Illinois reacts to Obama's immigration order

Friday, November 21, 2014
Illinois officials react to immigration order
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Illinois' Latino leaders strongly supported Obama's executive order for immigration reform while governor-elect Bruce Rauner promised to support bipartisan federal legislation.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- President Obama signed an executive order overhauling the nation's immigration policy and ending deportation for nearly 5 million undocumented immigrants on Friday.

The president traveled to Las Vegas, which has a large Hispanic population, to promote the order. He was joined on the trip by Illinois congressman Luis Gutierrez. Obama is scheduled to come to Chicago on Tuesday, Nov. 25, to meet with community leaders.

Republicans criticize the plan, calling it a lawless move that will ultimate do more harm than good.

Illinois Officials React to Immigration Order

In the wake the announcement Thursday night, many wonder how the president's immigration plan will impact the workforce in Chicago and across the country.

At the Illinois Legislative Latino Caucus conference, governor-elect Bruce Rauner addressed immigration reform. Rauner called President Obama's executive order a start, and said he will work to push Republican congressional members from Illinois to work on immigration reform.

"I will be encouraging them to take up comprehensive immigration reform in Congress in coordination with the President," Rauner said, "because that's the way the real changes, the permanent structural changes will get made."

For years the Chicago area has seen protests in favor of immigration reform. At Friday's conference several Latino leaders, many Democrats, say the president's move finally jump-started a long-promised conversation.

State Senator Iris Y. Martinez called it, "a conversation that is going to put thing into perspective that we can find solutions to an on-going system that has been broken for centuries."

The legislators in attendance, many of whom have undocumented residents in their jurisdictions, point out the executive order is just a start they've been waiting on for years.

"I would not say this is a step forward," said Illinois State Senator Martin Sandoval. "It is a step long-overdue and I want to put the message to Congress, both Democratic and Republican: Get to work."

More than Symbolic, Executive Order Impacts Real Families

Konstantin Zavertkin is an entrepreneur from Yekaterinburg, Russia, who has lived in the Chicago area without documentation for just under five years. All he wants is six months with the right to work and drive a car to show what he can do.

"I want to help economic America," Konstantin says. "I can help America."

Konstantin started a janitorial services company that endeavors to offer first jobs to new immigrants. Eventually he would like to branch into international shipping.

He lives with his sister Yulia, her son and their parents, who are also undocumented, in a 1,100 square foot Evanston apartment. Their parents have been in the U.S. long enough to qualify for the executive order.

Yulia has lived in Chicago for 12 years. She is a professional piano teacher who married, had a son, and then divorced. She says she saw Chicago in a movie and dreamed about starting a life here.

"I want to run here," she says. "I envisioned every single detail about the picture and in half a year, I am here."

She is worried Konstantin may not be allowed to stay in the country, or that he will leave.

"Lots of people struggle and these feelings overwhelm them and they are ready to go," she says.

Her brother is typical of American immigrants who, regardless of their origins, are just itching for the chance to compete.

"Give me six months, give me higher taxes, give me time to get organized," Konstantin says. "I would like to live here with my family, with my friends."