Joshua Hoyt Director, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Joshua Hoyt has been the director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights since May of 2002. During that time the Coalition has fought vigorously for citizenship for the undocumented, to protect civil liberties in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, and for a full integration of immigrants into community life in the U.S. The Coalition has helped to make Illinois one of the most immigrant friendly states in the U.S.

In recent years the Coalition has led successful campaigns to win in-state college tuition for undocumented students in Illinois; health care and pre-school for all Illinois children regardless of immigration status; won recognition for the Consular I.D. (Matricula Consular) in Illinois; won a strengthened Day Labor Protections Act; and passed a "Charity Without Fear" Resolution calling for the protection of Muslim charitable giving (Zakat). In November of 2005 Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed the first in the nation "New Americans Executive Order", creating a proactive policy for immigrant integration in Illinois.

In 2006 ICIRR assisted in the organizing of the historic Chicago "mega-marches" of March 10 and May 1, with over 300,000 and 700,000 marchers respectively, calling on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

In 2004 the Coalition launched the "New Americans Initiative" for citizenship in partnership with the State of Illinois. This unique partnership has led to a 56% increase in applications for U.S. citizenship in Illinois. Since 2005 ICIRR and its partners have assisted over 32,000 immigrants fill out their citizenship applications; conducted over 565 citizenship workshops; and responded to over 183,000 requests for citizenship assistance.

In addition the "New Americans Democracy Project" has registered over 56,000 new immigrant voters since 2004, and has worked in the 2004, 2006, and now the 2008 elections to run a non-partisan GOTV (Get Out The Vote) campaign in 20 different suburban and city communities.

During this time the Coalition has grown from a $1.8 million dollar a year budget to a $5.6 million budget, and increased from 9 to 25 employees.

Josh has worked a total of 28 years as an organizer for social justice in Chicago, Baltimore, and in the countries of Spain, Peru, and Panama. This includes eight years of work in the poorest Latino communities of Chicago; four years as the executive director of the Organization of the NorthEast (O.N.E.), a community organization in the diverse Uptown and Edgewater communities of Chicago; the organizing of low wage workers in Baltimore, Maryland in a campaign that resulted in the first "Living Wage" ordinance in the nation; and organizing as a lay volunteer for the Catholic Church in the highlands of Peru and in the Diocese of Colon, Panama.

Josh served as president of the Citizens Utility Board of Illinois, the state's largest consumer organization from 1986-89, winning hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds for utility consumers. More recently he served as the associate director of United Power for Action and Justice, an ambitious metropolitan wide citizen organizing effort that was part of the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) network. Josh was the lead organizer of United Power's Gilead Campaign for the Uninsured, which resulted in the creation of FamilyCare in Illinois, expanding health insurance coverage to 170,000 uninsured adults.

Josh was educated at the University of Illinois and the Universidad Central de Barcelona, Spain, and received his Master's Degree from the University of Chicago. He has testified before Congress; spoken to such national media as the Leher News Hour, the O'Reilly Factor, the Lou Dobbs Show, and the New York Times and Wall Street Journal; written numerous articles; and directed political campaigns. He speaks fluent Spanish and limited Portuguese.

Josh has been married for 24 years, and has two children, ages 21 and 17.

Load More Stories