“unwarranted” detention, he said, will send the message to all of
America’s undocumented immigrants that “it’s time to stand up and let
our voices be heard.”
need to talk about deportations,” Gonzalez, 26, said. “We’ve been
talking about this immigration reform legislation, but nothing is being
done to stop the deportations or bring back the 1.2 million deportees.”
Martinez is one of nine individuals, five women and four men, who
have been detained at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona since they tried
to cross the border from Mexico into the U.S. on July 22. The group of
detainees, known as the DREAM 9, were all brought illegally into the
U.S. as young children and boldly tried to cross the border and back last month
to protest the nation’s broken immigration system and draw attention to
the need for reform.
"She knew she was risking it all,"
Gonzalez said. "But she is creating change right now, she is starting
the conversation of real immigration reform and real change."
Gonzalez said the protest, organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA)
of which he and Martinez are both members, was designed to shed light
on the rate in which the Obama administration is deporting undocumented
immigrants, despite pending immigration reform legislation.
23, who has been put in solitary confinement and, according to
Gonzalez, is shackled every time she leaves her cell, migrated to
Chicago when she was only three years-old. She was notified only weeks
before she flew to Mexico in protest that she could have stayed lawfully
in the U.S. temporarily under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
program, which grants a two-year deferral of deportation for undocumented immigrants who came to the states at a young age.
But Gonzalez, who is living with Martinez’s mom while she is detained, said DACA “is not enough.”
and six other members of the DREAM 9 — named after the DREAM Act, a bill aimed at providing most young undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship — were notified
Monday that their petitions for U.S. asylum
would be considered by a
judge. Gonzalez said that could happen anywhere between five days and
five months from now.
“This is about empowerment, and it’s
about not giving up,” he said, adding that he is also undocumented and
has lived in Chicago for more than 20 years. “We are undocumented and
unafraid. We will no longer live in the shadows and we are looking
toward a day that our people will no longer live in fear."
More than 400,000 people were deported
in fiscal year 2012, which is a record high for the nation. That
amounts to more than 1,100 deportations of the estimated 11
million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. each day.
“We have a
dysfunctional system where people who are eligible to apply for
citizenship are waiting up to 23 years for their chance to apply for a
VISA,” said Fred Tsao, policy director for the Illinois Coalition for
Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR)
. “Most of these are people who are
merely trying to make a living in the United States, support their
families, and many have U.S. citizen children ... But we also have labor
shortages in various sectors of our economy, including agriculture and
construction, so this immigration system isn’t working for anybody. It
needs to be fixed.”
out of the Senate in June, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act Of 2013, S. 744
, was drafted by a bipartisan group of senators, including U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
. The proposal attempts to create a streamlined path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
the bill, which calls for a 5- to 10-year wait before an undocumented immigrant can apply for citizenship,
faces an uncertain future
in the GOP-led U.S. House of Representatives.
said there “is some likelihood” the House could pass some version of
immigration reform, especially considering that the lower chamber has been
working on a piecemeal legislative package
for several months.
can’t take that for granted, though,” he said. “We need to continue to
do the work that we need to do to keep pressure on House leadership and
make sure the issues keep moving during the summer and into the fall.”
the House is in recess and won’t return until September, the Illinois
Business Immigration Coalition (IBIC)
has launched the "Illinois' Road
" August recess campaign. Through a series of events
coordinated throughout the state with participation from community
stakeholders, high- and low-skilled workers, large corporations and small
businesses, IBIC plans to press legislators about the need for immigration reform.
IBIC is partnering with the Great Lakes
Region - U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Bibles, Badges & Business For
Immigration Reform for the campaign, which kicks off Wednesday in
“Immigration reform is no longer just a moral
issue, it’s no longer just a family issue, it’s really an economic
issue,” said Raul Raymundo, co-chair of IBIC and CEO of the The Resurrection
. “CEOs from the likes of Caterpillar
, to local business entrepreneurs, are promoting the [Senate] bill because it will benefit
our economy on all levels.”
Our nation’s budget deficit, which
reached $1.1 trillion in 2012, could be reduced by $450 billion if the
Senate’s immigration reform legislation was passed, according to the Congressional Budget Office
Additionally, the nation’s undocumented immigrants contributed $10.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2010, according to a new study
by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP)
. If given
the chance to secure legal permanent residency, America’s estimated 11
million undocumented immigrants would likely pay even more in taxes
every year to state and local governments, the study concludes.
In Illinois, undocumented immigrants contributed more than $5.6 million
in state and local taxes in 2010, ITEP reports. If the Senate bill
passed into law, those tax contributions could increase by nearly $1.5
billion, the study found.
“We can’t underestimate the growth,”
said Raymundo. “The economy is going to be strengthened by immigration
reform on all levels. For example, at the high-skill level, if we could
have immigration reform for a foreigner, who studies here in this
country and can get an advanced degree, he or she ought to be on a path
to legalization immediately and that doesn’t happen right now.”
On Monday, immigration reform activists attempted to apply pressure
on U.S. Reps. Aaron Schock (R, IL-18)
and Rodney Davis (R, IL-13)
during a Springfield rally that drew roughly 50 protesters to the state Capitol.
sides agree that (the current immigration system) is broken, so let’s
come together and fix it,” Scott Cross, Springfield chapter leader for Organizing for Action-Illinois
, which organized the protest, told the State Journal-Register
“Neither side is going to get all they want, but the time is now. The
Senate passed it, so we really want to push Speaker Boehner to pick it
The demonstration brought protesters to the steps of
Schock’s Springfield office. The congressman’s spokesman, Steve Dutton,
told the newspaper that Schock supports immigration reform and the House “is
currently working on legislative solutions that we expect could be voted
on as early as this fall.”
Meanwhile, Gonzalez said immigration reform advocates need to continue to stress the importance
of passing comprehensive legislation.
“We’re tired of the debate,” he said. “We’re tired of them sitting around discussing our future.”
said NIYA, and other advocacy groups, would continue to call on lawmakers
and hold them accountable for their decisions regarding immigration
“We can no longer say we can’t do anything,” he
said. “It’s time for the community to wake up and open their eyes and
see that once we unite, we can see a brighter future.”