Immigration debated around Mexican bicentennial

September 15, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Next week, Democrats are going to try to pass legislation allowing young people who attend college or join the military to become legal U.S. residents.

Immigration reform was a hot topic Wednesday night in Chicago during a celebration of Mexico's bicentennial.

Immigration reform supporters have been hopeful of progress since President Barack Obama was elected. It was one of his campaign promises.

The current bill is aimed primarily at young people who have been in the country for at least five years since before they turned 16.

A colorful celebration on the main stage at Millennium Park Wednesday night marked the bicentennial of Mexican Independence Day.

Many in the crowd were also avid supporters of immigration reform.

"They have to do something - change has to come about," said Cindy Guitron.

Thousands of activists and undocumented residents have marched at numerous demonstrations over the last few years, urging Congress to pass immigration reform.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says now is the time. He plans to bring the so-called DREAM Act for a vote in the next week or two.

"Kids who grew up as Americans should be able to get their green cards after they go to college or serve in the military," said Reid.

Rep. Gutierrez has been an outspoken advocate for immigration reform.

In a statement Wednesday night, he said, "the nation needs immigration reform as soon as possible and members of Congress are locking arms with the White House to make sure all of our advocacy efforts are pointed in the same direction."

However, not everyone agrees. Many Republicans oppose the DREAM Act, and Rosanna Pulido, the head of the Illinois Minuteman Project says it is too costly at a time we can least afford it.

"If there was ever a time the DREAM Act should not be passed, it's now," said Pulido. "Americans are struggling."

Some critics say Reid is moving this forward now for political reasons.

He is in a tough re-election battle in his home state of Nevada, which has a large Hispanic population. At this point it's unclear whether he has enough votes to pass it however.

When asked about that during a news conference, all he would say is that he hopes so.

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