Story Summary

Immigration reform

The U.S. may be inching its way toward comprehensive immigration reform. President Barack Obama is expected to endorse a set of proposals worked out by a bipartisan group of senators.

Meanwhile, in Illinois, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law that will help ensure every Illinois motorist, including the 250,000 illegal immigrant motorists, are properly licensed to drive.

 

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Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who previously opposed an immigration reform bill, says he’s ready to support new changes which include additional border security.

The changes are expected to be announced today by the bipartisan group of senators sponsoring the bill.

A source says the “border surge” would double the number of border patrol agents, and ensure 700 miles of fence.

The changes are aimed at attracting 70 or more votes in the Senate, and creating momentum for success in the Republican controlled house.

In what has become an annual show of force in cities across the country, immigrant workers and their families took to Chicago’s streets on May 1, marching on behalf of immigration reform, hoping their voices will be heard by lawmakers locally, and in Washington D.C.

Their message today? “Basically stop deportation, we’re here to work, we are not criminals,” one marcher said.

The afternoon began at Union Park on the city’s Near West Side where about 1,000 demonstrators gathered.  The crowd quickly grew to several thousand as the march continued down Washington Street. Marchers met with another group of demonstrators at Des Plaines, then everyone headed straight for Federal Plaza.

They held American and Mexican flags, chanting in both English and Spanish.  Many marchers were undocumented, and some have family members who have been deported.

“My family is one of them that is divided due to deportation,” said Cecilia Ibarra, explaining that some of her family members have been deported.

“They live there with their kids who were born here,” she said

“Most of these people do the jobs nobody wants to do, so I think we’re fighting for something that is right for everybody,” said marcher Oscar Gonzalez.

By 4 p.m. Wednesday, Federal Plaza was packed. The Chicago Police Department kept a close eye on the crowd looking for suspicious activity –  more than 100 officers were on hand.  Dozens of speakers told stories of having family members deported, while others did their best to fire the crowd up. Sen. Dick Durbin was the main speaker of the day.

“It is time for America to stand together for comprehensive immigration reform!” he said.

He of course spoke about the DREAM Act, and his efforts to pass a immigration reform bill he says he’s has been working on for the past three months.

“This comprehensive bill that we are proposing says that individuals that have received final orders of deportation are eligible to become legal citizens of the U.S.,” he said.

Organizers are expecting a big turnout for today’s May Day immigration march.

Demonstrators are planning to march through downtown Chicago this afternoon, before attending a rally in federal plaza.

Marches calling for immigration reform are held nationwide every May 1.

But organizers think there will be an even bigger crowd this year, now that immigration is on the agenda again in Congress.

The demonstration is set to begin at 2 p.m. in Union Park, at Ashland Avenue and Lake Street.  From there, demonstrators will head east on Washington Boulevard to Desplaines Street, and then south to Jackson Boulevard.

The event will culminate with a 4 p.m. rally at the Federal Plaza on Jackson and Dearborn Street.

President Obama will outline his vision for immigration reform during a speech Tuesday in Las Vegas.

WGN’s Frank Holland has more on this story.

A new push for immigration reform was introduced in the Senate Monday and puts millions on a path to citizenship.

This easier path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants isn’t a sure thing but what it does show is that President Obama’s second term goal of immigration reform is getting noticed on Capitol Hill.

The plan, introduced by both Democrats and Republicans today, including senators John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida has four main objectives.

First, it provides a tough but fair path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the United States, after bolstering border security.

Second, is will give green cards to immigrants with advanced degrees in science, technology, math and engineering.

Third it will set  up an employment verification system that holds employers accountable for hiring undocumented workers.

Lastly, the plan aims to create a guest worker program for jobs that Americans are either unable or unwilling to do.

“We have a broken immigration system, 11million living in limbo,” said Illinois State Senator Dick Durbin.  “This statement of values is a good starting point to long-term approach that’s fair.”
“Today’s an important first step.   The issue of immigration is not a simple one.  (This is a )tremendous service to our country and to its future,” said Rubio.

Conservative leaders voiced their opposition to what they called an Obama-amnesty.

“When you legalize those who are in the country illegally, it costs taxpayers millions of dollars, costs American workers thousands of jobs and encourages more illegal immigration,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. “By granting amnesty, the Senate proposal actually compounds the problem by encouraging more illegal immigration.”

But this afternoon in Chicago, 133 new U.S. citizens took their oath of citizenship.   Many spent years getting to this point and news of a potential compromise in Washington is welcomed.
Michelle Schaps who moved from Thailand 5 years ago said “We’ve been living here for so long I don’t know why it’s so difficult for people of the country to become US citizens.  It’s very difficult.”

 

What may prove more difficult is getting any support from conservative Republicans in congress. Utah Senator Mike Lee said the policy “will grant special benefits to illegal immigrants,” while activist group, the Minuteman Project likened it to amnesty.

“We’ve been hearing this for years. As a matter of fact we can go all the way back to 1985 with Reagan’s amnesty, it was the same thing.  Pay your fine, you get to stay and no more illegal immigration. It’s been more than 20 years and look what’s happened,” said Rick Biesada of Illinois Minuteman Project.

Governor Pat Quinn signed Senate Bill 957  into law Sunday, a bill that will help ensure every Illinois motorist, including the 250,000 illegal immigrant motorists, be properly licensed to drive.

Quinn, an early supporter of the bill says, unlicensed drivers present a serious, but preventable safety risk to all Illinois drivers.

“There`s a passage in scripture, if you save one life you save the world and that`s why we`re here today -coming together to save lives, said Gov. Pat Quinn.”

According to the Illinois Highway Safety Coalition, unlicensed, uninsured drivers are involved in almost 80,000 accidents in Illinois each year, resulting in $660 million in damage.

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, the Chief senate sponsor of the bill said bi-partisan cooperation helped get the historic legislation passed.

In order to qualify for a temporary driver’s license OR T-V-D-L, applicants not eligible for a social security number, must have lived in Illinois for more than a year. An applicant must pass a driving safety test and carry auto insurance.

The driver’s license cannot be used as official identification and can be revoked if a license-holder is found not carrying insurance.

Senate Bill 957 goes into effect 10 months from today.

The Illinois House has approved a bill that will allow undocumented immigrants to get temporary visitor driver’s licenses. Senate Bill 957 already passed the state senate and Governor Pat Quinn is expected to sign it into law. It would take effect in the Fall.

 

The measure will allow an estimated 250,000 people in Illinois to get temporary licenses. Supporters, including some Republican state officials, say it will make the roads safer for everyone. Undocumented immigrants would have to pass the necessary tests, provide proof of identification and proof that they have lived in the state for at least one year. They would not have to provide a social security number.

 

The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police lobbied against SB 957, arguing it should have included a fingerprint requirement. The house passed the bill 65-46, after a lively debate.

 

“We’re not following the U.S Constitution,” said State Rep. Dwight Kay, a republican from Edwardsville who voted against the measure. “Once again we’re not doing the right thing.  We like to do the wrong thing because it’s politically popular.”

 

The temporary driver’s licenses have a purple color scheme  instead of red. They cannot be used as valid identification to board a plane, buy a gun, or vote.

 

At an event organized by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood Tuesday night, Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the bill a step towards federal action.

 

“I want us to take this victory, savor it, and use it as energy to move on and bring comprehensive immigration reform to this country,” said Emanuel.

A proposal to grant driver’s licenses to as many as a quarter million illegal immigrants in Illinois is now another step closer to the governor’s desk

The bill advanced to the House floor on a 6-3 vote of a House transportation panel.

The bill passed the state Senate last month; supporters say it advances the goal of ensuring that all people driving in Illinois are licensed and insured.

Immigration rights activists says the bill would also be an important step toward legalizing hundreds of thousands of people who are currently in the country illegally; critics like State Sen. Chris Lauzen say the federal government must crack down on illegal immigration, and granting illegals additional rights and privileges makes immigration enforcement more difficult.

Sponsoring Rep. Eddie Acevedo, D-Chicago, said that he’s not likely to call the bill for a vote in the full House until Tuesday. The roll call is expected to be close. Time is running short as a new legislature is sworn in Wednesday.

The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report.

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