A group of activists and faith leaders marched Monday morning to the Chicago headquarters of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to call for permanent immigration reform.

The dozens of marchers banged drums, sang, chanted and prayed as they walked from Willow Creek Community Church, 418 S. Wabash, to the city’s federal immigration services at 101 W. Congress, where they linked arms and held a vigil outside the office.

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Monday was the day that a federal program protecting people brought to the United States illegally as children had been set to expire. But the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has been delayed by a court challenge to the Trump Administration.

“I’ve had DACA for five years now, I’ve experienced a little bit more freedom, a sense of security and… I was able to even visit home and meet my family in Mexico for the first time,” said Erendira Rendon, 32, of the Logan Square neighborhood, who came to the U.S. at age 4 and has DACA status until Nov. 19. “DACA has changed my life in so many ways.”

In September, President Donald Trump announced March 5 would be that last day that DACA recipients could apply to renew their status. The Obama-era program, which provides legal protections for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, was established by executive action.

Federal judges ruled in January that the Department of Homeland Security must keep the DACA program in place and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the Trump administration’s appeal before a lower court considered it. The judges made Trump’s deadline moot for DACA recipients — about 700,000 people — who have sought and applied for a renewal, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is not accepting new applications.

Activists are hoping Congress will pass immigration reform providing a pathway to citizenship for America’s roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Activists and faith leaders link arms outside the Chicago headquarters of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to call for immigration reform, Monday morning, March 5, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

“My parents never had DACA and even though they’ve been here longer than I have, and worked harder than I have, they’ve never felt what I did these five years of freedom,” said Rendon, adding that her father came to the U.S. in 1986 and her mother arrived in 1990. Both are 62.

Oscar Robles, 43, and his 33-year-old wife Wendy, who live in the Old Irving Park neighborhood, were among the marchers Monday in Chicago. Oscar has been fighting deportation to Mexico for seven years.

“We pray together, we need to stay together. Here, or in Mexico, or in China, you know? We’ll stay together,” said Wendy Robles, adding that the couple has two daughters, ages 8 and 11, who are U.S. citizens and attend Chicago Public Schools.

“This situation affects our emotions, our situation, our lives,” she said.

“I pray for (President Trump), I pray that God can touch his heart and change immigration laws.”

Activists and faith leaders link arms outside the Chicago headquarters of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to call for immigration reform, Monday morning, March 5, 2018. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times