On the eve of what is expected to be the end of the ‘Dreamers’ program, more than 40,000 young Illinois residents are unsure of what the future holds for the lives they have built here.
In a statement outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Chicago on Monday, Bladamir Caballero, 18, said Dreamers have been left feeling “like slaves on the auction block,” as they await a decision on the program — and their futures.
President Donald Trump’s announcement, expected on Tuesday, will likely bring an end to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, with a six-month delay. The program was installed through an executive order from President Barack Obama in 2012, and according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, has offered protection to 800,000 illegal immigrants in the U.S. who were brought into the country before the age of 16.
According to the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, 42,400 DACA recipients call Illinois home. Caballero is just one of them.
“This is not ‘The Art of the Deal’ with the lives of human beings,” Caballero said at a rally on Monday. “We will not be removed from this land.”
The high school senior came to the United States with his mother when he was just 2 years old and now lives in Cicero with his mother, who is undocumented, and his father and sister who are U.S. citizens, said Emma Lozano, the family’s pastor at Lincoln United Methodist Church.
“His support system is here, he has no one in Honduras,” Lozano said. “He can’t even consider going back.”
Teenage Dreamers in Lozano’s parish have suffered from intense anxiety over what will happen to their families. In a little over a year, said Lozano, two teens have attempted suicide when their parents faced deportation.
“They just cant see what their life would be or how they would survive without their mom,” Lozano said.
Now with the impending end of DACA, Lozano said “the anxiety and the stress is just going to continue to spill over,” for young immigrants.
Immigration organizations throughout Chicago say they are hoping for more clarity about what exactly the end of DACA will entail, and how quickly it will come.
“It’s all up in the air, which has almost a million young people uncertain about their futures,” said Sara Walker, of Familia Latina Unida and Moral Mondays.
“It’s horrible for all these young people,” Walker said. “What are they going to do?”
According to the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, 36,000 Dreamers are members of the Illinois workforce, with many more still in school or pursuing higher education.
The coalition, which wrote an open letter to the president on Sept. 1, which gathered 470 signatures from businesses as big as Facebook, said that ending DACA would result in $2.3 billion loss in GDP in Illinois over the next decade. The Center for American Progress estimates a loss of $460 billion from the national GDP in the same time.
“It doesn’t make sense economically and it certainly doesn’t make sense from a humanitarian perspective,” Walker said.
The coalition’s letter collected over 100 signatures from llinois companies and institutions.
Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro added his signature, and spoke out against the deportation of students.
“It makes no sense to expel talented young people who have been raised as Americans,” Schapiro said. “We need their knowledge and skills to build our economy and defend our nation.”
In February, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice K. Jackson sent guidelines to principals, advising them that ICE should not be permitted to access any CPS facilities or personnel without a criminal warrant.
Jackson issued a statement with the guidelines, saying: “While many of our families have serious concerns and anxiety about recent federal actions and statements, we want to make sure that parents know school is a safe place for all students regardless of their race, ethnicity or country of origin.”
Speaking at South Shore International College Prep on Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel touted a program that provides free tuition to city colleges for any CPS student who graduates with a B-plus grade point average, Emanuel pointed out that DACA beneficiaries also are eligible — and urged state leaders to extend the program across Illinois.
“I would like the state of Illinois to follow Chicago’s lead and have state aid open to Dreamers,” Emanuel said. “So that everybody knows the city of Chicago the state of Illinois welcomes you and welcomes your children.”
CPS officials said they were not concerned that news of Trump’s plan to rescind DACA protections did not result in a downturn in attendance, a key factor in school funding. Emanuel included a plea to immigrant students.
“And tomorrow to all the Dreamers: You belong in school. Don’t stay out,” Emanuel said. “You belong in school you are welcomed here in Chicago. You are welcome in our schools and you are part of the Chicago family, and don’t you ever, ever forget it.”
Several immigration organizations will show their support for Dreamers on Sept. 9 at Federal Plaza, where groups plan to organize to protest the end of DACA at 5:30p.m.
The National Immigrant Justice Center and The Resurrection Project will continue their “DACA Tuesdays,” providing legal help to DACA recipients at La Casa at 1815 S. Paulina at 5:30p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5.
In a statement outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Chicago on Monday, Bladamir Caballero, 18, said: “This is not ‘The Art of the Deal’ with the lives of human beings. We will not be removed from this land.”