An elated crowd gathered Saturday at a South Side high school named after a prominent Mexican president to celebrate President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration reform.
There were cheers and a handful of jeers for speakers at the rally at Pilsen’s Benito Juarez Community Academy— one man screamed “Six years too late,” as U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., applauded Obama’s order.
But most in the predominantly immigrant crowd smiled and listened as elected officials said there’s still much work to do.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., who has worked the TV circuit since Obama’s announcement Thursday, said nothing will be done about comprehensive immigration reform without legislation.
“To my friends, the party who are threatening us today, you control the Senate, you control the House,” Gutierrez said. “It is 180 days from Jan. 1 before the first person that we register here is going to be able to apply…Stop whining, stop crying. You have a majority. Use it for the American people, and we will be appreciative.”
Gutierrez urged Republicans to “finish the job.”
He said Chicago will set the standard for how it handles the immigration process.
“Every church will be a dedicated site, every community college,” Gutierrez said. “Our job is to make sure that as many people as possible apply for the program.”
Durbin also said there’s still a need for comprehensive reform.
“The president has been criticized, even threatened with impeachment, and stood up for justice when it comes to immigrants in America,” Durbin said. “He would be the first to tell you we want more. We want comprehensive immigration reform to reach out to the millions who deserve this opportunity in America.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel urged those who are eligible in Chicago to step up.
“Whether you’re from Ireland or India, Poland, Mexico…this is an opportunity to do something different,” Emanuel said. “I want the city of Chicago to be the gold standard that achieves record numbers of relief and to make sure more and more people are taking advantage of this unique opportunity the president has provided.”
An estimated 4 million illegal immigrants may be impacted in the new program, which is meant to help the parents of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. They will be allowed to stay if they have lived in the United States. for five years or longer, register, pass a criminal background check and pay taxes.