Among those marching downtown on May 1 were people who live in and out of the shadows, the undocumented. How do they adjust to this life? What are their dreams? How do they see their futures?
We’ll be talking about this at our news gathering on Tuesday, May 7th in partnership with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and a number of groups that work with immigrants will be on hand. Our meeting is from 10 am to noon, room 101, 33 East Congress, Chicago.
And here’s a story from one of our female bloggers exactly about living without papers. You are welcome to use it and welcome to let it inspire you. Talk to me. Steve Franklin, 312 369 6400, cell 773 595 8667.
By Anastacia Favela
Edna Arias has seen half of her dream come true.
It’s the other half she wonders about although she has hopes.
There are many like the 20-year-old from suburban Orland Park.
She came to the United States in 2006 from Torreon, Mexico, when she was 13 years old. Her father was the first to come to America in search for a job in engineering. And once the rest of her family came to America, they settled in the Chicago suburb.
As an undocumented citizen Arias did not struggle with citizenship, until she reached the age of 17. “It didn’t really affect me until I wanted to get a driver’s license,” said Arias.
That opened a new world for her, a world of obstacles and setbacks that haunt the millions of undocumented in the US. But with the drive for immigration reform, there’s hope that changes underway will set aside the heartbreaking obstacles the undocumented face.
The beginning of these changes came in 2001 when U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced the Dream Act. The act was meant to help undocumented immigrants living in the United States for at least 5 years, who were brought here undocumented under the age of 16 at no fault of their own, to be given a “conditional, lawful permanent resident status.”
The status is valid for 6 years in order to lawfully pursue a college degree, obtain employment, or join the military. “Under this policy people are able to be protected from deportation,” said Cindy Agustin, a leadership trainer at Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Reform (ICIRR). “This act gives young people a right to education.”
With the legislation stalled in Congress, President Barack Obama issued an executive order providing many of the benefits of the Dream Act last year. But the action provides only temporary relief and does not resolve the long-term issue. It prevents the deportation of millions, but is not a route to any permanent solution. Those who apply for it must also re-apply after two years.
The administration’s offer of relief to the many undocumented appeared link to the hope that the US Congress would be able to work out a solution.
Agustin is involved with ICIRR’s efforts with those directly affected by the struggles of being undocumented. “I work with youth. My goal is to get undocumented youth to get help legislatively, or help them get resources they need to know about for protection,” says Agustin.
The great advantage of the Dream Act, as Muriel Howard, President of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities recently wrote in the Huffingtonpost, is that it offers, “undocumented individuals the necessary access to federal loan and work study programs.”
Currently, students eligible for the Dream Act would not be eligible for federal educational grants or federal loans, only private loans. There are reportedly 2.1 million children and young adults in America, who are eligible for the Dream Act, according to Immigration Policy Center, which is located in Washington, D.C.
But only part of the Dream Act has taken effect, the so-called Deferred Action, which “allows undocumented citizens protection from deportation for two years”, said Elisa Rodriguez, an immigration and family attorney.
Deferred Action allows for students to be able to earn a degree but they are not able to serve in the armed forces, as opposed to the Dream Act. Deferred Action must be renewed every two years to stay under protection.
But the action provides only temporary relief and does not resolve the long-term issue. While it prevents the deportation of millions, it is not a route to any permanent solution, causing frustration among many immigrant and their supporters.
The administration’s offer of relief to the many undocumented appeared linked to the hope that the US Congress would be able to work out a solution.
Nonetheless, the deferred action has been a blessing for Arias.
She was able to get a job while in high school, but she was not able to drive a car. “My boss heard about [Deferred Action] on the radio and told me about,” said Arias. This past August, Arias applied for Deferred Action with help from Elisa Rodriguez, and was approved.
“With it I can be more at peace while driving, and I can get internships, not just internships but paid internships,” said Arias.
She now has a driver’s license, social security card, and two years of residency. Although she is able to earn an education, Arias is not able to receive federal loans, and grants. “I received the STEM scholarship at IIT, that helps, but it’s not enough,” said Arias. The STEM scholarship is a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics scholarship given to students who are academically talented in these areas of study. Besides this scholarship, Arias can only receive private loans, and private scholarships.
The only person in Arias family that currently has a clear path to citizenship is her sister because she married a citizen. Arias’ parents can receive help through her sister to gain citizenship, but Arias must find her own way to become a citizen
“Hopefully my company would be able to sponsor me the residency and later on the citizenship”, said Arias, “If an employer claims you and sponsors you, they can say to the government that she’s really good at her job and she’s the best in her field and we want her in the US for our company,” said Arias. If an employer communicates this to the government, it will cause them to evaluate the situation and decide whether to grant someone citizenship or not.
As a biomedical engineering major at IIT, Arias intends on renewing her Deferred Action residency after this first two year period. Arias dreams of becoming a biomedical engineer to help construct prostheses for people with amputations.
As I sat in an empty campus hall at the Illinois Institute of Technology campus, listening to Arias, I could sense her conviction to become a citizen through her hard work.
Anastacia, a Columbia College journalism student, wrote this for Chicago Is The World