September 19, 2011; Source: The Chicago Tribune | Life for undocumented immigrants will continue to worsen as more states take an anti-immigrant stance and pass unforgiving immigration laws. Moreover, traversing our labyrinthine immigration system has gotten all the more confusing for those facing imminent deportation as immigrants and their advocates receive mixed signals from the current administration.
President Obama has given hope to some people in deportation proceedings while simultaneously kicking more people out of the U.S. during his first term than George W. Bush did in two terms. As of mid-September, the Obama administration had deported over 1 million immigrants.
In response to the rapid pace of deportations and confusion over the administration’s selective reprieve, The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) has set up a legal-aid and assistance hotline modeled after those for homelessness and domestic violence.
People who call 855-435-7693, or 855-HELP-MY-F(amily), will be assisted by volunteers who can refer them to attorneys, social service agencies, or foreign consulates that can provide assistance. Help is currently offered in English, Spanish, Korean and Portuguese, the predominant languages spoken by ICIRR’s constituents in the state.
Volunteers fielded 173 calls from all over the country, however, during the helpline’s test phase. “We’ve had calls from New York, New Jersey, California mostly, North Carolina,” said Dagmara Lopez, coordinator of the phone network. “One morning we got about 50 calls within an hour.”
Ms. Lopez and her volunteers can expect to receive more calls within and beyond Illinois as word spreads to the hundreds of thousands facing deportation and the millions wondering when their time is up.—Erwin de Leon