The Chicago City Council passed a resolution Wednesday in support of the DREAM Act and against the planned deportation of a local college student Rigo Padilla, who I've written blog posts about before.
The vote was 49 to 1 with only Ald. James Balcer voting against it.
Now this is largely a symbolic measure as city government has no role in enforcing federal immigration laws. But our local politicians are attempting to pressure Congress and President Obama to take action on immigration reform.
"We must use the bully pulpit to make sure that people hear us, that Washington hears us, that the Republicans hear us. I believe that we speak for millions and millions of immigrants," said Ald. George Cardenas, who immigrated to the United States when he was 13.
Cardenas and other Latino alderman, Ricardo Muñoz, Danny Solis and Manny Flores, and also Ald. Toni Preckwinkle, spoke at a press conference at City Hall Wednesday in support of the DREAM act. This federal legislation would help legalize immigrants who came here as minors and complete two years of college or military service.
They also argued that Padilla should not be deported.
Padilla, 21, is an A student. But in January he was arrested for driving under the influence. He admitted to drinking a few beers with friends. He planned to drive eight blocks home but was stopped by police when he rolled through a stop sign. Nobody was hurt in the incident. Padilla was given supervision and this will not result in a conviction. But it was discovered he was undocumented and now he faces deportation on Dec. 16.
"My home is here. That's all I know," said Padilla, who has no close relatives in Mexico. He was brought here by his parents when he was six years old.
"To try and imagine or plan for something I do not know is surreal to me," said Padila, who has apologized for his mistake.
It is a serious mistake but it's not a deportable crime. Padilla should be give another chance.
He said the City Council resolution sends a huge message to the nation.
"Chicago supports undocumented students and is asking for my deportation to stop and to stop the deportation of other students who have struggled and lived most of their lives in this country," Padilla said.
Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, also supports Padilla.
"These are young people who are brought here by their parents," Hoyt said. "...These children are stuck unable to work, unable to drive, with futures on hold, often times unable to go to college."
Ald. Muñoz said Padilla's case shows the immigration laws need to be changed.
"These broken immigration rules are causing the break up of families," Muñoz said.
Ald. Preckwinkle also spoke in support of Padilla.
"This is a human rights issue. It's not just an issue in the Latino community. It's not really just an immigration issue. This is about what kind of country we're going to have, who we're going to welcome here and who we're going to support. And surely this young man who went to school, who is continuing his education and who plans to be a productive member of our society deserves our help and support," she said.
Last week Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano reaffirmed Obama's support of immigration reform. But immigrant advocates say the administration is moving too slow.
"(Obama) did promise the Latinos immigration reform. And he won the election through and through by Latinos that put him in the White House," Cardenas said. ".... A lot of Latinos are losing hope in his administration. Obama must understand his re-election hinges on getting things done."
Unfortunately by the time Congress acts it may be too late for students like Padilla.