Chicago leaders push for protecting Dreamers

By Kevin Beese Staff reporter

Chicago Ald. Edward Burke (14th Ward) talks during a City Council committee meeting about the importance of getting congressional support for the DREAM Act of 2017, which is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and is seen as a path to citizenship for young undocumented residents. (Kevin Beese/Chronicle Media)

Rebecca Shi lived with the fear of losing her mother for nearly two decades.

Her mother, an undocumented individual from China, faced the threat of deportation for 19 years. A doctor in China, her mother worked at a Chinese restaurant in Chicago and used her tip money to help put her daughter through the University of Chicago.

She credits U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-4th) with ensuring her mother stayed in this country and being instrumental in getting her mom a position in a local hospital.

Shi takes up the cause for immigrants on a daily basis as executive director of the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition.

Undocumented immigrants play a vital role in the Illinois economy, she said, likening the individuals to the two parts of an hourglass.

“Undocumented immigrants are 14 percent of the state’s population, but do 27 percent of the low-skill work and have 28 percent of the Ph.D’s,” Shi said. “They fill a critical gap at the high and low ends.”

She estimated that if individuals who arrived here as children and are still here because of former President Barack Obama’s executive order creating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in 2012 were deported, as the administration of President Donald Trump has threatened, the Illinois economy would see a $2.3 billion loss to its gross domestic product.

Chicago officials are lobbying congressional representatives to ensure DACA individuals stay in this country and that youth falling under the proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act get conditional residency and, if meeting additional criteria, permanent residency.

“To no one’s great surprise, President Trump announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will come to an end on March 5, 2018, unless the U.S. Congress takes action,” said Ald. Edward Burke (14th Ward), sponsor of a resolution seeking Illinois congressional support on the DREAM Act of 2017, which is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.)

Burke said the DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship and “keep the dream of a better life alive for these young people who arrived in this country without any real discernable memory of the place in which they were born.”

He said to fail to enact the DREAM legislation would invalidate the fundamental basic tenants of justice and equality, “which are the hallmark of this nation and its citizens,” Burke said.

“It is inconceivable that we would withdraw equal opportunity,” he said of the Trump administration.


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