Will County Dreamers waiting for congress to act

Brock A. Stein | 11/8/2017, 1:54 p.m.
In 2012, former President Barack Obama signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival executive order, which offered a reprieve from ...
The Spanish Community Center is one of the non-profit organizations that has struggled for funding during the budget stalemate in Springfield. Spanish Community Center (via Face Book)

In 2012, former President Barack Obama signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival executive order, which offered a reprieve from the threat of deportation to about 1.8 million immigrants living in the U.S.

Today, there are about 96,000 DACA-eligible residents living in the State of Illinois with about 4,000 of them living in Will County.

The executive order, which was rescinded by President Donald Trump in September, offered a 2-year, renewable stay from deportation for unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16.

For many of those residents known as dreamers the U.S. is the only home they have ever known. Since it was first signed in 2012, some 788,000 people have received work permits through the program.

Following the reversal of the order in September, many again are living uncertain of their futures and are waiting for December when congress could unveil legislation that will decide whether the protections extended by DACA will continue.

Veronica Gloria, executive director of the Spanish Community Center in Joliet said that many are taking a wait and see approach hoping that new legislation will be approved next month that will address concerns of Dreamers.

So far, she said, the center is keeping students at the center up to date on the different versions of the legislation.

“But it’s too soon to say which version if any would be voted on by the deadline,” she said.

In the meantime, the center has seen an increased need for mental health services residents “are feeling at this time because of the uncertainty”

Gloria said that the Spanish Community Center deals with “direct services” to its target population “educating the public on what resources are available,” conducting DACA workshops to help those eligible to renew their status and helping to coordinate resources from other area agencies including local churches. They also help connect resident’s secure legal help when needed for those seeking help with residency and asylum issues.

“A lot of people just don’t have the information about what’s happening,” said Gloria.

The Dreamer population has found a lot of support in area institutions like local high schools and colleges, which sponsor clubs and other outreach.

One local college, the University of St. Francis, has made a definitive statement in support of Dreamers looking to pursue their college educations.

USF president Arvid Johnson, said in September that he was “deeply disappointed at the news of an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – which has the potential to cause irreparable harm to families and communities and to force” thousands of young people back into hiding.

Johnson said this week that the show of support was intended to counteract the uncertainty that many in the Dreamer community feel.

“It often seems as though our DREAMers continue to face new challenges each and every week, and we want them to know that we "have their back,” said Johnson to the Times Weekly.

“These undocumented students – these DREAMers, our DREAMers – are among the finest young women and men that I have ever met,” he said.

“We believe that respect and compassion are key to understanding these young people – and that those who were brought here as children should not be penalized for actions for which they were not responsible.”

He said that students at USF who are dreamers excel both in the classroom, in athletics and in a myriad of extracurricular activities on campus. despite their legal status they are the same as any other college students and should be afforded the same opportunities to achieve the American dream.

“The U.S. is home for these DREAMers, and helping them to fulfill their dreams of family, college, and career should be the dream of us all because that is what makes a country founded by immigrants – our country – vibrant,” said Johnson.