Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Monday November 16th, 2015, 4:36pm

Gutierrez, Ramirez-Rosa Help Immigrants Apply For Citizenship, Gear Up For 2016 Election

Two Chicago-area elected officials are working to help legal immigrants in Illinois apply for citizenship ahead of next year's general election.

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL,4) and Chicago Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) hosted a daylong workshop in the city Monday, during which immigrants could get assistance with citizenship and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications. 

Gutierrez -- who has spearheaded other citizenship workshops this year and a cross-country tour educating the immigrant community about President Barack Obama's pending executive actions on immigration -- said Monday's event was part of a nationwide effort by immigrant advocates "to help hundreds of thousands of people become American citizens."

"And they'll be ready for the next election," he said.

Ramirez-Rosa said Chicagoland is home to more than 100,000 lawful permanent residents, or green card holders, and as many as half of them could qualify to become U.S. citizens.

"We need to ensure that every person that cares about immigration has the ability to vote," the alderman said. "And we want to make sure that the tens of thousands of people that are lawful permanent residents have the ability to vote next November."

The daylong workshop, held at Northeastern Illinois University's El Centro building, 3390 N. Avondale Ave., came almost one year after Obama signed executive actions on immigration. Those executive orders, which seek to expand the DACA initiative and create a new Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program, remain on hold amid a legal challenge brought by a group of 26 mostly Republican-run states.

A federal appeals court sided against Obama's immigration orders last week, and the administration plans to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

"Hopefully, next June, (the Supreme Court) will hear the case and we will have a decision," Gutierrez said. 

In the meantime, immigration reform remains stalled in the Republican-controlled Congress.

On Sunday, newly elected U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI,1) discussed immigration reform and other topics on CBS's "60 Minutes," saying he supports a pathway to legal status but not citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

"It starts with border enforcement," Ryan said. "It starts with enforcing the rule of law. But you need to have a vibrant, legal immigration system. Legal immigration is America. I think you could have a pathway to legal status. Earn your way to legal status, but not to citizenship."

Ryan was asked whether he supported Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's hard-line proposal to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

"I can't imagine how it could happen -- so no," Ryan said.

Earlier this month, Ryan also stated that he would not collaborate with the Obama administration on immigration reform, explaining that Republicans "cannot trust" the president on immigration after he "tried to go it alone" with his executive orders.

Gutierrez addressed Ryan's "60 Minutes" comments at Monday's event.

"He put party politics ahead of good public policy," Gutierrez said, adding that he was surprised by Ryan's position against a pathway to citizenship.

Gutierrez noted that Ryan stood alongside him in support of the idea during a 2013 City Club of Chicago discussion on immigration reform.

"He declared that he was for a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented," Gutierrez said.

In Illinois, meanwhile, the budget impasse is impacting immigrant services in the state, including citizenship application assistance, the local officials said.

The state's Immigrant Services Line Item, which provides funding for programs that help with citizenship applications and other immigrant supports, is caught up in the budget battle.

"That means that people today that previously would have been able to go to non-profits to access assistance are no longer able to find that help," Ramirez-Rosa said. "It's now more important than ever that individuals like myself, that individuals like Congressman Gutierrez, step forward and say, 'Here's an alternative.' But ultimately we cannot make up for the loss of that funding. It is very important that Springfield get its act together, that Gov. Rauner stop holding the state hostage and he allow these critical services to get funded."


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