ICIRR CELEBRATES HISTORIC DREAM RELIEF DAY
Senator Durbin, Congressman Gutierrez and Mayor Emanuel join thousands of undocumented youth, who applied for deferred action that will grant them temporary relief to live and work in the US lawfully
Chicago – Today the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) was joined by Senator Richard Durbin, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and other dignitaries in assisting thousands of undocumented youth apply for deferred action, which will grant them the opportunity to temporarily live and work in the U.S. lawfully.
On June 15, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that it would offer many undocumented youth the opportunity to seek deferred action. The memorandum offers hope to more than 75,000 youth in Illinois who would be eligible for permanent legal status under the proposed federal DREAM Act.
The historic DREAM Relief Day was the first opportunity for undocumented youth to apply for the President’s deferred action initiative, allowing them to be shielded from deportation and eligible for work permits, driver’s licenses, and other basic protections. “Today we celebrate the work of all undocumented youth who organized and worked hard for this day,” said Lawrence Benito, ICIRR’s Chief Executive Officer. “Even though today is a huge victory, it is only the first step and we need to continue to fight for comprehensive immigration reform for all families.”
“This is a historic humanitarian moment and I personally salute the President for his leadership,” said Senator Durbin. “This action will give these young immigrants their chance to come out of the shadows and be part of the only country they’ve ever called home. It has been 11 years since I first introduced the DREAM Act — legislation that would allow a select group of immigrant students with real potential to contribute more fully to America. These DREAMers grew up here pledging allegiance to our flag and singing the only national anthem they know. They are Americans in their hearts and minds. President Obama’s new deportation policy will make America a stronger nation by giving these talented immigrants the opportunity to live and work without fear in their home country and contribute more fully to our economy. The debate about immigration reform in American will change forever once Americans have a chance to meet these DREAMers.”
“The people who say undocumented immigrants don’t really want to be part of this country will have to rethink that when they see hundreds of thousands or maybe a million young people come forward to sign up in the coming weeks and months,” said U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez. “The hard-working young immigrants who sign up are charting a course towards reestablishing law and order in our immigration system and are genuine leaders. I am proud of them and the immigrant community and the City of Chicago for being national leaders for immigration reform.”
“I am proud to join Senator Durbin, Congressman Gutierrez, and ICIRR in celebrating this historic DREAM Relief Day that will give families and students across the country a better chance to achieve the American Dream,” said Mayor Emanuel. “I commend ICIRR for providing full-service assistance as thousands of undocumented students apply for deferred action.”
More than 7,000 youth registered to participate through the DREAM Relief website,dreamrelief.org, while 600 volunteers assisted DREAM Act-eligible youth, and more than 50 attorneys and legal workers from the National Immigrant Justice Center provided free consultations. ICIRR provided full-service assistance for 1,500 DREAM Act-eligible youths that included help with completing deferred action applications, and free information and consultation for up to 5,000 DREAM Act-eligible youth. The youth who were unable to be screened were given a packet of information that consisted of a list of required supporting documents, an eligibility checklist, an attorney referral list, a list of GED programs, and a list of upcoming workshop locations and dates. The workshop was made possible in partnership with the Governor’s Office of New Americans.
Additionally, a college and resource fair took place with DePaul University, Loyola University, Northern Illinois University, Northeastern Illinois University, City Colleges of Chicago, DeVry University, Chamberlain College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, as well as workshops on immigrant rights and worker rights. Dignitaries toured the workshop and assisted several undocumented youth with their deferred action applications. At 1 pm, Senator Durbin, Congressman Gutierrez, Mayor Emanuel, and others participated in a ceremony to celebrate the day.
“By providing deferred action to undocumented youth who consider America home and would love nothing more than contribute to it, our country is embracing some one million DREAMers–75,000 of which are right here in Illinois,” said journalist and Define American founder Jose Antonio Vargas. “This is more than a relief: this is a cause for celebration and also a reminder that we still have more work to do when it comes to immigration reform.” Vargas revealed last year that he is himself is undocumented.
The DREAM Relief victory could not have been won without a sustained national effort, led by brave young people and families “coming out of the shadows” to tell their stories. ICIRR is proud to belong to two national networks that exemplify that sustained commitment to lifting up the leadership or our most vulnerable families: the Center for Community Change’s Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) and the Equal Voices Campaign for American Families.
“This is going to help break through the political obstacles blocking broader, permanent immigration reform because this demonstrates that when people are given a chance to get in the system and on the books, they will take it,” said Congressman Gutierrez. “We need to find a way for the parents and neighbors of these young people to come forward too and to establish a legal immigration system that will restore dignity, legality, and humanity to our immigration system.”
ICIRR encourages people to visit dreamrelief.org for information on upcoming workshops and for the latest information on deferred action.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 130 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. For more information, visit www.icirr.org.