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Gutiérrez and Durbin Speak Out Against Efforts to Undermine President’s Immigration Action

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January 16, 2015 | Chicago, IL

Luis Gutierrez and Dick Durbin

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL-04) denounced the recent initiative led by Republicans in the House of Representatives to undermine President Barack Obama’s immigration policies, including expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the newly created Deferred Action for Parent Accountability (DAPA) programs, in a press conference held at Erie Neighborhood House Friday morning.

Members of the media, Erie House staff and participants, and other community leaders filled Erie House’s Towne Hall for the conference, which was held in response to the House approval of HR 240. The bill will now move to the Senate, where it is unlikely to find the 60 votes necessary for passage.

“They passed what I consider to be one of the most hateful measures in modern Congressional history,” said Durbin in his opening remarks, promising to stand up for the interests of undocumented immigrants.

“We are a nation of immigrants. We are proud of our immigrant heritage. Our immigrants bring a work ethic and determination to the future of this nation that is indispensable to the American character, and we’re willing to fight for it.”

Gutiérrez became emotional when discussing the implications of the bill that passed through the House of Representatives. “I want you think how hard it is to leave your child behind completely,” he said, “because of the devastating effect of our broken immigration system. Two million people were deported over the last five years. That’s a lot of people. That’s a lot of damage.”

He told immigrant families not to lose hope in spite of Republican-led opposition in Washington. In a statement released earlier today, Gutiérrez encouraged eligible immigrants to register for the DACA and DAPA programs.

The DACA program, modeled after the DREAM Act introduced by Sen. Durbin in 2001, allows certain young immigrants to apply for deferred action and work authorization. The newly created DAPA program will extend temporary relief from deportation and work authorization to select immigrants who are parents of U.S.-born citizens. Data released by the Migration Policy Institute suggested that as many as 225,000 people in the Chicago area could benefit from the programs.

Former Erie House TEAM (Tutoring to Educate for Aims and Motivation) participants Stephanie Zavala and Joanna Hernandez are among the 600,000 young adults who have already benefitted from the DACA program, brought into legislation two years ago by President Obama. Each shared their personal testimonies from the podium to a captive audience following the remarks by Sen. Durbin and Rep. Gutierrez.

“I will be the first to graduate in my family from a four-year university,” said Zavala, who came the U.S. at age 2 and is now a senior at Dominican University in River Forest. “DACA has allowed me to grow as a person. Thanks to DACA, I was able to get a job at school and that’s allowed me to grow as a person, as a student and as a well-rounded individual.”

Hernandez, who served as the keynote speaker at Erie House’s Future of Promise awards dinner last spring, is also enrolled at Dominican. “I’m so grateful for everyone that has been fighting for us. These stories touch my heart," she said. "To know there are people that are feeling the same things that I feel, and to know we have such great people here to help us—it’s just amazing.”

Following the press conference, both Gutiérrez and Durbin responded to questions from the media before departing to lobby for more public support for the president’s policies on immigration.

Erie Neighborhood House (ENH) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that reaches 5,000 people annually, empowering them to build better lives while strengthening their communities. ENH offers Chicago’s Latino and diverse low-income residents a range of community-based education programs. With forward-thinking leadership, ENH is committed to continuing its legacy of cost effective, award-winning programming. For more information, please visit www.eriehouse.org.
 

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