Hundreds Of Immigrants Turn Out For Citizenship Workshop

CHICAGO (CBS) — More than 500 immigrants, mostly from Mexico, showed up for a citizenship workshop Saturday morning in the Little Village neighborhood.

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill) hosted the event, and said the immigrants were responding to a political climate of hate from Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

“Those who belittle us, and those that come with words of hatred and discrimination, we respond as people have always responded in America always to racism: by registering to vote, and going out, and making their voices heard in the political system,” Gutierrez said.

The line stretched down the block in front of the Instituto del Progresso Latino at 25th Street and Western Avenue. Immigrants paid $680 each to the federal government to start the process of becoming citizens.

“How many Congressmen do you know call a community meeting, ask people to show up so they can pay $680 to the government? Yes, we’re helping them fill out the applications, but they’re here to say ‘I’m ready to learn English, I’m ready to learn about the Constitution, and I’m ready to make a full commitment to this country. I think it’s a great day in American history,” Gutierrez asked.

He said it was like what happened in 1994, when California’s anti-immigrant Proposition 187 was on the ballot – aiming to establish a state-run citizenship screening system, and prohibit undocumented immigrants from using health care, public education, and other services – and millions of immigrants became U.S. citizens.

“The same thing happened. They turned the state that gave us Ronald Reagan twice as President of the United States into the bluest of blue states, into a Democratic state. Why? Because, by the millions, immigrants responded by becoming citizens of the United States,” he said.

Gutierrez said there are nearly 9 million immigrants in America who qualify for American citizenship.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Trump “has awakened a sleeping giant that is growing and standing up.”

“What Donald Trump has said about immigration – particularly from Mexico – is hateful, it is mean, and it is unfair. We need to stand up and say to him, ‘We will not fight your hateful words with hateful words. We will fight your hateful words with action.’”

Gutierrez said, after the immigrants get through all the classes required for citizenship, they’ll know more about the Constitution than most of the people running for President.

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