At least two significant demonstrations were sparked Tuesday in Bloomington-Normal after President Donald Trump's decision to wind down a program protecting young immigrants from deportation.
One of them was on Illinois State University's Quad. Camila Vazquel, a junior fine arts student and a child of immigrants affected by the decision, spoke on the Quad about what the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program gave her.
"This means I can be here like a normal citizen. This can be my home. It's a possibility. It's a hope of being able to be a citizen here. I can go to school. I can drive and feel safe. But if they take it all away, all that is gone. I am back to zero. There is no hope," said Vazquel.
ISU graduate student Cindy Alvarez said the decision to end the administrative policy allowing so-called Dreamers to stay without fear of deportation will hurt her community.
"I feel like many of our students are going to retreat back into the shadows, which is unfortunate. And it's scary," said Alvarez.
In a letter released Tuesday, University President Larry Dietz said ISU will safeguard student information under federal privacy rules.
"I feel it's important to reiterate Illinois State University's commitment to being an open, welcoming, and inclusive campus for all students and scholars, regardless of immigration or citizenship status," Dietz wrote.
"Last year I, along with many other university presidents nationwide, signed the Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and Undocumented Immigrant Students. Illinois State will continue to admit, serve, and support undocumented students as authorized by law. Staff in the Office of Admissions will work with undocumented students and help them navigate the application process and the transition to life on campus," said Dietz.
The second demonstration Tuesday took place at the Uptown Normal circle. Around 100 people were in attendance as it got underway around 4 p.m.
Community groups such as the YWCA McLean County are calling the removal of DACA a "threat to the community." A statement from the YWCA claims doing away with the program will "heighten the risk of abuse and exploitation for affected young people."
"Should these young people be deported, they will never be eligible for U.S. citizenship again. Which not only means permanent loss of family and friends, classmates, and colleagues, but as parents of U.S. citizens this creates the potential for a child welfare crisis or the forced displacement of small American children," the YWCA said in the statement.
The YWCA said it is outraged that the promise made during the Obama administration is being broken. "We see this for what it really is: racial profiling, xenophobia, and bad public policy," the organization said.
— YWCA McLean County (@YWCAMcLean) September 5, 2017
U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, noted in a statement that Obama said in 2012 that DACA was never meant to be a permanent fix.
"Part of this broken immigration system includes people who were brought here illegally as children through no fault of their own and for many of them, America is the only country they have ever known. President Obama said himself in 2012 that DACA was never meant to be a permanent fix. Now, President Trump has provided a timeline for Congress to address this issue and I hope together we can find a permanent, bipartisan solution that balances compassion and lawfulness," said Davis.
Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, said immigration policy should not be decided by the executive branch alone.
"Although the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was well-intended, President Obama made the unilateral decision to implement it without the proper debate and consideration from Congress. President Trump’s announcement does not immediately revoke permits of DACA participants, rather, it provides Congress with a timeframe to work in a bipartisan fashion to strengthen our immigration system, while eliminating the threat of an immediate shutdown of the program through the court system. I believe that the House and Senate, along with this Administration, can work together on a solution to DACA that protects the young individuals who entered this country while also respecting the rule of law and the legislative process," said LaHood.
Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, a Bloomington-Normal native, said he supports DACA but not the Obama administration version of it.
“America is a nation of laws, and it is the sole responsibility of Congress to create and pass legislation. President Obama bypassed Congress when he originally created the program, but in so doing, he offered a pathway for these individuals to get right with the law. In 2015, I voted to support DACA because I believe these children, who only know America to be their home, deserve an opportunity to be here legally," said Kinzginer.
Kinzinger said he supports a measure called the Recognizing America's Children's Act, H.R. 1468, that addresses the issue.
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