Maria Ortega, a leader with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, said during a news conference Thursday that having DACA protections has allowed her to seek out better job opportunities. She and her husband have had DACA protections for years.
Maria Ortega, a leader with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, said Thursday that having DACA protections allowed her and her husband to seek better job opportunities. | Screenshot

In Chicago’s City Council, a resolution was recently introduced calling on Congress to create a pathway for undocumented immigrants across the country to become U.S. citizens.

A group of aldermen in City Council along with immigration advocates are pushing for a resolution that calls on Congress to create a pathway for citizenship for immigrants.

The resolution, which was introduced Wednesday, also calls on Congress to allocate money to process citizenship and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program applications instead of paying for deportation enforcement.

The group wants President Joe Biden’s administration to revise immigration enforcement efforts “to cover a narrower range of individuals and to ensure consideration of the entirety of each individual’s life, rather than only looking at such individual’s past criminal or immigration violations.”

Their efforts come less than a week after a federal judge in Texas ruled that the DACA program was illegal. The program, which was initially created by former President Barack Obama, allows certain immigrants to work legally while also providing temporary protection from deportation.

Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd), one of the resolution’s sponsors, said Congress must stop deportations and family separations, describing it as a life-and-death situation for immigrants. She was hopeful there would soon be a hearing on the resolution before it advances to the City Council.

“When there is a possibility for attacks on our immigrant community, and we don’t have the provisions to prevent that from happening, we are putting them in extreme danger,” Rodriguez-Sanchez said.

Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) is a sponsor of a City Council resolution urging Congress to create a pathway for undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens.Screenshot
Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez (33rd) is a sponsor of a City Council resolution urging Congress to create a pathway for undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens.

Maria Ortega, who is a DACA recipient and leader with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, said she would like to not only see DACA restored but for Congress to create a pathway for citizenship for immigrants like herself.

She and her husband have had DACA protections for years. They have three children together, and she thinks the program has allowed them to obtain better job opportunities.

“DACA isn’t just about getting a work permit,” Ortega said Thursday during a news conference. “DACA is also about the opportunity it provides in stability and peace of mind that your life won’t be uprooted.”

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) said many immigrants who would benefit from a pathway for citizenship are essential workers who worked during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pointing to his own ward, Sigcho-Lopez said immigrants have created neighborhood gems like Chinatown and Pilsen.

“These are economic engines in our city,” he said about the neighborhoods. “Communities that make us all feel proud because of the hard work and the sweat and tears that have gone into building these wonderful communities.”

Fred Tsao, the senior policy counsel for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said the pathway for citizenship for immigrants could happen in Congress through the upcoming federal budget reconciliation.

“What the Senate and House do with budget reconciliation over the next two months will determine the fate of millions of immigrants and their families and communities,” Tsao said.

Last week’s order prohibits the government from granting initial DACA requests though people can continue to submit their applications, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The government can still process renewal requests for people who had been previously been granted DACA protections before July 16.

The window for first-time DACA applications had opened in December for the first time since 2017 because of a different court order. Former President Donald Trump had halted initial applications as his administration tried to end the program.

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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