UndocuBus: Immigrants ride for freedom

UndocuBus: Immigrants ride for freedom

This week tens of thousands of young undocumented immigrants came out to Chicago's Navy Pier and across the United States to seek information about work permits in a new plan created by the Obama Administration.

Meanwhile a small group of undocumented youth are traveling across the country on the "No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice" and you can follow their journey on Twitter @UndocuBus. The youth want to call attention to the fact that the new policy is not a permanent solution.

While the Obama plan would give eligible immigrants two-year work permits, it does not lead to permanent residency or citizenship.

There also are concerns over what will happen if President Obama does not win re-election and whether former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would uphold the program or deport the youth who registered with the government.

"This is not a permanent solution. It's temporary. Any administration can take it away," said Yaxal Sobrevilla, 20, of Chicago Ridge, riding with the bus this week in a stop in Nashville, TN.

"We have to keep fighting for a permanent solution," she said in a phone interview.

At least 10 youth from the Chicago area have taken part in the bus ride and they are joined by youth and parents from across the United States.

They started their bus tour on July 24 in Phoenix to protest that state's anti-immigration law and protest outside the trial of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. He is accused of racial profiling and discriminating against Latinos, including U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Three undocumented youth from Arizona were arrested protesting outside Arpaio's trial and could face trial or possible deportation.

Also, this week Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said she would refuse to issue driver's licenses to youth covered by the work permits.

Such actions and anti-immigrant laws from Arizona to Alabama are mobilizing the immigrant rights movement.

"We also are hearing groups of undocumented adults saying sin papeles sin miedo (without papers with our fear) and coming out," said Tania Unzueta, 28, of Chicago, and one of the co-founders of the Immigrant Youth Justice League in Chicago. "We want more of this, to get people organized, regardless of what policies are being discussed in Washington, D.C."

They hope to get the attention of politicians, including Democrats. The bus will make a stop at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 3. They plan to continue acts of civil disobedience and risk arrest.

There undocumented will protest and call for a permanent solution that would cover them and their families.

Sobrevilla was brought to the United States when she was just 4-years-old.

"We are part of the system. We contribute to taxes. We go to school," said Sobrevilla, a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago studying international studies.

"I want to work in a field that is significant to my degree," she said.

As many as 1.7 million people under the age of 31 could qualify for this program. They had to have come to the United States before the age of 16 and have no criminal record among other requirements. They also would be granted a two-year deferral on deportation.

The policy was put in place after Congress failed to pass the DREAM Act, legislation long supported by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and Congressman Luis Gutierrez. The legislation has failed to pass in various versions since 2001.

Undocumented youth, who have been educated in U.S. schools, would contribute more to the economy if they worked in skilled jobs as opposed to unskilled labor. Many of these youth go on to college but their career options are limited after graduation without a green card.

A study by Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda of UCLA found that recipients of the DREAM Act would contribute as much as $3.6 trillion dollars to the economy over the next 40 years.

Another study by RAND found that a 30-year-old Mexican immigrant woman with a college degree will pay $5,300 more in taxes and use $3,900 less in government expenses each year compared to a high-school dropout with similar characteristics.

This week New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that America needs immigrants. He also called on President Obama and Romney to hold a presidential debate on immigration. Bloomberg visited Chicago and Boston, where the the candidates have headquarters, to discuss the immigration issue.

“If we are going to create jobs in this country, we have to have immigrants,” Mr. Bloomberg said Sunday, according to the New York Times. “We’re going to need immigrants to start new businesses. We’re going to need immigrants to do the things that Americans just aren’t willing to do. We’re going to have to have immigrants to give us new ideas and tell us what’s going on elsewhere.”

The immigrant youth and their families hope the rest of the nation gets this message. These youth grew up in this country and they want to contribute. They need a permanent solution and should not be treated as second-class citizens.

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