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The Mechanics
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Immigration Wed Aug 11 2010

Emboldened, Young Undocumented Chicagoans Win Victories for Immigration Reform

Despite a strong national push by immigrant rights groups for immigration reform in recent months, a bill seems unlikely before the year is over. As that reality sinks in, much of the movement has focused on fighting SB1070, the strict new immigration law in Arizona, as they ponder their next move. But the young members of the Immigrant Youth Justice League, based in Chicago, aren't pontificating. They've been arrested at sit-ins across the country, including one at multiple senators' offices in Washington, D.C., late last month. Of the 21 arrested at that action, all were undocumented, and almost half were from Chicago.

The participants, along with other IYJL members, staged a high-profile demonstration in March, marching behind a banner proclaiming their bold rallying cry, "Undocumented and Unafraid." As the rally ended in Daley Plaza, eight students introduced themselves by giving their names and stating their undocumented status.


Photo by Pepe Lozano. Undocumented youth out themselves as undocumented in Daley Plaza on March 10.

The group saw the action as a coming-out for youth who have lived their lives in the shadows, in fear of deportation. In the months that followed, the students stepped even further into the limelight, risking deportation in what the New York Times called "increasingly frequent and defiant protests" as they staged sit-ins in various Senators' offices in D.C. and Arizona.


Photo courtesy of dreamiscoming.com. Undocumented students, including Chicagoan Tania Unzueta, far left--who has been called the most visible undocumented immigrant in the country--stage a sit-in in Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) Tucson, Arizona office.

The students' goal is passage of the DREAM Act, a proposed law supported by President Obama that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youth brought to the U.S. as children with clean criminal records. Whether the bill will be proposed this year--or whether it can pass--remains to be seen.

While the future of their favored legislation is uncertain, some commentators say the students have already achieved victories. In the same New York Times article, the author notes that the Obama administration seems to have ended deportations of youth without criminal records; Julianne Hing, contributor to ColorLines, argues this policy shift is a result of undocumented youth activism.

As the immigrant rights movement ponders how best to respond to the current political moment, including the unlikelihood of comprehensive immigration reform this year and a challenge from the Right to the 14th amendment, undocumented Chicago youth seem to be setting the agenda for immigration reform.


Photo by Isaac Silver

 
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getinformed1 / September 25, 2010 11:42 PM

Our nation would be most fortunate, indeed, to be led by the likes of these young people! They deserve the success they WILL earn for themselves as well as for future generations of leaders!

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Mechanics is the politics section of Gapers Block, reflecting the diversity of viewpoints and beliefs of Chicagoans and Illinoisans. More...
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