Eight undocumented young people are taking their fight to Washington after “coming out of the shadows” last week in Chicago’s Federal Plaza.
The Immigrant Youth Justice League and nearly 6,000 Illinois supporters will join thousands from around the country in Washington, D.C. on Sunday to demand that President Barack Obama uphold his promise to support comprehensive immigration reform.
“We want to bring the message to the president that immigration reform is urgent and affects a lot people, not only immigrants but also citizens in regards to the economy and keeping families together,” said Catherine Salgado, a member of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “We are asking the president to use leadership in moving immigration reform forward.”
The trip to Washington follows last Wednesday’s march for immigration reform where hundreds of supporters joined the Immigrant Youth Justice League in Chicago’s Union Park; protesters marched through downtown before assembling at a rally in Federal Plaza.
“We are here to say that we are undocumented and unafraid,” said one young person as supporters took up the chant.
At the risk of possible deportation, members of the League declared their immigration status to the crowd gathered below Sen. Dick Durbin’s office in a move meant to “turn up the heat “ on the senator, an advocate of comprehensive immigration reform.
Several phone calls were made to Sen. Durbin during the rally, but the calls were redirected to his voice mail.
Among the issues addressed at the rally were education, social services and human rights as well as deportations, which are reported to have increased under the Obama administration.
While there are several ways to gain access to the country, many undocumented immigrants are brought to the U.S. as children only to find, typically upon graduating high school, that services guaranteed to their peers are denied them despite years of growing up in this country. A student may graduate high school to find that they are ineligible for the financial aid that could pay for college.
“[I] received a $20,000 scholarship from a great university,” said Uriel Sanchez, a member of the League. “One week before I was supposed to start school I received a call from an administrator asking for my social security number … I didn’t have one, and I had to pass on the scholarship and on going to a four-year university.”
Though it isn’t against the law for undocumented students to attend college in the U.S., stories of undocumented students held from college educations are common. The DREAM act, supported by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, would alleviate this situation by proposing that undocumented youth be eligible for a conditional path to citizenship in exchange for completion of a college degree or two years of military service.
As the U.S. continues to struggle over how to best deal with immigration, stories of deferred educations, separated families, workplace raids and back-logged legalization processes serve as narratives on the state of our national undocumented population.
Under the present law, any of the nearly 11 million individuals in the U.S. illegally are subject to arrest, detainment or deportation.
According to a written statement from Gail Montenegro, spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Illinois, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) respects the fundamental right of individuals to advocate for reform of our nation’s immigration laws. ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that places priority first on those dangerous criminal aliens who present the greatest risk to the security of our communities.”
To contact Sen. Dick Durbin’s office with your comments, call (312) 353-4952 or click here.