Immigration reform supporters gathered for a viewing party of President Barack Obama's executive order speech on Friday in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.
"We're not a nation that kicks out strivers and dreamers who want to earn their piece of the American dream," Obama said during his speech at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas. "We didn't raise the Statute of Liberty with her back to the world, we did it with her light shining."
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a staunch proponent of immigration reform and one of about two dozen attendees at the Casa Michoacan viewing party, said "history is being made."
Obama signed the two expansive executive orders while aboard Air Force Way en route to Las Vegas. As many as 5 million undocumented immigrants will see relief from deportation for three years, including undocumented parents of children with legal status and undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. The executive orders do not provide a path to citizenship.
To obtain deferred action and work permits, undocumented immigrants who have lived in the country for five years must pass a criminal background test and pay a fee. Individuals who qualify can begin submitting their applications in six months.
"If you come forward, if you've been here at least five years, if you register, if you submit to a background check, if you pay your taxes, you can live and work in America without the fear of deportation," Durbin said. "This is a major step forward."
Here's more from Durbin at Friday's viewing party:
In Illinois, an estimated 126,000 households have at least one undocumented parent with one or more native-born U.S. citizen childrn, according to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. That translates to at least 126,000 immigrants in the state being eligible for a reprieve from deportation under Obama's executive actions.
"Our immigration system has been broken for a very long time and everybody knows it," Obama said.
"For years, we haven't done much about it. Well, today we're doing something about it."
For 47-year-old Vicky Chavez, a mother of two U.S.-born children, ages 13 and 16, the changes mean she can legally work in America for the first time since she moved here from Mexico 18 years ago.
"I feel so happy, I am blessed," Chavez said, adding that she just got her driver's license in March.
But she said that the country still needs permanent immigration reform and, even with Obama's executive orders, too many undocumented immigrants are being left without an option.
"I feel happy but not too much because I miss my family," Chavez said, adding that she can't travel between Mexico and the U.S. "We need immigration reform."
June 27 marked the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Senate's passage of a bipartisan bill that would provide a path to citizenship for America's more than 11 million undocumented immigrants. In October, House Democrats introduced a nearly identical bill. But Republican House leaders, who previously rebuffed the Senate's bill, have not acted on either piece of legislation.
Obama said he did everything in his power to convince Republican leaders to call the legislation up for a vote in the lower chamber.
"I told John Boehner, I'll wash your car, I'll walk your dog, whatever you need to do. Just call the bill," the president said.
In the wake of Obama's decision to make a go at immigration reform alone, displeased Republicans have reportedly made threats ranging from impeachment to another government shutdown. Top officals in the state of Texas are getting poised to file a lawsuit against the Obama administration challenging the immigration reform executive orders.
"With this action, the president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms that he claims to seek," U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told reporters on Friday. "And as I told him yesterday, he's damaging the presidency itself."
Despite Republicans' disapproval of Obama's executive orders, Durbin encouraged undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows and seek deferred action and work permits.
"There will be many families, you and I know this, who will be afraid to do this... That's a natural fear for people who have been here their whole lives afraid of a knock at the door," Durbin said.
But, he added, if more undocumented immigrants come forward, more pressure will be placed on Congress to act.
"If (undocumented immigrants) step up... They will become a political reality, they will become a moral force, they will become the very basis that guarantees this program will continue and grow," he said. "So I encourage everyone... To step forward."