Local opponents of President Donald Trump’s decision to end an Obama-era program for young immigrants turned up the volume Thursday, with new protests planned over the next few days.
Trump announced this week plans to end the Obama-era program called DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. That program that gave nearly 800,000 immigrants temporary work permits and deportation protections. He gave Congress six months to come up with an alternative.
Illinois State University students rallied in protest Tuesday, followed hours later by a second protest in Uptown Normal. Illinois Wesleyan University students planned a midday protest Thursday.
IWU President Eric Jensen said in a statement that he supported so-called Dreamers, named for the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act (for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) was a federal proposal that offered many of the same protections as DACA but was never approved in Congress.
“We define ourselves as a diverse, inclusive and welcoming campus, with the understanding that education in the context of diversity—whether of nationality, race, religion, thought or any of the other forms that diversity may take—creates the richest learning environment,” Jensen wrote. “We respect and value our fellow students, educators and staff across geographic and cultural boundaries, and stand with institutions of higher learning throughout the country in insisting that it is critical that the United States continues to welcome scholars of all backgrounds and nationalities.”
ISU President Larry Dietz issued a similar statement earlier this week.
Meanwhile, a grassroots nonpartisan coalition called Stand Up for Social Justice said it planned a vigil at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 12 in front of the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts. That coalition includes local organizations such as YWCA McLean County, Not In Our Town, and others.
“We are a country of immigrants and furthermore we expect our country to keep its promises. We must make our voices heard loud and clear over and over again until we see a permanent fix that will allow these young people to stay in the only country they have ever known as home,” Stand Up for Social Justice leader Linda Unterman of Bloomington said in a statement. “We need Congress to act and act now. This decision assaults our moral compass and would disrupt our economy.”
A local group that represents Latino families in McLean County issued a statement late Wednesday calling on U.S. Reps. Rodney Davis and Darin LaHood to help those affected by the DACA decision.
Conexiones Latinas de McLean County chair Javier Centeno said he’s concerned that many young people in McLean County will be affected by Trump’s decision. His organization is asking its members to call LaHood and Davis and encourage them to support the DREAM Act.
“There are many young people that are covered by DACA in our community. They are our friends and neighbors. They contribute to our communities and to the economy. They don't deserve to live in fear,” said Centeno. “Six months from today, new DACA recipients in our community along with many other young people nationwide will start to lose their ability to work legally and will risk immediate deportation every day.”
Also Thursday at Illinois Wesleyan, Jelani Cobb delivered the annual convocation address. Cobb is a staff writer for the New Yorker and a journalism professor at Columbia.
In an interview on GLT's Sound Ideas, Cobb said perhaps these developments should not have been surprising. Listen to the full interview below:
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