Immigrants Put Pressure On Congress

Emma Graves Fitzsimmons, Chicago Tribune, Jan. 31, 2007

An alliance of Chicago immigrant advocates called on Congress Tuesday to give undocumented immigrants legal status when the Democratic majority takes another look at immigration reform in February.

“The language in Washington, D.C., is different from the language here at the grass-roots level,” said Carlos Arango, the executive director of Casa Aztlan, a cultural center for the Mexican community in Pilsen. “This is the agenda that comes from the community. It is not negotiable. We want legalization for everyone.”

The United Front of Immigrants released a set of demands at a news conference Tuesday that included suspending construction of a fence along the border, establishing a path to citizenship for more immigrants and ending recent attempts by customs officials to intimidate immigrants.

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Chicago has been at the foreground of the national immigration debate after several marches last spring brought hundreds of thousands of protesters calling for the legalization of undocumented immigrants to downtown streets. There are 1.5 million Mexican immigrants residing in Illinois, according to figures from the 2000 U.S. Census.

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Since 2004, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has registered 42,057 people in the Chicago metropolitan area. The organization had more than 1,500 volunteers calling voters and knocking on doors on Election Day in November.

A more just immigration reform bill will test how much the Democrats value Latino voters that helped them get elected last year, Arango said.

The United Front alliance includes several groups that participated in the marches, including Casa Aztlan, the United Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Latino Organization of the Southwest and the International Coalition of Mexicans Abroad.

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