CHICAGO - For about a month, Octaviano Ortiz has felt stressed as he’s thought about what it would mean to leave his family in the Chicago area after he received news that he would have to leave the country before the end of May.
"My children wouldn’t have the same life that they have here," Ortiz said in Spanish, a father of four whose children range from 14 to 2 years old.
Ortiz, 41, of Cicero, fought his immigration case for more than 10 years before he recently received a letter informing him that an appeal on his deportation order was denied — he has until May 23 to leave the country on his own.
Unsure of what to do, Ortiz turned to immigration advocates who organized a rally Tuesday in support of him and his family. Online, advocates also created a petition that’s generated more than 700 signatures.
Advocates chanted, "undocumented, unafraid," Tuesday morning outside of the Chicago field office for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. One of Ortiz’s children held a sign that said, "Octaviano belongs here! Stop his deportation!"
Organizers, including Organized Communities Against Deportations, plan to submit a request for prosecutorial discretion with ICE, hoping that will allow Ortiz to remain in the country.
They were unable to present the request Tuesday, because the federal building was closed for the day. They plan to return Wednesday to deliver the request.
Fred Tsao, the senior policy counsel at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said Ortiz’s case highlights the broken promises around immigration reform, adding that advocates were also pushing for the federal agency to grant other immigrants in similar situations prosecutorial discretion so they can remain in the country.
"When President (Joe) Biden came into office last year, many of us were feeling somewhat optimistic because of the promises he made on the campaign trail; we thought that we might finally see citizenship legislation pass through Congress and we might see an end to deportations through executive action," Tsao said. "But that is not what happened. Octaviano’s case is just one more instance of a long list of broken promises by this administration."
Ortiz has lived in the United States for about 23 years, and he works at a meat packing company. His case stems back to about 2010 when he was placed in immigration custody after he was arrested by Chicago police on charges related to drunk driving, he said.
He later pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence, and satisfactorily completed his probation term, according to Cook County court records.
In recent weeks, Ortiz said he’s gone back and forth on if his whole family will relocate to Mexico or if he will go on his own. He’s particularly worried about his youngest son who was born prematurely and still has regular medical appointments.
"If I take him to Mexico, he would lose the help," he said. "But if I go and leave my wife, she would have to work and the boy wouldn’t be able get his therapy."
He said he doesn’t think his children will have the same health care resources in Mexico as they do living in the Chicago area.
As the date of when he has to leave the country looms, Ortiz said he will continue to push to keep his family in the United States.
"I’m going to fight until the end," he said.