A historic Obama administration executive order kicked in today that would enable 1.4 million undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 to apply for a two-year reprieve from the threat of deportation.
At the Navy Pier Grand Ballroom in Chicago the initial demand was overwhelming – up to 15,000 people showed up to apply at a “Dream Relief Day” organized by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) advocacy group. The event doubled as informational workshop and political rally for additional changes in national immigration policy.
According to ICIRR spokeswoman Monica Trevino,
only 1,500 of the undocumented immigrants who snaked their way around
Navy Pier into the ballroom were able to fill out an application. The
rest were given a packet on how to apply, information that is also
available on DreamRelief.org.
“There were more people than we anticipated,” Trevino says. “It was nice to see that people are really interested.”
Anna, a 21 year-old from Bolingbrook, who declined to give her last name, says that she was at the event to “get a work permit and actually be able to drive like everyone else here.”
“I just finished high school and I am still waiting to go to college,” she says. “I came here when I was seven and it has been a long time waiting.”
Obama issued an executive order in June to enable undocumented immigrants who are under the age of 30 to register with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, if they have a high school diploma or equivalency, or honorable military discharge. Besides a two-year hiatus from any threat of deportation, the applicant would be able to apply for a worker's permit and driver's license. Applicants must have entered the country prior to the age of 16 and not have been convicted of a felony or serious misdemeanor. About 70,000 Illinois residents meet the application criteria, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
There were equivalent application workshops across the country today, but where Illinois perhaps distinguished itself was connecting the executive order to the failed Dream Act legislation of 2010.
Sponsored by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago) and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), the Dream Act would have done on a more permanent basis what Obama’s executive order accomplishes for the next two years: Letting young undocumented immigrants with a high school degree live without fear of legal reprisal.
Both Gutierrez and Durbin spoke of the legislation’s Senate filibuster at Navy Pier today. “Fifty-five votes out of a 100 Senators sounds like a winner, right?” Durbin said. “It should be a winner, but not when you have to fight a Republican filibuster. We didn’t have enough.”
Gutierrez focused his remarks on a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants. The lawmaker also effusively complemented Obama and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, each of whom Gutierrez has tussled with in the past.
Here is video of Durbin and Gutierrez:
The deportation relief program should continue so long as President Obama stays in the White House. Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney has declined to say whether he would reverse the order if elected president.