Chicago – Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) does not expect immigration reform to become a reality until 2015 at the earliest, and so he urged the 300,000 undocumented immigrants in the process of deportation to be "proactive and vigilant" in being certain that the government reviews their cases.
The Department of Homeland Security announced last month that each of the 300,000 scheduled deportations would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
"What's been achieved is not perfect and definitive but it can save many good and hard-working people, although we can't rest on our laurels," said Gutierrez during an information meeting held Saturday at Benito Juarez High School in Chicago's mainly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood.
To the applause of the hundreds of people who packed the auditorium, most of them from Mexican immigrant families, the lawmaker began preparing his own list of undocumented people in the process of deportation that he promised to turn over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Dozens of immigrants filled out questionnaires about their cases, heeding Gutierrez's advice that those who can benefit from the new rules should not just stay at home waiting for the government letter ending the process.
"It's proven that the government makes mistakes, and I wouldn't want an error to cause the separation of another family, for there to be more children living away from their deported parent," he added.
Gutierrez repeated that the review could benefit relatives of military veterans as well as students who might qualify for the DREAM Act, a long-stalled piece of legislation that provides a path to citizenship for qualified undocumented youths.
"Nobody in government wants to say it out loud, but this will benefit a million 'sleepers' who are waiting for their chance to come out of the shadows," he said.
"Kids who've arrived here at a young age and, if you've kept your nose clean, you've gotten in no trouble with the law, they're going to close your case out," Gutierrez said.
Also, the elderly, pregnant or nursing mothers, victims of domestic violence, people with U.S.-citizen spouses or children and those who have serious health problems will be considered in the low priority category for deportation.
One of the first to sign up on the list begun by Gutierrez was Ramon, who arrived in Chicago in 1989 and is the father of three U.S-born daughters ranging in age from 12 to 17.
This immigrant was arrested in 2003 for a traffic violation and despite having spent since then $18,000 on lawyers to handle his case his deportation date is set within 90 days.
Gutierrez said that Ramon is one of those people eligible to benefit from the new rules, which in his opinion are the only hope for undocumented immigrants who are waiting for the immigration reform promised by President Barack Obama.
"Let's be realistic, nobody expects anything before the (2012) elections, and afterwards you will have to wait for another two years for Congress to conclude its work," he said.