DREAMACTRigoberto Padilla by liaoqinmei


									 The New York Times

 Julia Preston

 December 11, 2009

                      Illegal Immigrant Students Publicly Take Up a Cause

It has not been easy for the Obama administration to deport Rigoberto Padilla, a Mexican-born
college student in Chicago who has been an illegal immigrant in this country since he was 6.

On Thursday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said they would delay Mr.
Padilla’s deportation for one year.

Mr. Padilla’s case had seemed straightforward to immigration agents who detained him for
deportation in January after he was arrested by the Chicago police for running a stop sign and
charged with driving under the influence.

But since then, students held two street rallies on his behalf and sent thousands of e-mail
messages and faxes to Congress. The Chicago City Council passed a resolution calling for a stay
of his deportation and five members of Congress from Illinois came out in support of his cause.
One of them was Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat, who offered a private bill to
cancel his removal.

Obama administration officials said they would review cases like Mr. Padilla’s as they arose.
They said the situation of Mr. Padilla, 21, pointed to the need for an immigration overhaul that
would include a path to legal status for people in the United States illegally.

“We are committed to confronting these problems in practical, effective ways, using the current
tools at our disposal while we work with Congress to enact comprehensive reform,” said
Matthew Chandler, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.
Behind Mr. Padilla’s case — and others in Florida of students who fought off deportation — is
activism by young immigrants, many of them illegal, which has become increasingly public and
coordinated across the country, linked by Web sites, text messages and a network of advocacy
groups. Spurred by President Obama’s promises of legislation to grant them legal status, and
frustration that their lives have stalled without it, young illegal immigrants are joining street
protests despite the risk of being identified by immigration agents.

With many illegal immigrants lying low to avoid a continuing crackdown, immigrant students
have become the most visible supporters of a legislative overhaul, which Mr. Obama has pledged
to take up early next year. In the meantime, their protests are awkward for the administration,
with young, often high-achieving illegal immigrants asking defiantly why the authorities
continue to detain and deport them.

“Maybe our parents feel like immigrants, but we feel like Americans because we have been
raised here on American values,” said Carlos Saavedra, national coordinator of a network of
current and former students called United We Dream.

“Then we go to college and we find out we are rejected by the American system. But we are not
willing to accept that answer,” said Mr. Saavedra, 23, a Peruvian who lived here illegally until he
gained legal status two years ago.

Young people who were brought to the United States by illegal immigrant parents draw a certain
degree of sympathy even from some opponents of broader legalization programs. Roy Beck, the
executive director of NumbersUSA, a group that has staunchly opposed a legal path for the
estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, said in an interview that he could support legal status for
some young immigrant students. Mr. Beck said he would do so, however, only if Congress
eliminated the current immigration system based on family ties and imposed mandatory
electronic verification of immigration status for all workers — conditions that Democrats in
Congress are not likely to accept.

The students’ goal is to gain passage of legislation that would give permanent resident status to
illegal immigrants who had been brought to the United States before they were 15, if they have
been here for at least five years, have graduated from high school and attend college or serve in
the military for two years.

Known to its supporters as the Dream Act, it has been offered in the Senate by Richard J.
Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana. An effort to bring it
to the Senate floor was defeated in 2007, and proponents now consider it part of a package that
includes a path to legal status for illegal immigrants in general, an estimated 12 million people.
Mr. Beck said he continued to oppose that proposal.

Many illegal immigrant students who were brought to the United States as children receive a
shock when they get ready to go to college. They are generally not eligible for lower in-state
tuition rates or government financial aid. In most states they cannot get drivers’ licenses.

In recent years, student groups joined battles in several states for in-state tuition for illegal
immigrants, some successful and some not. This year, student organizers said, they worked to tie
those state efforts into a national network, hoping to match the mobilization networks of
opponents of the immigration overhaul, which proved far superior in the past.

The troubles for Mr. Padilla began when he drove home after watching a football game and
drinking beer with friends. He ran the stop sign, and the traffic police arrested him because he
did not have a driver’s license and had been drinking. Eventually, he pleaded guilty to a
misdemeanor. Immigration agents found him in the county jail.

Mr. Padilla, now enrolled at the University of Illinois at Chicago, had no prior record and had
been an honors student and president of the Latino student organization at Harold Washington
College, which he attended for two years. Friends from both schools mobilized after his arrest.

Similar rallies took place in November in Miami, when immigration agents detained two
brothers from Venezuela who were illegal immigrants — Jesús Reyes Mendoza, 21, a former
student government president at Miami Dade College, and his brother Guillermo, 25. Students
from the college held a protest in front of the immigrant detention center where the brothers were
“The undocumented youth are losing our fear of being undocumented,” said Carlos Roa, an
illegal immigrant student from Venezuela who joined that rally. “I’m public with this. I’m not
hiding anymore.”

Miami Dade College, with 170,000 students, has become a center for immigrant activism. After
the protests, and letters from Eduardo Padron, the college president, the immigration authorities
on Nov. 8 deferred the deportation of the Reyes brothers for one year.

De DREAM ACTIVISTS http://www.dreamactivist.org/blog/2009/03/21/stop-the-deportation-

       Rigoberto Padilla, an excellent student and the leader of the Organization of Latin
       American Students at Harold Washington College and active member of his community,
       is in deportation for a traffic violation.

Rigo was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after being pulled over for
a traffic violation by the Chicago Police. This is a violation an executive order of Mayor Harold
Washington in 1985 prohibiting city employees from enforcing federal immigration laws, later
passed into law by City Council in 2006, making Chicago a Sanctuary City for undocumented
immigrants. Rigo Padilla has been here since he was 6 and lived in Chicago for most of his life.
Currently, there is no path to legalization for people brought here as minors and instead of giving
Rigo Padilla a chance to change his status, he faces deportation from the United States.

The Campaign to Save Rigo Padilla is clear that this is not just about Padilla but a host of other
immigrant youth who are constantly punished for the alleged transgressions of their parents. It is
also about ending the raids and police cooperation with ICE through 287(g) programs.

Recently, it pained us greatly to hear about the quiet deportation of Sarjina Emy back to
Bangladesh after living in this country for 15 years. We cannot keep saving one student at a time
while countless, unnamed others get deported from the only country they consider their home.
We need the federal DREAM Act to ensure that American-bred talent, ingenuity, scholarship
and investment stay in America.


   December 16 2009

                                Student wins deportation battle

CHICAGO - Rigoberto Padilla, 21, came to the United States from Mexico with his parents at
age 6 and has been living here for the past 15 years.
Like thousands of undocumented youth living in the U.S. Padilla has led a normal life. He
graduated from high school, enrolled in college, and joined the honor society. He hopes to
become a lawyer one day.

A junior at the University of Illinois at Chicago, he is a Latin American Latino Studies major
with a minor in sociology. He's an excellent student.

Padilla has been fighting to remain in the U.S., the country he calls home, since he was placed in
deportation proceedings last January due to a misdemeanor driving violation.

His deportation hearing was originally set for today. However after lawmakers, students,
professors, religious leaders and immigrant rights advocates rallied to Padilla's cause,
immigration officials last week agreed to delay his deportation hearing for a year. Deportation
delays are rare and only 400 were granted last year.

"My family and I are all so thankful and so relieved," Padilla told the World by phone. "We're all
very happy."

Padilla said his case brings much-needed hope to so many undocumented youth in his situation
who want to go to school, graduate from college and give back to their country, the United

Padilla said he just wants to live a normal life, and happened to be in the wrong place at the
wrong time when he was pulled over by the police.

"Eleven months ago I was told I had no chance to remain here but I worked very hard and I knew
it was unjust and unfair. So I decided to fight to stay in Chicago because this is my home," he
said. "I was determined not to give up."

His case will be reopened in a year, and he hopes by then he can prove why he deserves to stay
in the U.S.

"They might send me back but I hope they give me another chance," he said. "I plan to work
hard, study and continue doing well in school."
Padilla hopes to become an immigration attorney. He said his experience has taught him a whole
new perspective about fighting for the rights of immigrants.

"I can relate," he said. "I know what so many families go through every day."

"This whole struggle was worth the fight and I have learned so much about activism and how to
create unity in a movement for change and social justice," he said.

Padilla's supporters flooded the Department of Homeland Security with thousands of faxes and
even designed a Facebook page telling 2,800 members how to help. The Chicago City Council
passed a resolution in his behalf, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., introduced a bill specifically
for Padilla that would allow him to stay.

Meanwhile activists are urging Congress and the Obama administration to enact comprehensive
immigration reform that would help the country's estimated 12 million undocumented earn a path
to citizenship.

On Tuesday Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., introduced a bill that would give a path toward legal
residency to undocumented immigrants who pay fines, pass background checks and meet other

The bill, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act of
2009, would allow college students like Padilla to fall under a separate measure known as the
Dream Act. Requirements would include arrival in the U.S. at age 15 or younger, a five-year
residency or more, and at least two years of college or military service. Versions of the Dream
Act have been introduced in the past without success.

"I'm glad the bill was introduced," said Padilla. "It's a continuation for a strong push toward
legalizing undocumented people especially students like myself. Immigration reform would
benefit so many families facing deportation."

The bill enjoys support form the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Black Caucus, Asian Pacific
Caucus and Progressive Caucus. More than 70 of Gutierrez's House colleagues have signed on as
original cosponsors.
Immigrant rights activists say the measure includes much-needed provisions that uphold our
nation's values, protects our borders, workers and families, and move us forward together. It will
not only ensure a more just system of immigration, but also contribute to the economic stability
of our nation, they add.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said it applauds Gutierrez's efforts and
celebrates the deportation delay for Padilla.

Padilla's cse illustrates what is wrong with current immigration laws, the coalition said in a
statement. Deportations have increased by 18 percent under the Obama administration, the
statement notes, and there have been senseless deportations of hundreds of thousands of
immigrants who have been contributing members of this society. These are people that work, pay
taxes, and own homes. As to Padilla, he has been deeply involved in the community,
volunteering, studying and working to make Chicago a better place.

Joshua Hoyt, the coalition's executive director, says the U.S. is on track to deport more than
400,000 immigrants this year.

"Families are destroyed, the labor market is churned, homes are foreclosed, and communities are
damaged," he said. "We cannot fix the broken immigration system on a case-by-case basis. We
will continue to push for comprehensive solutions that will end family separation and will
provide a path to citizenship for those that work hard and contribute to this society."

The AFL-CIO has also announced backing for Gutierrez's immigration reform legislation. It says
the bill provides a long overdue and sensible approach to immigration reform and protects the
interests of all workers - foreign- and U.S.-born.

The union movement is also urging reforms that will enable relevant agencies to regulate foreign
labor recruiters, essential to stopping the exploitation of these vulnerable workers.

Photo: Rigoberto Padilla. (PW/Pepe Lozano)

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