Immigrant advocates say DACA decision will affect hundreds here

Immigrant advocates say DACA decision will affect hundreds here

The decision to phase out an immigration program that offered temporary legal status for children brought into the country illegally affects several hundred students in Champaign-Urbana, mostly in high school and college, advocates say.

Educators from local schools were dismayed by the Trump administration's announcement that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, will be rescinded on March 6 unless Congress enacts it into law.

They said the Trump administration's action punishes individuals who had little or no control over the decision to come to this country and reneges on a promise made by the government to grant them legal status, even if temporary.

"It's kind of a sad day because it goes against what I believe is one of the tenets of American society, which is that we are a nation built on the ideas and talents of immigrants from around the world," said Urbana Superintendent Don Owen. "It's a step backward to say, here are young people who have sought an education, sought to be productive, taxpaying members of our society, who are now being threatened with deportation and lack of access."

The DACA program was created through an executive order by President Barack Obama in 2012. It has offered protection to 800,000 illegal immigrants, 42,000 in Illinois, who were brought into the country before the age of 16, giving them the ability to work legally and a reprieve from deportation.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said DACA was likely to be declared unconstitutional because it was imposed "unilaterally" by the president, circumventing Congress, which had rejected attempts to offer similar benefits. He said the program had encouraged illegal immigration and denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans in favor of "illegal aliens," without citing specifics.

There's no exact count of how many DACA recipients attend Champaign-Urbana schools or the University of Illinois, as neither the UI nor the school districts collect information on students' immigration status, officials said.

However, those who work with local immigrant families put the number in the hundreds.

'They're chameleons'

Ricardo Diaz of the C-U Immigration Forum said his organization had directly helped 70 people with DACA applications, not counting those who have done it on their own or gone through organizations such as the Immigration Project, a legal assistance agency based in Bloomington.

Diaz and Lucia Maldonado, Latino family liaison for the Urbana school district, estimated that several hundred students in Champaign-Urbana would be affected by the change, most of them in high school or college.

"Most of them were brought here by their parents. Most of them didn't have anything to do with the decision," said Maldonado, who was "crushed" by the DACA decision.

She knows of one young woman with a serious health condition who can only afford her medicine because she has a full-time job with health benefits.

Diaz said many DACA recipients across the country are working or already have college degrees — accountants, engineers, lawyers and the like.

"They're chameleons. They grew up here. Many of them didn't know they were undocumented," Diaz said.

Under DACA, they could get driver's licenses and jobs and didn't have to worry about being deported.

"Their parents must be feeling horrible, knowing that for a few years they saw their kids having all these opportunities and following their dreams and going to school without being afraid ... and now everything is going to be taken back, and they're going to have to go back to being undocumented," Maldonado said.

"It really took a lot of courage for these kids and their parents to bring these kids out of the shadows and turn all their information into the government," she said. "If the government really wanted to go get them, they have everything they need to do so. They know who they are; they know what they're doing."

'Difficult to have trust'

Owen said it would be unfair to prosecute DACA recipients for immigration violations now.

"When one administration puts protections and rights into place, and then another administration takes those rights away, there should be protections against that happening to individuals," he said.

Maldonado said a community forum will be held next week for parents and DACA recipients to explain the changes.

"We don't want anybody to be panicked thinking they had to do something today or tomorrow, or they're going to lose their jobs immediately," Maldonado said.

She said students knew that DACA offered only temporary legal status, and the six-month phase-out will help them make plans. She also held out hope that Congress may come up with a compromise, which President Donald Trump is pushing for, though "it's difficult to have trust that something is going to happen. We were there before, and it's been very disappointing."

The C-U Immigration Forum joined other groups across the country demanding that Congress take action to provide permanent protections and pass comprehensive immigration reform.

"Only then can immigrants be assured of their own personal security and be given a renewed hope in the country we collectively call home," the statement said.

'People are afraid'

Diaz said the suspension of DACA touched a nerve among immigrants.

"You're attacking our kids," he said.

Maldonado said Urbana staff members will let students know where to go for help or support, and Owen said the district will ensure all students have uninterrupted access to education.

"People are afraid. Our goal is to make them feel safe and welcome," he said.

Likewise, Champaign Superintendent Susan Zola said a number of supports are already in place to help affected students, including regular opportunities for families to talk with each other or staff members about their concerns; relationships with community organizations such as the Immigration Forum; and programs that help students with social-emotional issues.

"We still remain hopeful that over the next six months, Congress will evaluate and move forward with legislation that has a positive outcome," Zola said. "We never want to see our students, families or community suffer."

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Bystander wrote on September 07, 2017 at 7:09 am
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The law is the law. Deport 'em.

Local Yocal wrote on September 07, 2017 at 8:09 am
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What a cold-hearted comment.

Bystander wrote on September 07, 2017 at 9:09 am
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Yodeller's white guilt and identity political correctness has no place here. These are kids who were sneaked into the country against our laws. Real Americans are tired of people breaking the law and then getting the free goodies that come with guilt ridden "justice warriors" making themselves feel good by coddeling criminals. Trump and Sessions are right to start enforcing the laws and keep our schools clear of free loaders who just want to scam our system. Deport 'em. 

APC wrote on September 07, 2017 at 9:09 am

Your version of who the majority of who the Dreamers are, sadly, does not comport with reality (see, e.g., Alonso Guillen).

Nor does your definition of "Real Americans."


CallSaul wrote on September 07, 2017 at 5:09 pm

So Bystander, yet again, attacks another commenter with a juvenile taunt...? Then his reply to APC gets deleted because it's an even nasier attack...?

Such a surprise.

I'm sure he'll be self banning now for such breaches of the high standards of decorum and civility he demands others be banned for supposedly not living up to...

Unless, y'know he's just a hypocrite trying to get people he disagrees with banned for daring to disagree with him.

But that couldn't be now, could it...?

Illiniwek222 wrote on September 08, 2017 at 12:09 pm

...said the pot to the kettle, y'know.

CallSaul wrote on September 08, 2017 at 3:09 pm

The hypocritical self righeous sanctimony of RWNJ trolls is matched only by their utter and complete obliviousness...

You do you and don't ever stop...

Illiniwek222 wrote on September 08, 2017 at 4:09 pm

palilalia, non verbal. You continue to forgo treatment.

fuddrules wrote on September 07, 2017 at 8:09 am

If people agree with this or not, it doesn't matter, it'll never happen.   There's a lot more going on with Trump turning up the pressure on DACA.  It's not about DACA but a longer term play to leverage other parts of his agenda.

BigD wrote on September 07, 2017 at 8:09 am Urbana. Haha

Lostinspace wrote on September 07, 2017 at 7:09 pm

And the law has just ruled against the Muslim ban.  Waiting for your applause. wrote on September 07, 2017 at 8:09 am

So let me get this one straight.  One POTUS asks congress to enact a law.  Congress being congress does not.  Then he gives an executive order over turning congress lack of a decision and the next guy demands that congress does its job and enact a law.


Whose to blame here................. the current POTUS or congress.  Seems that we have a group of folks who need to get working in Washington to solve this.


POTUS even has Nancy and Chuck on board.

yates wrote on September 07, 2017 at 8:09 am

More like one president tried to make a law all on his lonesome. President's don't get to make laws. The next president realized the law the first president made was illegal and told congress to do something about it. Pretty simple, even if it's upsetting to those involved.

justthefacts wrote on September 07, 2017 at 8:09 am

President Obama did not make a law. He issued an executive order prioritizing the Federal resources which are used to identify and deport undocumented people. The government does not have enough resources to identify and deport all the undocumented people in this country. The President has the authority and the duty to prioritize how those resources are used. President Obama based his prioritization on one set of values, and President Trump is basing his priorities on a different set of values. The question is not about authority, it is about  values.

narciblog wrote on September 07, 2017 at 8:09 am

This is ridiculous. President Obama did not try to "make law". To quote Scott Lemieux:

"First of all, the claim that DACA was unconstitutional is false. While the Obama administration preferred a legislative immigration solution, it is unequivocally the legal responsibility of the executive branch to set enforcement priorities. It is also highly misleading to say that DACA contravened the policy established by Congress. The legislature has appropriated enough funds to deport only a small fraction of authorized immigrants; the executive branch using its discretion to determine which deportations were the highest priority is a known and inevitable consequence of the policy choices made by Congress. It was plainly constitutional for the Obama administration to determine that scarce resources would not be expended deporting law-abiding people who often have known no other home besides the U.S. — and it was also humane for those priorities to be made explicit."

APC wrote on September 07, 2017 at 9:09 am

Thanks for the quotes.  Simpleminded false aphorisms such as the R narrative (e.g., "Obama acted unconstitutionally") or abject lack of insight and cruelty ("deport 'em all") provide no helpful solution to the issue of revising immigration laws to better serve our national interests.  The sheer lack of empathy and willful blindness to the situations of many of the dreamers in terms of their relationship to the US and their native countries, as well as what will become of those relationships should they be deported (e.g., easy radicalization of those having their lives uprooted and without any means), is sadly a hallmark of what the R party has become.  Compassionate conservativism, as Reagan and the Bushes provided, is seemly dead.

The fact is that governmental systems are too overloaded with these issues for the resources accorded to them and the issue remains how to best enforce the law.  Obama merely appropriately targeted violent criminals first, leaving productive (and tax paying) illegal immigrants until later and hopefully allowing them (especially in the DACA case) to apply for citizenship as they were brought here without fault of their own.

This being said, it is unlikely that the disfunctional congress will pass comprehensive immigration reform in 6 months. Luckily, Trump has hinted that he may step in in 6 months if Congress is unable to (our saviour). Kind of strange, considering he (through Sessions) indicated that DACA was unconstitutional... (even though it isn't)/s


CallSaul wrote on September 07, 2017 at 12:09 pm

Yah, unfortunately the fine comments explaining the actual fact that Obama didn't 'make a law' will fall of deaf ears as far as the anti immigtant RWNJ trolls are concerned.

They read it on Brietbart or heard it on Fox so the actual truth value is irrelevant. What matters is that it confirms their bigotry, racism, xenophobia etc...

They really really really want it to be true so in their minds it has become true and no amount of actual evidence or truth will be able to change their delusionary misconceptions...

BruckJr wrote on September 07, 2017 at 2:09 pm

Reagan?  He's complicit in this invasion with his signing of Simpson-Mizzoli.  By granting amnesty to millions of illegals back in '86 he set the precedent that has encouraged the resulting flood of illegals.

CallSaul wrote on September 07, 2017 at 3:09 pm




Your xenophobia is showing...

Such xenophobia has always been around, dating to colonial times long before the Know Nothings and other xenophobic fellow travelers. 

But thankfully most Americans disagree with such anti immigrant bigotry.

American businesses and consumers --- all of us, including you --- are complicit in begging undocumented workers to come here to receive subpar wages, pay taxes and be shut out from programs like Social Security and Medicare. All so we could enjoy lower prices. 

And now xenophobic bigots in charge of the Republican party want to force them and their children to walk the plank just so they can savor inflicting cruel and needless suffering on millions of people.

But again, thankfully most Americans strongly reject this reactionary xenophobia.

Trump and the Republicans will have this fact demonstrated to them soon and in ways they won't be able to dismiss or deny... wrote on September 07, 2017 at 2:09 pm







like this guy said.


5 years sure is a long time  would you not agree Sollie?


But the hurricanes are still Trumps fault arent they.

yates wrote on September 07, 2017 at 7:09 pm

Call it a law or an executive what. It was still something only congress could do, not Obama. By doing so Obama actually hung out thousands of new potential democrat voters to dry. Oh, if Hillary would have only won this discussion wouldn't be happening.

justthefacts wrote on September 07, 2017 at 8:09 pm

Congress passes laws, Presidents issue executive orders. Trump has been issuing them regularly since he took office. His travel ban is a prime example. President Obama did not change immigration law, he stated how limited resources would be used to implement immigration law. President Trump's travel ban does not change immigration law, it states how it will be carried out. 

RatDog wrote on September 09, 2017 at 9:09 am

It's difficult for me to care about these people because they came here illegally & they've had years to get legal. If there is some reason they cant get legal then the stinkin' gubbmint should do something to make 'em legal.

I guess, overall, the real issue is that they are human beings. Somebody fix it already for the ones who are here & get future illegals outa here before it gets to this point. It cant be all that complicated! This is really testing my liberalism.