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Old 12-08-09, 09:56 AM   #1
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Immigration Reform: 2010 Could See Overhaul
Obama pledged to tackle system after health care

On Friday in downtown Chicago, Maria Ibarez holds a sign reading "Don't Deport Rigo" to support Rigo Padilla, 21, an undocumented University of Illinois at Chicago student who has been ordered to leave the country by next week. Ibarez was among 200 people who rallied on his behalf. (Tribune photo by Zbigniew Bzdak / December 4, 2009)

By Antonio Olivo
Chicago Tribune reporter
December 8, 2009

Having waited patiently in the wings, Immigration advocates in Chicago and elsewhere are anxious to take President Barack Obama at his word when he said Immigration reform would soon follow health care on the nation's agenda.

With several initiatives gearing up to put the issue before Congress in the new year, advocates are all too aware they haven't had much cause for celebration in recent years.

Their last big push in Washington, in 2007, failed to settle the status of the nation's estimated 11.9 million undocumented immigrants.

Deportations have continued, with nearly 370,000 immigrants detained during the fiscal year that ended in October.

That's more than twice the number in 1999, according to a report last week by Transactional Records Clearing House at Syracuse University.

In Chicago, frustration has been heightened by tougher local enforcement measures, such as a new city ordinance that, starting Jan. 1, will allow police to impound the cars of unlicensed drivers. Many of them turn out to be undocumented immigrants.

On the street, the emotions behind the issue can be seen in the growing campaign on behalf of Rigo Padilla, an undocumented college student ordered out of the country by Dec. 16.

Last week, 200 people rallied through downtown, and some demonstrators have threatened civil disobedience if Padilla isn't allowed to stay.

Groups seeking more aggressive Immigration-law enforcement, meanwhile, see cases like Padilla's as reasons to crack down further.

His illegal status was discovered when he was arrested for drinking and driving, and he has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DUI charge.

In hopes of finding a resolution, Congress is again talking about an Immigration overhaul early next year.

One House bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., is expected this month, and another Senate bill is expected in January.

Following up on Obama's vow to address the issue when he met with activists at the White House earlier this year, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said last month the administration envisions a "three-legged stool" that includes better border enforcement, more efficient legal Immigration and "a tough and fair" pathway to legalization that will require the undocumented to learn English and pay fines, among other things.

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