Crespo seeks to broaden state focus on Latinos beyond Chicago

As the first suburban Latino caucus co-chairman of the Illinois legislature, state Rep. Fred Crespo of Hoffman Estates knows he has his work cut out for him.

The Hoffman Estates Democrat, who was elected to the post last week, notes much of the caucus' focus in recent years has been "Chicago centric."

"As you know well, we have pockets in the suburbs that are very heavily Latino," Crespo, who is Puerto Rican, says, noting, "a lot of these issues - teenage pregnancies, immigration issues, high dropout rates among high school students - are prevalent here, too."

He says one of his main goals is to create awareness of that and make sure state programs and funding are adequately serving the populations they seek to help.

<h3 class="leadin">'Sanctuary state'

Anybody who has ever spent time with Crespo in the statehouse knows that he's soft-spoken and often asks a lot of questions to shape his opinion on various subjects. That measured approach has come into play in his new role in recent days with a bill that would make Illinois a sanctuary state.

The legislation, which is sponsored by Democratic state Rep. Chris Welch of suburban Westchester, would allow schools, health care facilities and places of worship to block access to law enforcement agencies "to investigate, detain, or arrest individuals for violation of federal immigration law," unless a court has issued a warrant. Schools would also be prohibited from asking about a student's immigration status.

The bill has more than 20 House sponsors, but Crespo isn't signing on at this point.

"I think we have to have a conversation and make sure what it means. If you talk to some of the suburban mayors and some other folks, they're trying to understand financially what impact it would have," he says.

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  Barrington Village President Karen Darch BOBCHWEDYK/

Mayors push agenda in Springfield

Suburban mayors, including Barrington Village President Karen Darch, appeared in Springfield this week to lobby for a legislative reform package they say will create more efficiencies in local government and ensure long-term viability for their towns. That includes consolidating municipal public safety pension funds and expanding home rule eligibility.

Darch, who's also president of the Illinois Municipal League, says she's hopeful that lawmakers will pass much of the mayors' agenda this session, even as the ongoing budget impasse has become the 800-pound gorilla in the room. "If you look at the number of bills that have already been put into this session, obviously legislators aren't just focused on the budget," Darch says.

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  Signs saying "Hate Has No Home Here" originated on the North Side of Chicago, and have expanded to Naperville and Arlington Heights. Marie Wilson/

'Hate has no Home' comes to Arlington Heights

Pom Rouse of Arlington Heights' Runners High 'N Tri shared that a GoFundMe page has been set up for a group supplying Hate Has No Home Here signs to residents of Arlington Heights.

"Arlington Heights is home to people of all ages, races, and religions," the page reads. "We speak different languages, have all kinds of families and identities, share varied interests, and abilities. What we have in common is that we find home here, where all are welcome."

While design and coordination services have been donated by members of our community, the group is trying to raise $2,000 for print and distribution. For more information,

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  Participants work together in one of the breakout groups of the third and final Illinois Humanities forum series on education funding Tuesday in South Elgin. Kerry Lester/

Happy to report

The third and final Illinois Humanities forum that I moderated this week - held at South Elgin High School Tuesday - saw great turnout and engagement from residents in the area, including Elgin Community College students, former Elgin Area Unit District 46 board members and representatives of community groups like the Girl Scouts of America and the YWCA. This week's focus was on the impact of poverty on education, with the spotlight on ways to fix Illinois' broken school-funding system.

<h3 class="leadin">Different worlds

I was struck with a sense of irony as I fielded a call from a source about New Trier High School's controversial upcoming civil rights seminar as I was walking into the South Elgin forum. Race and community relations is a part of everyday life for U-46, the state's second-largest school district with a student makeup that is 52 percent Hispanic, 6 percent black, 8 percent Asian and 28 percent white, according to state report cards, New Trier, by contrast, has a student population of 85 percent white students, 1 percent black students, 4 percent Asian students and 7 percent Hispanic students. For the Feb. 28 seminar, New Trier students are required to attend one keynote speech and another class on civil rights. Topics include "Emotional Intelligence in Race Relations," "21st Century Voter Suppression" and "Media Literacy and How People of Color are Depicted in Movies, Sports and Advertising."

<h3 class="leadin">'Angel gown' workshop

Wheeling-based nonprofit Rest in His Arms is holding a workshop next Saturday to help sewing enthusiasts use their talents to turn wedding gowns, bridesmaids dresses and First Communion gowns into burial garments for abandoned newborns. The so-called "angel gowns" are provided free to grieving families when a newborn does not make it home from the hospital, as well as for those who have been abandoned. The workshop will begin at 10 a.m. at St. Mary Parish, 10 N. Buffalo Grove Road in Buffalo Grove and lasts until 3 p.m. For more information, visit

<h3 class="leadin">30 days of Trump

Next Thursday at 7 p.m. I'm delighted to get to share the stage with former Daily Herald managing editor Madeleine Doubek, a longtime mentor and friend. The two of us, along with Politico's Natasha Korecki and WBEZ's Michael Puente will be on a High School District 214 panel focusing on the first 30 days of Donald Trump's presidency. The event's free, and will be held at the Forest View Educational Center, 2121 S. Goebbert Road, in Arlington Heights.

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