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Immigration activists in Chicago urge Democrats to disregard Senate parliamentarian, move forward with reform

Advocates plan to join a rally Saturday outside of the Thompson Center to push for immigration, climate and labor reforms in the “Build Back Better” bill.

Aurora Flores, 20, of Waukegan, a member of the Mano A Mano Family Resource Center in Round Lake Park, joins dozens of immigrant rights activists Friday morning in Federal Plaza for a news conference and rally to push for federal immigration reform.
Aurora Flores, 20, of Waukegan, a member of the Mano A Mano Family Resource Center in Round Lake Park, joins dozens of immigrant rights activists Friday in Federal Plaza for a news conference and rally to push for federal immigration reform.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

For Luis Rodriguez, it seems like change for immigrants like himself could still happen despite another setback to exclude immigration reform as part of an expansive social and environmental bill.

“The momentum is still there because of this decision,” Rodriguez said. “We can still push for citizenship, and I feel like it’s been one of those seasons where I can finally see change happening as far as obtaining something greater than just DACA — which is temporary — and something more stable like citizenship.”

Rodriguez and other immigration advocates gathered Friday at Federal Plaza in the Loop, urging Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth to disregard the recent Senate parliamentarian decision to remove immigration reform from the “Build Back Better” bill. The advocates, who held signs stating “We’ve waited too long,” argue that Durbin and other Democratic leaders should still push ahead toward creating a path for immigrants to one day obtain naturalized citizenship.

The advocates plan to join a rally scheduled for Saturday outside of the James R. Thompson Center in the Loop to continue to push for inclusion of immigration reform in the Build Back Better bill. The latest proposal would have allowed immigrants who have lived in the U.S. since at least 2010 to apply for two, five-year work permits.

Organized by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and other community organizations, dozens gather for a news conference and rally Friday morning in Federal Plaza to push for federal immigration reform.
Organized by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and other community organizations, dozens gather for a news conference and rally Friday morning in Federal Plaza to push for federal immigration reform.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

In a statement, Durbin and other senators stated that they “strongly disagree with the Senate parliamentarian’s interpretation of our immigration proposal, and we will pursue every means to achieve a path to citizenship in the Build Back Better Act.”

For months, advocates in Chicago have pushed for immigration reform to be included in the social and environmental bill, staging a student walkout and protesting outside of Durbin’s home in Chicago.

Glo Harn Choi, a community organizer with the HANA Center, was among a group of immigration advocates who in November temporarily blocked a portion of the roadway along Ida B. Wells Drive near U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s offices in Chicago. On Friday, Choi told the crowd gathered at the Federal Plaza that undocumented immigrants like himself couldn’t wait any longer for relief.

“If they expect us to deliver for them during the elections, we need them to deliver for us in Congress,” he said.

Glo Choi, of the HANA Center, speaks during a news conference and rally Friday morning in Federal Plaza to push for federal immigration reform.
Glo Choi, of the HANA Center, speaks during a news conference and rally Friday morning in Federal Plaza to push for federal immigration reform.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Though Rodriguez isn’t allowed to vote, he told the crowd that he made calls and went door-to-door urging others to vote in hopes it would lead to immigration reform.

Rodriguez applied for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but his application remains in limbo after a federal judge in Texas earlier this year ordered the government to stop granting new DACA applications.

The 21-year-old is studying architecture, but he will soon have to take a break from school to raise money to continue his education.

“If I was able to get a green card, that would improve the way of living so much because I would be able to apply for financial assistance if I need it for school,” he said. “I would be able to travel, visit my family members, study abroad, do all these things that have been hindered because of the inability to travel because I’m undocumented.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

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