CHICAGO — Nearly 800,000 people, more than 40,000 in Illinois, who grew up in the United States now risk being deported as the Trump administration officially rescinded the DACA program on Tuesday.
Students and staff at the Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park reacted to the announcement.
“I am worried about being deported, getting all of my opportunities taken away by just one decision by a president,” one student said.
“A lot of these kids are now living in a great deal of uncertainty and fear and turmoil. They certainty can’t be expected to be their best selves and do their best learning when they’re in fear for their future,” Darrell Tienou-Gustafson, Chicago Math and Science Academy said.
The program will be phased out over the next six months leaving the fates of DREAMers in the hands of Congress to pass permanent immigration legislation.
Legal counselors at Centro Romero, a Rogers Park community center, were flooded with phone calls and urgent visits from Dreamers, many of them high school and college age kids.
“A lot of them were shocked. And very taken aback. And the room was very somber,” said Gustafson.
Teachers say Dreamers at Chicago Math and Science Academy are heartbroken.
Student Gabriel Ojeda’s cousin is a Dreamer in the suburbs.
“He’s scared and he doesn’t know what to do because over there in Mexico the level of education is not the same as here in the US,” said Ojeda.
There are many others flooding the legal aid offices at Central Romero in Rogers Park.
“DACA is a pathway to keep on with the studies because without the work permission I won’t be able to work and then pay for school,” said Veronica.
Veronica is another hard-working Dreamer. Ineligible for federal grants but working her way, nonetheless, to an associate’s degree at Truman College.
“There’s no logic behind this. They don’t qualify for public aid. They don’t qualify for federal assistance. They don’t qualify for anything else. The only thing that they get is a work authorization that allows them to work in the United States,” said Jose M. Ventura, legal director of Centro Romero.
Ventura finds himself trying to reassure his worried clients telling them not to panic.
Some Dreamers could be eligible to have their work permits updated as early as next month. Counselors in Rogers Park are urging people to get that done as soon as possible.
The Department of Homeland Security will stop processing any new applications while the program is phased out.
If Congress does not act, nearly 300,000 people could begin to lose their protected status as early as March 2018.