Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) issued a statement reacting to new statistics from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the number of immigrants who have applied for relief under the President's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for DREAM Act-eligible youth. The new statistics, released Friday, indicate that almost 309,000 young people have applied and 53,273 have been approved for a two-year reprieve from deportation and work authorization. Almost 5,000 applications have been received per day since USCIS began accepting applications in August.
The Congressman, who played an active role in persuading the Obama Administration to initiate the program and in campaigning for President Obama's reelection this summer and fall, will attend a special Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday in Chicago with 21 DACA recipients and their families, hosted by Lincoln United Methodist Church in Chicago (2242 S. Damon, 5:30 -7:00 pm on Wed., Nov. 21).
The following is a statement from Rep. Gutierrez, who serves as Chair of the Task Force on Immigration of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus:
I am elated that so many applications are coming in and now that the fear of Romney winning is out of the way, I think a half-million applications by New Years should be our goal. Everyone I speak with in Chicago and Washington sees this relief for DREAM Act-eligible youth as a turning point on the immigration issue. It is clearly a first step towards broader and permanent immigration reform and shows the hunger for it in the community and the wisdom of the policy.
I feel gratified that after pushing so hard for deportation relief, the President extended real relief and the community has embraced it. When 15,000 or so young people and their families lined up at Chicago's Navy Pier on August 15, I knew this would be huge and is a clear indication that the politics of immigration reform have shifted seismically. Now there are tens of thousands of immigrants who can pursue their goals and dreams who don't have to worry about being jailed and marched out of the country they call home. The American people rejected the politics of division at the ballot box, and now we are poised to move immigration reform when the Congress convenes in January.
Every day, in my offices in Chicago and Cicero, we help young people prepare and submit their applications for DACA. The process for the estimated 1.6 million eligible applicants is rigorous, time consuming and expensive, but for DREAMers being able to work legally, drive legally, and be free from fear of deportation is priceless. The 50,000 young people approved for work authorization so far have made one giant leap on behalf of all immigrants to show that their futures and the future of our country are irreversibly interconnected.
I am looking forward to sharing a truly thankful Thanksgiving meal with 21 young DACA recipients and their families in Chicago on Wednesday evening. I know how significant this moment is for them and for the entire community that has been fighting for justice and inclusion and will keep fighting in the New Year. We have reached a tipping point in the journey towards reestablishing immigration as a shining example of what America is all about. We are on the verge of transforming a thorny political impasse into a reimagining of the America Dream and what immigrants and their families bring to our country, now and in the future.