WAUKEGAN, Ill. — Latino leaders and community members spoke out against the Waukegan School Board’s proposal to rename Thomas Jefferson Middle School after former President Barack Obama.
The Waukegan School board has been deliberating on the matter with a lot of community input for several months. Tuesday night, those in protest of the name change made their feelings known to the school board.
“Today, I want to urge the board to drop the names of Barack and Michelle Obama from consideration,” said Oscar Arias, a graduate of Waukegan Public Schools and resident. “Barack Obama’s presidency is filled with hostility against the immigrant community.”
Prior to the school board meeting, a release was sent out to various news outlets, saying that the former president is known through the Latinx community as “Deporter in Chief.”
“Back in 2015, Obama had overseen more than 2.5 million deportations, far more than any previous president in our history,” the release read. “Obama had the reputation for using Congress as an excuse, saying that Congress tied his hands and that he could not reduce the number of people being deported.”
The release adds that hundreds of families were impacted by raids and operatives that destroyed families in the Waukegan community. As of result of such actions, the community has voiced displeasure in a middle school barring the former president’s name.
The middle school is named after founding father Thomas Jefferson. The desire to change the school’s name stems from Jefferson’s history as a slave owner.
“The ‘Deporter in Chief’ presidential is still, today, President Barack Obama,” said Julie Contreras.” He did the most in the history of our nation.”
Contreras, a Waukegan resident, is against the proposal.
“Those children live in the reality of insecurity in mixed-status families,” she said. “For us, having the Deporter in Chief’s name is painful for the community.”
According to the Migration Policy Institute, former president Bill Clinton removed or deported 12 million people, George W. Bush removed or deported 10 million and Obama removed or deported 5 million.
Nonetheless, a final decision on the new name is still at least a month away.
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