Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL-4) held a press conference today to announce a series of workshops to be held on October 6 across Chicago that will help young immigrants determine if they are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and if so, to sign up. The two leaders described the series of workshops as a "surge" strategy to help meet the tremendous demand for information and assistance on the deportation relief and work authorization program for young immigrants brought to the United States as children.
Interested applicants should visit www.DREAMRelief.org or gutierrezregister.com to pre-register for the workshops, which will be held at Roberto Clemente and Benito Juarez High Schools and at Richard J. Daley, Harry Truman and Wilbur Wright City Colleges on Saturday Oct. 6.
Those who pre-register will be contacted for an appointment and given assistance in determining if they meet the eligibility criteria and identifying the documents they will need to gather in order to successfully apply.
"Since I first wrote the DREAM Act over a decade ago, I've met with countless young people who only want a chance to earn a chance to live and work without fear in the country they call home," Durbin said. "President Obama's deferred action policy gives many of them that chance. These young peoples' entry into the workforce will also give American companies a chance to draw from their untapped talent. With such great humanitarian and economic benefits, we need to ensure that every young dreamer who qualifies for DACA knows exactly what they need to do in order to be considered. At last month's DREAM Relief Day we saw such a high demand for help with applications that we weren't able to assist all students. With the workshops planned for the coming weeks and months, we hope to give them the guidance they need."
"The first people who applied in August are beginning to get their approvals," Rep. Gutierrez said. "We want to make sure everyone who can apply in the Chicago area gets all the information and help they need to apply. This is a great opportunity and we have found that the more visible DREAMers and other immigrants become, the harder it is for politicians to ignore them. I see signing up for Deferred Action as the first step for the broader immigrant community to come forward, make themselves known, and get into the system and on-the-books."
Several Chicago-area immigrants who have already applied for Deferred Action joined the Senator and the Congressman at the press conference and encouraged their fellow DREAMers to apply.
Antonio, 19, has been in the United States for 10 years. He applied and was called in for an appointment to be fingerprinted (an intermediate step in the application process). He said, "When I went to the appointment for my fingerprints I had some anxiety I needed to get over, but I knew I was one step closer to what I want to achieve. I have goals in life and want to be one person that doesn't quit and sets the example for younger people who also struggle."
Katherina, also 19, came to the U.S. when she was 6 and applied for Deferred Action at Rep. Gutierrez' office on August 17. She said, "I am excited. I just had my appointment for my biometrics and I was truly blessed to have had Congressman Gutierrez and his staff helping me with the application."
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is the program announced by President Obama in June and kicked off in August that allows young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children -- those who qualify for the DREAM Act -- to apply for a renewable two-year reprieve from deportation and work authorization. The press conference was held at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR), an organization that is part of the broad coalition of community leaders and clergy working to sign-up eligible young immigrants in the Chicago area.
Senator Durbin, the author of the DREAM Act, and Rep. Gutierrez, a leading voice on immigration issues, are hoping to make Chicago a model for other communities by signing up the highest percentage of local eligible applicants -- the DREAMers -- for the program.