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Nearly 1,000 Kids Run the Downtown Streets for Immigration Reform

By Darryl Holliday | March 26, 2013 6:56pm

THE LOOP — Nearly 1,000 kids hit the streets Tuesday afternoon to offer a bit of advice to the adults in Washington, D.C.

Young protestors from around Chicago marched from Millennium Park to Federal Plaza in support of comprehensive immigration reform, calling on President Barack Obama and other high-ranking officials to sign a bill while "momentum" is strong.

Many of the elementary and middle school-aged kids, many of whom are U.S. citizens, are also the children of undocumented residents living in Chicago.

With prepared statements ready to address the crowd of kids and their parents, organized by the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, 10 of them stepped to the microphone.

When asked if he was nervous about speaking in front of such a large crowd, 9-year-old Christian Rodriguez, who wants to be an anesthesiologist, silently shook his head.

The UNO charter school fifth-grader then proceeded to offer the President and policy-makers a nugget of historical clarity.

"If I could sit down with President Obama, I'd ask if he could pass comprehensive immigration reform like in 1986, so my parents could stay with me," he said.

"Kids are the future of us," he added. "So we need to support them."

He then re-read his speech in Spanish — directed largely to the older generation present — but, having lived in the U.S. his whole life, the version en Espanol was only slightly less fluent.

Like Christian, 9-year-old Liz Marquez said she worries every day that someone will come and take her undocumented father away when it was her turn to speak.

Another child, Michele Rodriguez also voiced concern that her family, including her autistic sister, would be split up if her parents were deported.

"This [march] isn't just for me, but for all of us," she said.

According to Erendira Rendon, an organizer of the kid-friendly rally and member of The Resurrection Project, if the children's stories didn't have the desired effect, then a bit of reality will.

"These kids will be turning 18, and they'll all vote for their parents," she said.

While the group of youth with undocumented parents extends well past Latinos, she added that group makes up 10 percent of the electorate with 500,000 Latino children turning 18 each year.

"I think kids feel the pain and they want to express it," she said. "We're all waiting for a bill while momentum is strong."

President Obama, who said he expects debate to begin on a bill next month, also said he "wants to sign that bill into law as soon as possible.