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Immigration activists march downtown to protest DACA termination

Protesters gather in front of the U.S. federal immigration services headquarters at Clark and Congress on Tuesday. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Hundreds of Chicago-area immigration activists took to the streets downtown on Tuesday to protest the Trump administration’s decision to wind down the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The gathering started about 5:30 p.m. with about 500 demonstrators at Federal Plaza, swelling to well over 2,000 who marched for about a mile on Dearborn Street south to Chicago’s federal immigration services headquarters at 101 W. Congress.

“This is about compassion and justice,” said Maria Gonzalez, a first-generation U.S. citizen who attended the rally as part of the group Protection for All.

“That could have been me who needed that protection,” Gonzalez said. “The paperwork doesn’t make someone an American. It doesn’t affect the contributions they make to the community.

“There are so many other issues for the administration to focus on. It shows a total lack of principle,” she said.

DACA provided legal protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children by their parents. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced its termination on Tuesday.

Angelica Magana, who is undocumented, took the microphone at the plaza rally to call on Illinois Congress members to draft replacement legislation to protect current DACA recipients.

“When DACA passed, it gave me an iota of hope. Now that has been taken away. We will not live in the shadows anymore,” Magana said to raucous applause.

Protester T.J. Jendres toted a homemade doll with a mask of President Donald Trump carrying a Confederate flag over his back.

“My father and uncle fought fascism in World War II, and now our country is going back full-circle,” Jendres said. “We have to resist it.”

South Loop resident Jhonny Perales said he joined the protest to show citizens that ending DACA will affect more people than most realize.

“It might not be your family, but I guarantee you know someone who is undocumented, that your co-worker or your neighbor or your friend lives in constant fear,” he said.

Aaliyah Guzman, age 7, at a rally in response to the White House’s decision to terminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. She was there with her father Deiby Guzman, at the Federal Plaza, on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

The group remained chanting outside ICE headquarters until about 8 p.m. Police officers blocked their potential path onto the nearby expressway, but relations seemed peaceful between protesters and police.

The Trump administration has challenged Congress to pass a law by March 5, 2018, that would allow people protected under DACA to stay in the U.S. Later on Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he could “revisit” his decision.

Trump took a hard-line stance against DACA as a presidential candidate, but he had wavered on what to do with the 800,000-plus people in America protected by DACA, including more than 42,000 in Illinois.