Dreams a Reality

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

Congressman Luis Gutierrez, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights Chief Executive Officer Lawrence Benito, and local supporters rallied together to announce DREAM Relief Day on August 15 at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom where undocumented youth will able to apply for their work permits.

On August 15, DREAMers will come out of the shadows and live free, so said Congressman Luis Gutierrez during a press conference Tuesday morning at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) headquarters. Gutierrez joined the ICIRR to announce DREAM Relief Day to be held August 15 at Navy Pier where undocumented students will be able to apply for their work permits.

“It’s like you’re constantly thirty, constantly hungry. You have this void and emptiness because you see so many families destroyed,” said Gutierrez. “Come August 15, students will get a big glass of water to quench their thirst. With the help of this coalition and what the Obama Administration passed last month, we are setting a standard.”

On June 15, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that it would offer DREAM Act-eligible youth temporary relief through “deferred action.” This action gives many eligible students a chance to live and work in the U.S. lawfully. In a room full of supporters, journalists, and local leaders, Gutierrez, Lawrence Benito, ICIRR’s chief executive officer, and Sam Toia, president of the Illinois Restaurant Association, all hailed this historic act and encouraged all undocumented youth who qualify to attend DREAM Relief Day. “August 15 marks the beginning of a new life for many undocumented youth,” said Benito.

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - EducationAmong the youth at the press conference was undocumented student Jose Alejandro who shared his story about what DREAM Relief Day will mean to him. “I have recently been accepted to the University of Illinois in Chicago, but my dreams of going to medical school have been put on pause,” said Alejandro, who was inspired to join the path of medicine after witnessing the deteriorating health of his grandmother. “We fought for and won this by acting without fear and we will not be afraid to claim our freedom at this point.”

Prior to attending Dream Relief Day, undocumented youth must meet five criteria to qualify for deferred action: they must have come to the U.S. before they turned 16; they must have been born after June 15, 1981; they must have continuously resided in the U.S. since June 15, 2007, and must have been present in the U.S. on June 15, 2012; they must currently be in school, have received a high school diploma or GED, or been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces or the Coast Guard; they must not have been convicted of a felony, a “significant misdemeanor,” multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety. Anyone applying for deferred action would need to go through a criminal background check.

“This is the most important development in two decades for undocumented immigrants and we intend to get as many young people as are eligible signed up and in the system,” said Gutierrez. “We are organizing the community and working with partners across the country to make it happen.”

Congressman Gutierrez, ICIRR, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, among others, will be on hand August 15 for DREAM Relief Day at Navy Pier’s Grand Ballroom from 9a.m. to 2p.m. to help thousands of undocumented students apply for deferred action. Currently, ICIRR created www.dreamrelief.org for families to track the latest news and processes for DREAM Relief Day.

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