Immigration rights advocates in McLean County are cheering Thursday's Supreme Court ruling that blocks the Trump administration's effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
Zoe Bouras, communications and development coordinator with the Immigration Project in Normal, said the ruling offers relief to many who feared deportation.
“There’s a number of mental and emotional and social handicaps that come with having an undocumented status and not feeling safe where you live,” Bouras said. “This has relieved that for so many people.”
An estimated 42,000 immigrants are enrolled in the DACA program in Illinois. Court documents show there are about 643,000 enrollees nationwide. Up to 800,000 people are eligible for the program, Bouras said.
Since the Trump administration tried to end the DACA program three years ago, the Immigration Project has been working only with renewal filings, she said.
“We have basically been working non-stop to try and get petitions in for people,” Bouras said. “We see so many DACA cases in our office, it’s a significant portion of what we do, so we are very excited that all of these clients are able to breathe easy for now.”
Bouras noted that DACA is still “fragile” after the 5-4 ruling. The court allowed for the administration to try to block the program again if it can present a better legal case.
She said the Immigration Project will offer free legal representation for all DACA renewals through the end of July, adding more complicated immigration cases can easily cost in the thousands of dollars.
“It can be a very expensive process and we are really excited to be able to offer this to our DACA renewal clients," Bouras said.
The Immigration Project provides legal assistance to immigrants throughout downstate Illinois south of Interstate 80.
On Thursday, Bloomington City Council member Jenn Carrillo launched an online fundraiser to help cover the $495 fee for each DACA applicant or renewal.
“This is a meaningful victory for our ‘gente’, and a testament to the power of organizing. DACA itself would have never come about it if it wasn’t for the fierce and relentless direct action of undocumented folks,” Carrillo said in a statement issued on behalf of the advocacy group, Illinois People’s Action.
“We have a long way to go before we have an immigration system that honors the inherent worth and dignity of people, and U.S. foreign policy that doesn’t force people to have to flee their home countries. But today, we celebrate this victory and we live to fight another day.”
DACA recipients must apply for renewal every two years.
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