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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Chicago aldermen urge moratorium on ‘cruel deportations’

Chicago Sun Times
Jan 14, 2011

The Chicago City Council on Thursday turned up the heat on President Obama on the volatile issue of immigration reform that Illinois’ native son promised — but so far has failed — to deliver.

Aldermen unanimously approved a resolution urging Obama to use his executive powers to call an immediate halt to deportation of undocumented workers that separate them from families that include either a U.S. citizen or a child who would be covered by the so-called “DREAM Act.”

The DREAM Act would have established a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants, but it fell two votes short of passage in the frenzied hours before Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Now, aldermen want Obama to take matters into his own hands to stop a deportation policy they called “inhumane” and said is separating 1,100 families each day.

The resolution was championed by Hispanic aldermen and by Finance Committee Chairman Edward M. Burke (14th), who represents a majority Hispanic ward.

Burke noted that in the 1850s, the City Council voted to prohibit law enforcement officials from cooperating with U.S. marshals then tracking down fugitive slaves. The immigration issue is a similar issue of “compassion and morality,” Burke said.

“It is just unfathomable that the federal government persists in this cruel and unusual punishment to innocent members of our society,” Burke said at a City Hall news conference Thursday. “If Illinois can have a moratorium on the death penalty, the U.S. ought to have a moratorium on these cruel deportations.”

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) noted that the pace of deportations during the Bush administration has more than doubled under Obama.

“And this is supposed to be a friend of the Latino community?” Maldonado said. “This is the president [who] promised the Latino community and the immigrant community that he was gonna send a bill for immigration reform within the first 90 days of his administration. He’s just about to embark on his re-election campaign for his second term, and we’re still waiting.”

The City Council has been a frequent champion of immigration issues to appease Chicago’s fast-growing Hispanic population. In 2006, aldermen demanded a moratorium on immigration raids while Congress debates immigration reform, calling federal sweeps a “scare tactic” designed to intimidate “the new civil rights movement.”

Three years later, the council voted to champion the cause of Rigo Padilla, a straight-A student facing imminent deportation. The resulting news coverage helped Padilla win a temporary reprieve.

On Thursday, activist-pastor Emma Lozano held mayoral challenger Rahm Emanuel responsible for blocking immigration reform during his nearly two-year stint at White House chief of staff.

“He was recommending to the president not to move on this issue. . . . [Emanuel] said that we would not even attempt to look at this issue until the second term of a Democratic president. That is telling us that every day, 1,100 families are gonna continue to be destroyed, mostly Latino families,” Lozano said.

In an apparent attempt to counter allegations that he was a roadblock to immigration reform, Emanuel on Thursday proposed a local version of the DREAM Act. He vowed to work with business and civic leaders to launch a so-called, “DREAM of College Fund” that would offer low-interest loans to children with DREAM status.

To qualify, students would be required to: be between the ages of 12 and 25; have moved to Chicago before age 16; lived in the city for at least five straight years before application; be a student in good standing at a public or private elementary or high school in Chicago and be a law-abiding Chicagoan.

Pressed on why immigration reform didn’t happen under his watch as chief of staff, Emanuel told the Chicago Sun-Times last fall, “I don’t deserve all the credit for children’s health care. I don’t deserve the credit single-handedly on universal health care happening. Nor does any one individual deserve the blame if something didn’t happen.”