With President Obama’s executive order protecting certain children of illegal immigrants from deportation, and Republicans countering that the announcement is a political ploy, immigration has wedged its way into the 2012 election cycle. And with it has come some misleading shorthand; that immigrants vote Democratic and that immigrants means Latinos. The immigrant landscape is far more nuanced than that, and so is their politics.

Archived documents from first-wave Lithuanian immigrants that are currently on display at the Lithuanian Research and Studies Center in Chicago. (Photo by Jen Lazuta)

Among what we discovered are stories of:

  • traditionally Democratic strongholds veering away from supporting President Obama – in the Indian community that has become wealthier and a natural reservoir for political fundraising; among Poles who face a quandary between an opportunity for those here illegally and core religious values; for Russian Jewish immigrants who have a visceral fear of big government and any specter of socialism; and in a surprisingly robust Bulgarian community that hasn’t yet developed an investment in American politics;
  • a Pakistani community that is mobilizing for upcoming elections but behind a charismatic political figure back home;
  • some less publicized factors for low voter participation among Chicago’s Latinos;
  • some voting complications arising from dual citizenship within the Lithuanian community;
  • benefits of US citizenship for Arab immigrants and refugees that go well beyond voting;
  • movement in the Filipino community toward concrete political involvement;
  • how a state legislative issue has galvanized the Korean community; and
  • how African immigrants, from multiple nations, are turning to community organizations to give voice to their issues here and back home.

Twelve ethnic media outlets collaborated on the project. They are Africa Today, Al Moustaqbal Future newspaper (Arab), Bulgaria Weekly, Draugas (Lithuanian), Extra (Hispanic), India Tribune, InformacjeUSA.com (Polish), Korea Daily News, Pinoy Newsmagazine (Filipino), Reflejos (Hispanic), Reklama (Russian), and Urdu Times (Pakistani).

Read the stories here:

Indian Americans shift party allegiance and take their money with them By Susan Du and Julianna Nunez for India Tribune [Read the India Tribune version here.]

As Indian Americans are becoming one of the nation’s wealthiest immigrant groups, many within the community are shifting party alliance from the Democratic to Republican party. And although Indian Americans are relatively few in number, they find they can affect political change through fundraising.

An election dilemma for Poles: Vote religion or immigration – By Alex Kane Rudansky and Rebecca Nelson for InformacjeUSA.com [Read the InformacjeUSA.com version here.]

As the 2012 presidential election approaches, the overwhelmingly Catholic Polish immigrant community in Chicago faces a dilemma: should they vote for Barack Obama, who supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants? Or should they allow their religion to inform their decision, and vote Republican based on that party’s conservative stances on social issues?

Russian immigrants trending Republican, Russian Jews moresoBy Anna Radoff for Reklama

A recent national trend among Russian immigrant voters shows more and more Jewish Russian immigrants are voting Republican because of a dislike of big government and an affinity for capitalism.

Bulgarian immigrants may abandon Obama, but voting participation unclear – By Jaclyn Skurie for Bulgaria Weekly

Like many other Eastern European immigrants, the Bulgarian community is leaning Republican as the 2012 election campaign takes shape.

Pakistani Americans mobilize for the elections back in Pakistan – By Alice Li for Urdu Times

With the burgeoning involvement in politics not just in America, but also in Pakistan, second and third generation Pakistani-Americans are laying claim to their rights both as American citizens and Pakistani descents.

Memories of corruption and the Machine stunt Latino voteBy Lauren Lindstrom for Extra [Read the Extra version here.]

“The Latino Vote” is one of the most coveted of the 2012 election. But, for many Latinos living in Chicago, the question is not where their vote will go, but if they cast one at all. Underneath the hectic work-schedules and struggles of all minority communities is a distrust among Latinos in the American electoral system; a combination of the corruption back home and disenchantment with the perceived “political machine” in Chicago.

Dual citizenship for Lithuanians not for everyone – By Jen Lazuta for Draugas, the Lithuanian World-Wide Daily [Read the Draugas version in Lithuanian here.]

The Lithuanian constitution, which distinguishes immigrant citizenship rights based on year of arrival, has caused a generational voting debate among those who came to the U.S. before 1990 and those who came after.

For Arabs, there’s more to American citizenship than voting – By Jessica Floum and Jan Barkalow for Al-Moustaqbal- Future

American citizenship provides Arab immigrants and political organizations with more political clout and opportunity at home and abroad.

Filipino immigrants stepping onto the political sceneBy Stephen Boyle for Pinoy Newsmagazine [Read the Pinoy Newsmagazine version here.]

Historically Filipinos have been less politically active than other immigrant groups in Chicago due to corrupt politics in their home country and a colonial mentality that remains a part of many Filipinos’ psychological mindset. Jessica O’Brien may be proof that this trend is reversing with second-generation Filipino immigrants.

PERC leads Korean immigrant community into the political process – By Ryan Connelly Holmes for Korea Daily News-Chicago

The Illinois state legislature was in the process of banning PERC, a very harmful chemical that is important to the dry cleaning process, before the Korean American Dry Cleaners Association of Illinois and others stepped in. The resulting amendment to House Bill 4526 was due to negotiation, and may be the catalyst in creating a stronger Korean presence in the political system.

African activism coming off the sidelinesBy Madeleine May and Kirk Vaclavik for Africa Today

As the national 2012 elections draw nearer, African immigrants continue to focus on politics at home, rather than in the states. Immigrants are turning instead to local elections and community organizations to give voice to their issues.


The stories were released in June 2012. Each ethnic media outlet is carrying the story about how the issue affects its own community. For non-English publications, the stories are being translated into their respective languages.

Students at Northwestern University and its Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications reported and wrote the stories, while the publishers and editors helped shape the process through their work with Medill’s Immigrant Connect project. The work has been supported by grants from the McCormick Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Chicago Community Trust’s Community News Matters project.

This is the sixth in the continuing partnership linking communities through their ethnic media. The first explored the impact of the 2010 U.S. Census count on their communities and were released simultaneously on Fri., Jan. 15, 2010, in the ethnic media and on Immigrant Connect. Check out the series here –  Census stories link diverse immigrant communities

The second examined the relationships between immigrants and their children, and discovered that immigrant communities are crossing the generational divide in ways that resonate for one another. They were released simultaneously in June 2010. That series is here – Immigrant communities cross the generational divide together

The third dealt with the homeland – the place, the memory, the heritage – and the multiple meanings it has for Chicago’s immigrants. They were released in December 2010. That series is here – Home and the homeland: Chicago’s immigrants keep connecting

The fourth looked into the risks but also the options of health care in immigrant communities. The stories were released in early June 2011. That series is here –  Health care for Chicago’s immigrants: Alternative options and risks

The fifth explored the many challenges immigrant communities face in attending and acclimating to college. The stories were released in December 2011 and January 2012. That series is here – Education dream of immigrants more than an Act

This is the only effort of this kind today in the U.S. as far as the partners know.