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Senator Durbin Advocates for Dream Act and DACA Renewal Extension

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October 2, 2017 | Chicago, IL

Sen. Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) visited Erie House this morning to discuss the Dream Act, a bipartisan bill he introduced earlier this year alongside co-sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–SC).

The Dream Act of 2017 includes several provisions for qualifying immigrant youth and young adults, including protection from deportation, work authorization and, eventually, a pathway toward citizenship.

Senator Durbin

Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill) discusses the need for Congress to pass the Dream Act during a press conference at Erie Neighborhood House on Monday, October 2. PHOTO BY RIZA FALK

It is being lauded by many pro-immigration advocates as necessary legislation in light of the Trump administration’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program beginning March 5, 2018.

By effectively dismantling the Obama-era program known as DACA, President Trump has placed the future of roughly 800,000 immigrants—a diverse group of individuals who arrived in the country as minors, commonly referred to as “Dreamers” or “DACAmented” youth—in jeopardy.

“Four weeks ago today, the Trump Administration announced that it is repealing the DACA program, and now the deportation clock is ticking on hundreds of thousands of young people who know no other country,” Durbin said. “That’s why I’m doing everything in my power as a United States Senator to pass the Dream Act, bipartisan legislation I first introduced 16 years ago to give a path to citizenship to Dreamers.”

“We are grateful for the commitment Senator Durbin has made to working alongside our immigrant communities,” said Erie House executive director Kirstin Chernawsky, who introduced the senator at the press conference.

“At Erie House we have witnessed the tremendous capacity immigrants possess,” she added, “and it is clear that Senator Durbin has seen the same narrative to be true: Immigrants possess character, hope, ingenuity and perseverance, qualities that truly make our country great.”

This version of the Dream Act has already gained notable support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, momentum on which Durbin hopes to capitalize given the urgency of the situation.

“Organizations like Erie Neighborhood House are doing their best to assist Dreamers with the renewal process, but they have been strained to their limits by this arbitrary deadline,” Durbin said. “I will continue to press DHS to extend this deadline. But in the meantime, I strongly urge any Dreamers who are eligible to renew to do so by this Thursday.”

Erie House immigration attorney Viviana Mendez said that staff at Erie House had helped file close to 100 DACA renewal applications in the narrow 4-week window created by the Trump administration’s accelerated timeline for phasing out the program.

She also said that Erie House will host consultations Tuesday morning on a first-come, first-served basis for those that still need to renew and sending applications that day overnight in order for them to be received by USCIS by the October 5th deadline.


“I stand in front of you all today undocumented and unafraid. And I am planning to stay that way until the day that a more permanent legislation is passed.”

-Andrea Aguilera


The press conference included remarks from Andrea Aguilera and Asael Reyes, DACA recipients who participated in youth programs at Erie House prior to graduating from high school. The two are now enrolled in college and fulfilling their potential as leaders in the community, a testimony to their hard work and resilience as well as the opportunities afforded by DACA provisions. Both expressed optimism that the Dream Act will be passed into legislation.

Dream Act Press Conference

Andrea Aguilera and Asael Reyes, undocumented youth who are current participants in the DACA program, speak with Senator Dick Durbin about the Dream Act following a press conference at Erie House. PHOTO BY RIZA FALK

 

“I stand in front of you all today undocumented and unafraid,” Aguilera said, reflecting on the pending end of DACA. “And I am planning to stay that way until the day that a more permanent legislation is passed.”

Reyes said that because of DACA, he was able to turn his life around and become a better role model to his younger siblings. He initially shared in their discouragement at the rescinding of DACA but is trying to take on a more hopeful outlook. “Don't give up on that dream,” he said, “because something better is coming.”

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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