Published on
the Chicago Tribune

Immigration Rallies: Activists Plan Vigils, Lobbying Efforts to Push Immigration Reforms

Antonio Olivo

An immigrant worker who came to the US from Mexico joins thousands of protestors as they march in downtown Orlando, Florida in 2006. (AFP/File/Roberto Schmidt)

Buoyed by recent promises from the Obama administration to push forward on federal Immigration reforms, activists in Chicago and other cities are planning a series of events this week to build more momentum for their cause.

On Monday, activists in Chicago Lawn plan to launch a "Get Informed, Get Organized, Get Mobilized" lobbying campaign. Groups around the country plan vigils to protest conditions in federal detention centers and news conferences to advance economic arguments for legalizing the nation's estimated 11.6 million illegal immigrants.

"President Obama has said that his promises were not just campaign promises, they were real," said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Hoyt said his group is planning "spirited rallies" targeting legislators who've taken anti-Immigration stances.

"We want our president to know that he can count on us to do the work that needs to be done to move votes in Congress," he said.

White House officials have said that it's unlikely Immigration reform legislation would be taken up in Congress before 2010. But the framework for what promises to be another contentious national debate could be laid down as early as May, when Obama is expected to speak publicly about the issue.

Immigrant advocates have been sending e-mails encouraging voters to lobby elected officials on the issue and are planning another round of street marches in Chicago and elsewhere for May 1.

Meanwhile, organizers encouraged by last November's strong turnout among immigrant voters are planning a national day of citizenship on Saturday geared toward drawing more legal permanent residents into the electoral process.

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