Historic Moment in Chicago

By: Ashmar Mandou

As a true testament to the importance of immigration reform, close to 13,000 undocumented youth descended upon Navy Pier Wednesday, Aug. 18 to apply for deferred action during the first ever Dream Relief Day. “This is truly exciting,” said Jonathan Duran, 20, who migrated from Mexico at the age of 15 with this family. “I’ve been waiting for a day like today for the longest time.”

On June 15, 2012, the Obama Administration announced that it would offer many undocumented youth the opportunity to seek deferred action. The action offers hope to more than 75,000 youth, who were born after June 15, 1981, and brought into the U.S. before they were 16, eligibility for temporary legal status. Undocumented youth will have the permission to work and receive a Social Security number.

Since President Barack Obama’s administration introduced Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on June 15, interest in the plan has grown dramatically. Undocumented youth from Indiana, Wisconsin and even Georgia waited patiently in line for their chance to meet with attorneys and to be processed. “This is a historic humanitarian moment and I personally salute the President for his leadership,” said Senator Richard Durbin, during Wednesday’s ceremony.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), joined Senator 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.

According to ICIRR, more than 7,500 youth registered to participate through the DREAM Relief website, dreamrelief.org, while 600 volunteers assisted youth. Although ICIRR reached its capacity to aid all who attended, they assured more deferred action workshops will be scheduled in the near future. “This is truly an overwhelming moment,” said Congressman Gutierrez, who spoke to Lawndale News before the day’s ceremony. “To be able to see the line and meet with people and hear their stories…this just means we have to continue pushing and fighting for the DREAM Act.” For more information, visit www.dreamrelief.org.

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Omar Duque

Omar Duque, president and chief executive officer for Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

“This is actually an emotional and beautiful day for me. Coming in earlier this morning and seeing the lines of thousands of young dreamers and their families, it’s been absolutely beautiful and emotional. These are people that are here, they are living here, they are working here, they are Americans. For all intents and purposes they are Americans. They know no other country and now because of President Barack Obama’s executive order they are now able to take one step closer…it’s not the end solution, but it is a huge step towards being able to live in this country, work in this country, and contribute to this country.”

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(Left to right) Moncerrat Gutierrez, 24, Abel Zamora, 26, Alejandra Gutierrez, 20, and Luis Zamora, 23.

Moncerrat Gutierrez, 24

“This is very exciting, it really is. I have been waiting for this opportunity for the longest time. I came here when I was very little and all the way through people have always said education is the way to be successful, to be the best. But due to my status I had to put my education on hold. So having the opportunity now to go to college and overcome the challenges and obstacles…is simply beautiful. It’s a beautiful feeling.”

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Congressman Luis Gutierrez

Congressman Luis Gutierrez

“This is a statement. It means that our immigration movement is not going to take any steps backwards. The future steps are going to be to continue to push for immigration reform. Today, we start with our young people; tomorrow is going to be for their moms and dads. This is really an irreversible moment and an irreversible movement.”

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Anabel Torres

Annabel Torres, 21, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

“We are at the forefront of this amazing and historic day. It seemed very hopeless for a lot of people in the past years and this has been a spark of hope and a steppingstone for many. And it’s just a reason to keep fighting.”

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Tanya Cabrera

Tanya Cabrera, chair for the Illinois Dream Fund Commission

“It’s a good slap in the face that I think politicians, who are opposed to the Deferred Action Plan, needed to realize. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with and they should be on board. With the 1.7 million that are eligible this will bring economic growth to the city and even to the nation. So, for right now my goal is to make sure students get access to employment, but also it’s the federal Dream Act or nothing. One way is providing opportunity to work, but we need the federal Dream Act to pass. We need to make that happen this year, with it being election year. We need to make that happen.”

Jonathan Duran, 20

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Local News

Jonathan Duran, 20, fills out an application during Dream Relief Day, Wednesday, Aug. 18 at Navy Pier.

“We have a new opportunity to study, so this is amazing,” said Duran, who migrated from Mexico just five years ago with his family. “It’s hard to continue my education here. Because I don’t have a social security, I have to pay for everything out of pocket.” To help alleviate the cost of school, Duran worked two jobs, one helping his mother deliver newspapers in the morning and in the afternoon working for Dunkin Donuts, while attending community college full-time. “I want to take advantage of this; I don’t want to let it go. I believe this will help.”

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Ivette Castora

Ivette Castora Gonzalez, 30, volunteer

“For me, personally, it means a lot. It hits home for me. It just means that we are moving forward as a people and towards acceptance. With everything that has happened in Arizona, today truly means a lot and shows the willingness of those who are here…a willingness to come out. It shows people are no longer willing to hide if they are given the opportunity to do things legally.”

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Luis Medrano

Luis Medrano, 25

Medrano believes the campaign is a big step for the nation and is optimistic about the possibilities it could bring him. “Now I can get a better job, and with a better job, better pay and with better pay I can finish my studies. All for a better future.”

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