCAC, CASL continues to be actively engaged in advocating for resources for Chinatown. The current priority projects for Chinatown include building a more comprehensive new Chinatown Public Library, building a field house for Ping Tom Park that completes the City’s approved and funded plan, and improving safety in Chinatown.
CASL also continues to be active in advocating for funding resources not only for CASL but for other social service agencies. In the summer of 2009, the Illinois General Assembly threatened to severely reduce the funding to social service agencies in order to meet a balanced budget. CASL took the lead and convened several strategy sessions with other Chicago-area social service agencies that serve primarily Asian American clients. Michelle Sadller, then Chief of Staff for Governor Quinn and Grace Hou, Assistant Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services, attended these meetings and shared helpful insights. Since that time, CASL continues to be actively engaged in budget advocacy. The current focus is on shortening the reimbursement time frame for state contracts. Currently the State of Illinois routinely delays reimbursement to its social service providers by several months, which is a hardship on the daily operations and cash management for these agencies, including CASL.
From January through June of 2010, CASL was the lead agency in the Census 2010 outreach efforts to Chinatown and Bridgeport. Throughout a combination of door-to-door visits, presentations, events, mailings, and telephone calls, we were able to achieve a 14% increase in the mail return rate of Census forms compared to Census 2000 rates. CASL hopes that the more accurate count of the residents in the Chinatown and surrounding areas will inform the shaping of the future public policy agenda of CBCAC. In particular, these numbers would inform the 2011 redistricting efforts as CBCAC advocates with legislators to draw legislative district lines that are more representative of the demographics of the Chinatown and surrounding areas.