As President Barack Obama nears a decision on what specific actions the administration will take on illegal immigration, Chicago's political and civic leaders joined immigration advocates at a meeting on Wednesday to discuss ways to ensure Chicago is a model for enrolling illegal immigrants into potential new benefit programs.
The meeting, which was organized by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Democratic Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez, D-Ill., was attended by various immigration advocates, service providers, faith leaders, labor heads and other community activists, according to a press release issued by Gutierrez
"I told the President he should be as bold and generous in providing deportation relief as the Republicans have been mean spirited and small minded in blocking immigration reform in Congress," Rep. Louis Gutiérrez, a Democrat, said in a statement following the meeting.
On Thursday, the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition will convene a meeting of political, civic, community and religious leaders to call "for immediate administrative relief for millions of hardworking undocumented immigrants and to protect the refugee children from Central America," reports the Chicago Sun-Times
"From the Mayor on down, in the private and public sectors, Chicago is a leader on immigration issues and when the President makes his announcement, whatever the specifics, Chicago will be ready to lead again," he added.
According to Gutierrez, as many as 600,000 immigrants gathered on August 15, 2012 to enroll in the administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), a program launched in June 2012 that allows immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to receive temporary deportation relief if they meet certain requirements.
During an August 25 appearance on MSNBC's "Jose Diaz-Balart" show, the congressman said there will be far more than 600,000 applicants for programs the president might propose in September.
"If it is 5 million, Jose, then that would be five times as many as when the president freed the dreamers from deportation, when he instituted [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] in June of 2012. When he said we're not going to deport anymore immigrants that arrived here as children and you saw how was it, Jose, that our community was ill prepared," the Illinois Democrat told host Jose Diaz-Balart.
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"The structures were not in place to help those people," he continued. "So I've been going around meeting with major news organizations, newspaper editorial boards, columnists and others here in Chicago for the last three weeks telling them we have get prepared as a city. And prepare a model for the nation because when 5 million people are allowed the opportunity to come out from under the shadows and into the light of day and get legalized, it's going to take a lot of work and a lot of capacity of our community but I'm really looking forward to that challenge."
Obama is also getting pressure from politicians and leaders outside of Chicago.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka cautioned Obama from taking a middle-of-the-road approach and urged him to "bold" with any executive action, reports The Hill.
"Unless he goes bold — then he'll again energize the right the same amount, but he'll also energize the left. And that needs to happen in order for this election to elect enough people to be able to pass comprehensive immigration reform, because . . . the broken system is a major drag on our economy and a major drag on wages."
But Republicans are warning against any sweeping action.
In an interview with National Public Radio
, Rep. Paul Ryan said that because there is such distrust of the administration, he worries that if Obama "does some sweeping executive action" that he will "poison the well" for any future reform efforts.
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