“When DACA was signed into law, I was crying along with the students,” says Michelle Vazquez, the Post-Secondary Counselor at Evanston Township High School and the Club Sponsor for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. “DACA made things better for a lot of people. It helped students have more confidence.”
In fact, DACA made things better for more than 800,000 DREAMers across the country. With 42,400, Illinois has the third largest population of DACA recipients in the country.
In 2012, then President Barack Obama signed the executive order to create DACA – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – as a temporary measure until the DREAM Act could be passed into law. The DREAM Act – Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors – was first introduced in 2001 to provide legal status to undocumented immigrants who came here as children. As the DREAM Act languished, DACA provided a stay of deportation as well as the right to obtain drivers licenses, Social Security numbers, work authorization, and travel privileges.
For DACA recipients, this meant coming out of the shadows and into the open. Suddenly, they had the opportunity to apply for college, find decent jobs, and get relief from the fear of imminent deportation.
“In the past four years, we have created a nice and safe environment at ETHS,” says Mercedes Fernandez, the Latino Liaison and Minority Languages Coordinator at ETHS. “In our Latino Advisory Committee meetings, we inform parents about what’s going on in the school and we explain the policies and the norms.” Ms. Fernandez says they provide information sessions with key people in the school and in the community to help parents learn how to navigate the system and understand cultural differences.
“We have approximately 600 self-identified Latino families at ETHS,” says Ms. Fernandez. “And out of that number, maybe a third have Spanish as a preferred language.”
On Sept. 5, President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA will be phased out. No new applications will be accepted. No travel outside the country will be permitted. Some current DACA holders will be allowed to renew their applications within a narrow window that closes Oct. 5. For the rest, their DACA status will terminate on their expiration date with no recourse for renewal.
“President Trump’s presidential campaign was pretty straightforward in its xenophobia in using anti-immigration as part of its platform,” says Marcelo Ferrer, long-time Evanstonian, ETHS graduate, and Community Resource Coordinator for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association. “This made the community very, very anxious after the election. We in the immigrant community were stunned. If people were shocked, we were doubly shocked, because we also know what it meant," he says. “The rescinding of DACA is part of a campaign promise.”
Since the Sept. 5 announcement, that anxiety has increased. “I think there’s a palpable sort of anxiety that you see in individuals who are under DACA and individuals who support the students and workers who are under the program,” says Miguel Ruiz, the Latino Engagement Librarian for Evanston Public Library.
“This community is living in fear and many in this community are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression,” says Mary Meg McCarthy, Executive Director of the National Immigrant Justice Center. “For [U.S. citizens], we worry about our loved ones having health problems or being in an accident, but for individuals in the undocumented community, they also worry that some day they will come home and find that their loved ones have been arrested, detained, and deported.”
Aaron Lawee is an immigration attorney based in Skokie who has advised Evanston families on the recent rescission of DACA. “There’s only a narrow window to apply for the renewal,” he says. “And it only applies to the people whose applications are going to expire between Sept. 5 and March 5. People have to do it quickly. The deadline is Oct. 5, so don’t wait, make sure you get your renewal application in.”
In the wake of the Sept. 5 announcement, the enormous outpouring of support for “DREAMers” has come from every sector of society. Statements of support and commitments to supportive action for DACA recipients have come from sources as disparate as Pope Frances, members of Congress, prominent business leaders, and State’s Attorneys General.
Immediately after the announcement, Eric Witherspoon, Superintendent of District 202, issued a statement titled, “ETHS Safe Haven Resolution & Resources for DREAMers.” In it, Dr. Witherspoon says, “Whether DACA affects you directly or not, we are a school community, and any decisions about DACA affect all Wildkits. We have many origins and multiple identities and we stand together as one ETHS.”
In his statement, Dr. Witherspoon reiterates the key points in the ETHS Safe Haven Resolution that was adopted by the District 202 Board of Education in January. The statement declares that ETHS is “a safe haven for students and families threatened by immigration enforcement or discrimination, to the fullest extent permitted by law.” Dr. Witherspoon emphasized that all ETHS employees, coaches, contractors and volunteers “are responsible for upholding this policy.”
Taking this commitment still further, Dr. Witherspoon exhorted ETHS staff to follow the National Education Association (NEA) guidelines to support students affected by the DACA decision by offering assistance through emotional support and curriculum choices as well as by proactively addressing racism and encouraging unity.
District 65 is on board as well. “We stand by the Dreamers who are integral members of our community, and will do everything we can in our power to protect them and to provide them a high quality education,” said District 65 Superintendent Paul Goren.
In a Sept. 7 letter to the District 65 community, Dr. Goren assured families that the District’s “commitment to ensuring that all students feel welcome, cared for, and safe is unwavering. Every child and staff member, regardless of race, ethnicity, mental and physical ability status, gender identity, sexual identity, citizenship status, refugee status, and religion is a valued member of our District 65 family. … [W]e recognize the direct and indirect impact of this week’s announcement on students, staff, and families across our diverse community. As a proactive measure, our School Board unanimously approved a resolution on January 23, 2017 declaring District 65 a ‘Safe Haven School District.’ This resolution is consistent with state and federal law while ensuring that our schools remain safe and welcoming places for all children and families, regardless of immigration status.”
Mayor Steve Hagerty wrote in the Sept. 6 issue of the RoundTable, “If you're a ‘Dreamer’ living in Evanston, I and many others will fight for you. We recognize that you are students and teachers, doctors and nurses, taxi drivers and entrepreneurs, and contributors in whatever occupation you hold. Most importantly, you are our neighbors and friends.”
“As immigration lawyers we’re stuck with the laws as they're written,” says Mr. Lawee. “A common misconception is that anyone can just get in line and apply for a green card, but that is not the case. For many DREAMers, there is simply no way under the law for them to obtain legal status, even if they have lived here their entire lives and never committed a crime. But laws can change, and people need to work together to change them for the better. People have been coming together to try to fight this, and it’s been very inspiring.”
Mr. Ferrer agrees. “I did a workshop on Saturday, and, where normally I would have maybe 10 volunteers, this time I had 50,” he says. “Another very important way that people can help is by creating legal funds and putting resources into something like that.”
“Evanstonians can offer support by becoming aware of the ins and outs of what’s going on,” says Mr. Ruiz, “especially for service providers, in terms of nonprofit organizations, health services, and the City. These providers can help by being aware of how you can provide services or referrals and being informed enough to be able to share that information and having empathy for individuals and families going through this. I can’t tell you how isolating it can be to go through this. These are your friends and neighbors in Evanston who are being affected by this. This directly affects your community and how safe and welcome people feel in your community.
“The one thing you can do right now is to make sure our students are supported and know they are supported and are not alone . …They came here as babies, and this is the only life they’ve ever known.”
At the same time that the benefits of DACA have been welcome, the immigrant community and their allies have been very aware that it is creating inequity within families of differing immigration status.
Mr. Ferrer says, “One issue I think a lot of people don’t think about is the issue of what we think of as mixed-status families. You have a family, and some of the members of the family have a different status from the others. Maybe the parents and the first-born child are undocumented, but the other kids are citizens. We can’t just get rid of folks – we’re targeting American families too.”
Ms. Vazquez agrees. “We have mixed families where they may be legal citizens, while older kids are undocumented. Some of the children have privileges the others don’t have, so they don’t have the same opportunities,” she says. “The opportunities and resources we have for them are not the same. It’s inequitable, and it’s been like that for a long time.”
Ms. McCarthy says now is the time to push for a “clean” Dream Act.
“Call members of Congress and ask for a clean Dream Act,” says Ms. McCarthy. “The clean Dream Act is specifically saying that we’ll provide for permanent status for DACA recipients, free from harmful provisions that would hurt or demonize others in the undocumented community. Right now there is tremendous bipartisan support, and people are really coming out in support of this. Given the current Congress this is a good first step toward comprehensive legislation.”
USCIS will process DACA Renewal requests for work permits that expire before March 5, 2018. The DACA Renewal requests must be submitted by October 5, 2017. To determine when your DACA and work permit expire, look at your I-795 Approval Notice and the bottom of your EAD.
Below is a list of workshops or organizations that are assisting families in completing the Renewal application. Many require registration and have limited capacity, so call to secure your spot ASAP.
Renewal applications cost $495. You need a money order or a cashier’s check. If you need financial assistance, here are some resources that may be able to help.
Mexican citizens can get help from the Mexican consulate. Call: 855-463-6395 to make an appointment
ICIRR has a list of available resources to help pay for renewals that is constantly being updated. http://www.icirr.org/about/get-involved/protection/daca/paying-for-daca-renewal-fees
The Federal Credit Union is offering no-cost loans. https://www.self-helpfcu.org/personal/loans/immigration-loans
Resurrection Project is offering to help find resources and has a fund to help assist families. Call 312-666-3062
Missions Asset Fund Scholarships can be found at http://lc4daca.org/
What to Bring To A DACA Renewal Clinic
Money order for $495 payable to “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”
2 passport-style photographs (2 inches x 2 inches)
Current employment authorization document
Copies (front/back) of current employment authorization document/card
Approval Notice for Form I-821D, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
Approval Notice for Form I-765, Employment Authorization
Copy of your initial DACA application and any renewal applications if you have a copy
(you do not need all the evidence you submitted, just the forms)
Dates of any time you exited the United States since you applied for DACA
Advance Parole document (if applicable)
Certified court dispositions, from any arrests since you applied for DACA (if applicable)
Documents from any immigration court proceedings (if applicable)
School transcript (if still in school)
For more information, please contact the following organizations. CALA (872-267-2252), ICIRR (855-435-7693), Resurrection (312) 666-3062