New federal guidelines give hope

By Vanessa Morton

Sgt. Alfredo Nunez, 24, returned to Chicago on Aug. 28 after serving 11 months in Afghanistan. Despite fulfilling his duties overseas, he is now confronted with another war in his own country.

Reunited with his loved ones, he is joined by his sister and three brothers—one of whom also serves in the Army—in a fight to save their father from deportation.

“They are trying to deport my father for coming here more than 20 years ago,” Nunez said. “He’s a taxpayer just like everyone else and his children are all citizens, so it does anger me a little.”

Faced with a battle to gain legal citizenship, the Nunez family came together with other families on Aug. 30 as Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez held a meeting at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, 55 E. Jackson Blvd., regarding President Barack Obama’s new deportation policy.

On Aug. 18, the Obama administration announced it would begin to review pending deportations on a case-by-case basis. These new prioritization guidelines will help sort out high priority cases from low priority cases, giving more room to deport people who have been convicted of crimes or pose a security risk.

“It was announced that there are 300,000 cases of deportation, and after review from the panel, they will take the high-priority cases,” Gutierrez said.“Those are the drug dealers, gang bangers, the people who cause havoc, pain and destruction to our community, and they’ll say goodbye.”

This allows many undocumented immigrants without criminal records to stay in the United States, including young people who were brought to this country as small children, military veterans and the spouses of active-duty military personnel.

Along with low-priority cases, Gutierrez mentioned the new policies having the greatest effect on eligible DREAM Act students. Though having failed to pass Congress, the DREAM Act aims to provide citizenship for students who’ve lived in the U.S as children, graduated high school and commit to two years of college or military service.

While the bill is stalled as pending federal legislation since late 2010, Illinois passed a similar bill on Aug.2, providing partial coverage to students by giving them grants and scholarships privately funded.

“We already know they are cancelling deportation of DREAM students,” Gutierrez said. “As a matter of fact they are returning DREAM students that already have been deported back to the United States.”

In a post written on the White House blog, Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Munoz stated, “It makes no sense to spend our enforcement resources on these low-priority cases when they could be used with more impact on others, including individuals who have been convicted of a serious crime.”

However, in the meeting Gutierrez repeated to the public that in no way do these new prioritization guidelines give any undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship or even legalization. Immigration laws will still need to be implemented, but it gives them another day in America.

“This is not a new legalization program; it’s not an amnesty,” Gutierrez said. “It doesn’t mean they are going to get papers, but what it does mean is that a million young men and women get to stay. They get to stay and live in America for another day, a better day.”

Gutierrez explained what he seeks to do in the upcoming weeks, which includes meetings with congressmen to discuss the new policies in more depth, followed by a tour to different cities where he will raise awareness of the policy and the possible scams and fraudulent acts used to trick undocumented immigrants.

“There are scoundrels out there who prey on our immigrant community, they prey on their fears and hopes,” Gutierrez said. “This is not a program that you can just sign up for, so if someone tries to sell you a bill of goods that they can help you, don’t be fooled.”

According to ICIRR’s Director of Organizing Stephen Smith, exploitation and scamming have become a very common scenario. He said 95 times out of 100, people claim to be attorneys, or attorneys will offer services when they know there isn’t hope.

“Anytime you have a group of people who are desperate, you’ll have a group of people who will try to exploit that desperation,” Smith said. “And these people receive essentially nothing in return.”

Aimed to give communities accurate information on the new policies, Gutierrez’s first tour stop begins at Benito Juarez High School, 2150 S. Laflin St., on Sept. 10.

“We will be out in the community in the coming weeks and months as we always have to educate our community,” Gutierrez said. “And we’ll be able to do all of these things while we fight to make comprehensive immigration reform the law of the land in the United States.”