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Informing Trump: Chicagoans voice fears, anger as deportation deadline looms

Demonstrators march around Daley Plaza during a rally for immigrant rights on January 17, 2018. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Mauro Navarro of Carpentersville has lived in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status granted immigrants from El Salvador for 17 years.

Before that, he lived here illegally, fleeing from his war-torn country in 1992.

He got married, had three children, bought a home. Because the Trump Administration revoked TPS status for that Central American country, Navarro, 45, and some 1,000 Salvadorans in Illinois now face a March 9 deportation deadline.

“After they bombed my house, my family had to run, split up. We lived outside a garbage dump. When I turned 18, I came to the U.S. alone. Getting TPS in 2001 changed my life,” says Navarro, who founded an organization to help fellow immigrants while working at a factory. Like his oldest daughter, he is two years into a college degree.

Mauro Navarro, an immigrant from El Salvador, speaks at a rally for immigrant rights at Daley Plaza on January 17, 2018. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

“I’m devastated. I would lose everything,” Navarro said Wednesday night, as he and some 250 protesters braved a bitter cold to rally at the Daley Plaza, then marched to Trump Towers for a prayer vigil before a Friday deadline for Congress to either pass a budget or face a government shutdown.

“No Trump, no KKK, no racist USA,” protesters chanted.

Salvadorans fleeing a 12-year civil war were the first to be brought into the Temporary Protected Status program, created in 1990 to protect immigrants facing natural disasters or conflict in their home countries from deportation. Today, more than 320,000  immigrants from 10 nations are covered.

The Trump Administration has revoked TPS for immigrants from Sudan, Haiti and Nicaragua, and is expected to revoke it for those from Honduras.

“We’re asking our Congress and the White House for a clean Dream Act that will include both DACA and TPS, with a path to citizenship,” said Daysi Funes, executive director of Centro Romero, a North side organization assisting immigrants from Central America. “We feel that for this administration right now, everyone is a target.”

It was during an Oval Office meeting last week to discuss a bipartisan deal to restore protection to youths covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Donald Trump allegedly referred to African nations as “shithole countries” and questioned the need to admit immigrants from Haiti and El Salvador into the U.S.

And on Wednesday White House chief of staff John Kelly told Democratic lawmakers that some of Trump’s positions as a candidate on building a wall along the nation’s southern border were “uninformed.”

According to CNN sources, Kelly said in a closed-door meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and other Democrats that he has worked to educate the president and move him away from his campaign promises.

Impacted by the TPS revocations are 45,000 Haitians and 5,000 Nicaraguans. Some 57,000 Hondurans remain in limbo.

Activists are urging Democrats to stand firm on demands for a deal permanently protecting the TPS and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, programs. Some 800,000 Dreamers, as the young people brought to the U.S. as children are called, are facing deportation after the administration ended DACA.

“We are all refugees. We are all immigrants. We’re Africans. We’re Haitians. We’re Latino Americans. We are one America,” said the Rev. Janette Wilson, senior advisor to Rainbow PUSH founder the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who spoke at the rally. “All of us are DACA, and all of us deserve immediate passage of DACA to protect our families.”

Ester Trujillo, a professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at DePaul University who attended the rally, said she sees students concerned for their families every day.

“People want stability. There’s this misunderstanding that [by rescinding DACA], people are just going to leave America. But really, they’ll just be pushed into the shadows. … They’re creating a whole new class of undocumented people,” Trujillo said.

Nationwide, there has been a groundswell of support for protecting Dreamers, and criticism of the impact of summarily deporting tens of thousands of TPS holders who are employees and homeowners and have U.S.-born children.

“Ending TPS is just another racist attack from the administration against hundreds of thousands of working immigrant families. Now is the time for Congress to act, taking a stand against racism and bigotry,” said Nick Desideri of S.E.I.U. Local 1, which represents many of these blue-collar workers.

Honduran immigrant Humberto Torres, who has lived in the U.S. under the Temporary Protected Status, which was recently repealed, speaks at a rally for immigrant rights at Daley Plaza on January 17, 2018. | Max Herman/For the Sun-Times

Honduran immigrant Humberto Torres, 55, of Zion, has lived in the U.S. under TPS since 1999, and is one of an estimated 1,000 Illinoisans from the Central American country expected to face deportation after a six-month extension ends July 5.

He traveled here in 1992 from the small rural town where he worked on farm fields, in search of better work and education. TPS was a path to purchasing his own home.

“I was finally able to work without fear, and now if Congress doesn’t act, I will lose my home, not to mention all the Social Security taken from my paychecks. lt’s a very tense time, just waiting to see what’s going to happen,” said Torres.

“If I had a chance to talk to Mr. Trump, I’d say, ‘Please be more human, like, have a conscience.'”

Contributing: Mitchell Armentrout