Felipe Diosdado, 35, has worked as a janitor in downtown Chicago for 14 years. He’s a father of two with family members who are U.S. citizens, however, Diosdado is not.
Since coming to America from Mexico in 1997, he has been undocumented. This is why Diosdado is impatiently awaiting President Barack Obama to take action on immigration reform.
“My family, my kids, they were really, really afraid when somebody (would) knock at the door because they think immigration is coming to take me away from them,” Diosdado said Wednesday at a press conference held by the Illinois Coalition for Immigration and Refugee Rights.
The conference was held to push the president to take executive action now that the midterm elections are over.
Being undocumented has affected Diosdado’s everyday life, he said. As a janitor, he’s had to pass on job promotions three times because he said he fears his employer will find out he is undocumented and fire him.
A week ago, Diosdado was granted a stay of removal by the government, which prevents the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from deporting him for up to a year. But by next year, if nothing is done to allow immigrants like him to gain citizenship, he will have to reapply for another stay of removal.
Diosdado said he doesn’t want to think about what would happen if reform fails to happen and he is denied another stay of removal.
“I feel like this is my home,” Diosdado said. “And I want to be here.”
And because government officials have not experienced life as an undocumented immigrant, they can’t relate, he added.
“They are not in our shoes, they do not feel what we feel (and), that’s why it’s so hard for them to decide to do something,” he said.
U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) said at last Wednesday’s press conference he and Mayor Rahm Emanuel plan to coordinate their efforts to pressure the White House. He wants the president to be bold, inclusive, generous and historic when implementing an executive order for immigration reform, Gutierrez said.
“The president of the United States delayed his decision on executive action because they didn’t want to lose the Senate,” Gutierrez said.
The Democrats lost the Senate anyways, he added, referring to the midterm elections, which saw the GOP win control of the Senate.
And in demanding the president act now on immigration reform, Gutierrez said what is being asked of him isn’t outside of his bounds of authority.
Ronnie Cho, former associate director of the Office of Public Engagement for the White House, said the best way to go about this is through legislation, not by executive order, which could be challenged in court and needs to be renewed.
Cho said Congress, which is now majority Republican, should do their job and establish some kind of legal status for the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country.
“That is, I think, the most desirable action,” Cho said. “It makes it a more lasting and resilient form of action, (so) that it will not have to be a patchwork of executive orders that the president will have to continue to do.”