It’s probably impossible to appreciate the depth of anxiety, fear and just plain despair felt in the past week by young undocumented immigrants in America, unless you’ve been in their shoes.
I can’t get into their heads, but I’ve spent enough time talking to them, before and since last Tuesday’s election, to get a glimpse into the dark place Donald Trump’s victory has sent them.
A lot of us are depressed about the election outcome, worried about what comes next. This is different. For them, this is real and personal.
For that reason, I can’t be dismissive of Lurie Children’s Hospital CEO Patrick McGoon’s characterization of the situation Monday as a “public health crisis.”
Remember that many of these young people grew up totally unaware of their legal status, then got a rude awakening as teenagers when it came time to obtain a driving learner’s permit or apply for college.
Learning they were considered illegal meant facing a future of limited opportunities living in the shadows instead of the bright one they had imagined for themselves. Many experienced gloomy years of hopelessness.
That changed when President Barack Obama gave them temporary legal status through his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA.
The nearly 750,000 young people who signed up for DACA were given permission to work. More of them were able to attend college. For the first time as young adults, they enjoyed the real freedom of not having to look over their shoulder.
Trump’s win changes that, although we don’t yet know for certain how much.
During the campaign, Trump said he would cancel the DACA program on his first day in office, returning the Dreamers as they have come to be known to the pool of those eligible for deportation.
Although he has yet to address DACA since the election, his renewed promise in a CBS “60 Minutes” interview to immediately deport 2-3 million “criminals” has heightened the young immigrants’ anxiety.
Nobody can say where Trump comes up with that number, unless he adopts the position anyone living here illegally is a criminal. There certainly aren’t that many undocumented “murderers, rapists and drug dealers” in the country.
It’s as if the DREAMers were given a taste of what their lives could be, only to now envision it being taken away.
That would send anybody into a deep funk, and it has.
“It was definitely a big hit in everybody’s emotional state,” said Adriana Velazquez, 26, of Back of the Yards. “I felt terrible. I still do.”
Velazquez was 11 when her parents brought her to the U.S. from Mexico. Now she works for the Southwest Organizing Project, although her real goal is to be a musician. She’s a singer in a Latin fusion alternative band.
DACA recipients must deal with the knowledge the federal government now has all their personal information on file, as well as information about their family.
Although she is concerned for herself and her family, Velazquez says what bothers her most is thinking of all the mothers in the Mexican community who have to explain to their children why the American people have elected as president someone who has said such hateful things about them.
On Monday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Rep. Luis Gutierrez and other public officials sought to allay fears by recommitting to Chicago’s sanctuary city status.
“You are safe in Chicago. You are secure in Chicago. You are supported in Chicago,” Emanuel said.
But the city’s sanctuary protections just mean that Chicago police and others won’t actively collaborate or cooperate with immigration officials seeking to deport them.
There’s nothing to prevent the Trump Administration from carrying out immigration raids in the city on its own.
Until Trump proves otherwise, the fears are justified.Tweets by @MarkBrownCST