Community groups rally in the Loop, pushing for immigration reform

As Sam Sung Cheol Park joined a rally with immigration advocates Tuesday afternoon downtown, a looming deadline could alter his life.

Park, of River North, came to the United States as a child and is allowed to legally work since he is protected through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But the program currently doesn’t provide a path for him to become a U.S. citizen.

And if he can’t renew his work authorization next month, he could lose his job and be at risk of deportation if an approval is delayed because of backlogs at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The 31-year-old attorney supports his family as well as his parents, and the uncertainty of his immigration status is one reason he and hundreds of other people marched through the Loop on Tuesday urging Congress to create a path for immigrants to be able to obtain citizenship.

“We want to make sure that all members of the community that we serve are included,” Park said, who also volunteers at the HANA Center’s legal clinic. “We are not looking for a piecemeal legislation where only a subset of individuals get granted citizenship.”

Before the march kicked off, the crowd gathered near Grant Park and used white signs to form “11 M” to signify the estimated 11 million immigrants across the country.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights led groups including the Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project and the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council from Grant Park toward the Loop. Their message of “citizenship for all” echoed throughout a quiet downtown as a man riding a bicycle raised his fist in support as he passed the crowd.

The demonstration, which, outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices, filled an entire city block, ended at Federal Plaza, with organizers announcing they plan to travel to Washington, D.C., in September to continue the push for immigration reform.

Irasema Soriano, an organizer with Mujeres Latinas en Acción, said she joined the march for the people she works with in Latino communities around Chicago who often don’t know if their loved one will return home if they get stopped by immigration agents.

“Every member of my community has that feeling,” Soriano said in Spanish. “That’s why I’m here fighting for them. We are the voice of the community, and we will continue fighting until we achieve citizenship for the 11 million (immigrants).”

Elvia Malagón’s reporting on social justice and income inequality is made possible by a grant from The Chicago Community Trust.

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