Rush, advocates call on Democratic presidential ticket to endorse bill to provide deportation relief to immigrant parents

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush plans to introduce the American Right 2 Family Act that would provide immigrant parents with relief from deportation.

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Congressman Bobby Rush introduces the American Right 2 Family Act to aid immigrant parents at the Lincoln United Methodist Church in Heart of Chicago, Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush is proposing new legislation that will provide relief for parents of U.S. citizens and immigrant children who were brought to the U.S. at a young age.

“Tragically, 12 million of our neighbors, our friends, our loved ones are forced to live in the shadows under the constant threat of deportation,” Rush said.

Rush, surrounded by state and local politicians and immigration advocates in the garden of the Lincoln United Methodist Church in the Pilsen area Monday, announced the American Right 2 Family Act legislation that he plans to soon introduce in Congress. He and other advocates are pushing for the bill now so it can be discussed this week at the Democratic National Convention. The group wants Joe Biden, who is set to accept the party’s nomination for president Thursday, to include the bill as part of his platform.

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The proposed legislation calls for protections from deportation and work permits for parents of U.S. citizens and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients — it extends protections to anyone who was brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 years old and provides a pathway for anyone who was deported to return to the U.S., “thus having the effect of helping to end the inhumane separation of families that have taken place in this so-called land of the free,” Rush said.

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Congressman Bobby Rush discusses the importance of keeping families together during a news conference Monday introducing the American Right 2 Family Act at Lincoln United Methodist Church in Heart of Chicago.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

For eight years, Mahalea Velasco has been separated from her father, who was deported. She is a U.S. citizen and recalled how she was a child when former President Barack Obama was in office. Now a teen, Velasco said she is still waiting for changes that will allow her to reunite with her father.

“But I cannot wait any longer,” Velasco said. “I need my dad now.”

The group hung a large banner depicting Biden next to Obama, calling on him to “fulfill the Obama promise,” referring to the campaign promise to reform immigration policy. Obama had created the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, but the program was never implemented. The group also pointed out the potential power of Latino voters in the upcoming presidential election — a large wooden box depicting Obama and Biden was on display Monday, holding copies of voter registration forms the group has completed so far.

Saul Arellano, the son of Elvira Arellano, who fought off deportation, said he is among eligible Latino voters, and he has spent weeks working with other youth leaders to register people to vote.

“We are united as U.S. citizens and Dreamers to end the nightmare of mass deportations,” Arellano said.

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Saul Arellano said Monday he is among eligible Latino voters, and he has spent weeks working with other youth leaders to register people to vote. He wants the U.S. to end mass deportations.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) said he plans to introduce a resolution in City Council in support of the bill. He described the legislation as providing “hope” to the immigrant community.

“It is during these times when we stand together because Black lives matter, and it’s so meaningful for us to have a congressman who gives us hope and let’s us see how the Black Panther spirit is very much alive in our city,” Sigcho-Lopez said as Rush raised his fists in the air. Before entering Congress, Rush was an organizer in the Black Panther Party and helped create the Illinois chapter.

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Miguel Perez Jr. is a veteran who was deported to Mexico but later allowed to return to Chicago. “Family is a God-given right, and can’t nobody separate us from that,” Perez said Monday.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Miguel Perez Jr., a veteran who was deported to Mexico but later allowed to return to Chicago, said he was separated from his parents and his U.S.-born children during his deportation.

“Family is a God-given right, and can’t nobody separate us from that,” Perez said.

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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