About 50 immigrants gathered in front of Illinois U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski’s office Wednesday in hopes of getting the lawmaker to support the immigration bill recently passed by the Senate. Lipinski was only one of six Democrats to support a restrictive abortion bill last month and has been unclear about his position on immigration reform.
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Immigrants, many of them undocumented, offered their stories of coming to the U.S. and barely getting by because of the broke system. Carolina Rivera was one of the demonstrators who congratulated the Congressman on his birthday and being able to spend it with his family. Rivera was unable to spend the day celebrating her husband’s birthday because he was deported. After living in the U.S. for 21 years, Rivera had no criminal record and “lived a normal, law-abiding life.” Following a routine traffic stop in Chicago, he was deported back to Mexico. Rivera now supports her three children by herself. “It’s been a really hard time and a big change in our lives,” Rivera, who is also undocumented and works in the Parent Mentor Program with Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), said. “Because I am the only one to support my family, I cannot buy my children everything they want, and can barely get what they need.”
Rivera is only one of 150,000 immigrants living in Illinois’ 3rd congressional district. According to the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, this area is home to a large Latino population with over 24 percent of residents being Latino. Fr. Brendan Curran is a pastor at a church that is predominantly Latino. He called on Lipinski to support inclusive immigration that provides a pathway to citizenship for all of America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. Several of the individuals at the gathering spoke of the incomplete bill and criticized the large fee of $2,000 for an application, strict work requirements and the long 10 year wait for a green card. Maria Lopez, an organizer of the prayer vigil called the bill imperfect. “There are a lot of things that could be improved to make citizenship easier for all of us. But overall, we’re glad that we have something on the table,” she added. “At least we have something.”
The group was optimistic that Lipinski would support the legislation. The congressman recently voted against an amendment that would defund the DACA program. “We need Lipinski to come out strong for immigration reform,” she said. “There are a lot of people in his district that are directly impacted by our broken system and he could be a champion for us.”
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