On the eve of a critical month for immigration issues, activists plan a wave of marches, unity vigils and lobbying to try to sway Congressional support for reform this year.

The string of citizenship workshops and church basement gatherings across Chicago and the suburbs will mirror mobilizations planned nationwide, organizers said Monday at a Chicago news conference.

In an unprecedented show of strength, Asian immigrants drawn from the Chicago area and nationwide will rally in Washington, D.C., next week for change to laws governing who comes to this country and how long they stay.

Next Tuesday, massive marches are planned in Chicago and other cities reminiscent of the mobilization that thrust immigration reform onto the national stage in 2006.

“A lot of things have changed for the better, but it is still going to be difficult,” said Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

The push clashes with opposing efforts to tighten border security and enforce existing immigration laws.

Both approaches come as Congress prepares, again, to consider the highly charged issue of how to handle the estimated 12 million immigrants living and working here illegally.

The U.S. House currently has a proposal in the offing. U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, co-sponsored a bill that would crack down on illegal hiring by companies and heighten border security while allowing illegal immigrants to gain a green card if they satisfy a series of expectations.

The Senate is expected to set aside two weeks in May to debate the topic.

“It’s not just a Latino issue. It’s an all-American issue,” said Sadiya Ahmed of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago.


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