In a 48-to-1 vote, Chicago City Council passed a resolution Nov. 18 supporting a halt to the deportation of UIC junior Rigoberto Padilla and other undocumented students. The resolution sponsored by Ald. George Cardenas (12th) called on Congress to pass the Dream Act of 2009, a bill introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that would give undocumented students brought to the United States as children a pathway to citizenship.
“I want to stay in this country,” said Padilla. “Everything is here – my family, school, everything. I don’t know anyone in Mexico.”
Padilla’s troubles started last January when he was arrested for drinking and driving. When police discovered his immigration status, they turned him over to ICE. Since then immigration reform advocates, teachers, friends and public officials have rallied to solve Padilla’s plight.
“This highlights the mean-spiritedness of the immigration situation,” said Ald. Cardenas. He called for an end to the impasse on immigration reform in Washington.
“Rigoberto is a straight “A” student; he’s working full time – this is someone I would want fighting alongside me in a war,” Cardenas said.
Sen. Durbin’s bill now has 32 co-sponsors and is currently in the Judiciary committee. It would require that promising individuals who inherited their undocumented status from their parents attend college for two years, or serve in the military. After that commitment, the individual could complete the long process of becoming a citizen, but in the meantime they would not live in fear of being deported.
Critics of immigration reform want federal officials to enforce existing laws and call exceptions like the one being asked in Padilla’s case a slippery slope that opens the door for tens-of-thousands of people in this country illegally.
“This world is full of exceptions,” Cardenas said. “This is no different.”
Padilla’s professor and mentor at UIC, Nilda Flores-Gonzalez, said it made no sense for the U.S. to deport students like Padilla because so many taxpayer dollars were spent educating him in the public schools.
“We have invested a lot in him. We should cash in,” said Flores-Gonzalez.
Padilla does not know what he will do if the deportation happens and he is forced to return to Mexico. He left Mexico 15 years ago when he was six. He said he does not have any family there anymore, and he would have no place to stay.
“I guess I would arrive in Mexico with my bags in my hand and walk around, not knowing what to do, or where to go,” said Padilla.
He has 28 days to figure it out.
Cardenas said he would send the resolution to members of the Illinois delegation in Washington D.C. and the White House.
The only alderman to vote against today’s resolution was Ald. James Balcer (11th). He said he voted against the resolution for one reason only – the drunk driving ticket.
“My vote had nothing to do with immigration. It was the drunk driving. I was hit by a car as a kid and I have strong feelings about this,” Balcer said.
(The following is a YouTube video of a protest on the ICE lockup in Broadview from June 19, 2008.)