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Sen. Dick Durbin: ‘This is chance to be part of the future of America’

Updated: June 15, 2012 1:48PM

Young people who have lived for years with the threat of deportation over them have new hope thanks to President Barack Obama’s move to halt the deportation of students who are in the United States illegally through no fault of their own, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Friday.

“This is an historic humanitarian moment in American history,” said Durbin, speaking at a news conference at the Union League Club of Chicago. “It is an opportunity for us to demonstrate to the world the values and caring of a great nation. And, equally important, it gives a chance to these young people … a chance to be part of the future of America.”

Obama announced Friday he has signed an executive order granting temporary legal status to the children of immigrants who were brought here illegally at a young age, have lived in the United States all of their lives and now are faced with deportation.

The president’s order bypasses Congress and partly achieves the goals of the proposed DREAM Act, which Durbin first introduced 11 years ago but which and others have tried and failed repeatedly to get Congress to pass.

Under the president’s order, students who are eligible to gain temporary legal status will have to renew that status every two years.

The order comes in an election year when the Hispanic vote will be key in several so-called battleground states.

Accompanying Durbin at Friday’s news conference was Alaa Mukkahal, a University of Illinois graduate who said she hoped the change would stop her own deportation proceedings, came to the United States when she was 9. Her family was fleeing violence in Kuwait and overstayed their visas. That made Mukkahal, now 25, an undocumented immigrant. She did later earn a degree in architecture from the University of Illinois, though.

“This will hopefully be a reason to celebrate and to give the youth hope,” Mukkahal said, “about not worrying about being deported and deportations hanging over our heads.”

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