Local, state leaders sound off on DACA

By Shane Nicholson
Managing Editor

Leaders from local and state organizations reacted Tuesday to the Donald Trump administration’s announcement that it will shut down a program that protects young immigrants from deportation.

More than 42,000 DACA recipients live in Illinois and, according to the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition, more than 36,000 of those are currently in the workforce.

“I must echo the statement issued today by my brother bishops through the United States Catholic Conference of Catholic Bishops, calling the decision to end DACA ‘reprehensible,’” said Bishop David J. Malloy of the Catholic Diocese of Rockford.

“I would add that this decision represents a significant betrayal of trust between our nation, the young people who sought assistance and all the agencies who worked to help them receive protection from deportation and gain temporary employment authorization here in the U.S.—the only home many have ever known.”

“We are not accepting the end to DACA without a fight,” the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights said on Facebook. “We will continue to fight for our community because we want safety and protection. We want our needs to be met and our humanity to be seen.”

Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth slammed Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement, saying the decision leaves nearly 800,000 people in limbo.

“Make no mistake—this decision is not about ‘rule of law,’ as Attorney General Sessions claims,” said Duckworth. “This is a gut-wrenching betrayal of American values that leaves nearly 800,000 of our neighbors vulnerable to deportation and tears families and communities apart. 

“DREAMers and DACA recipients are doctors, teachers, students and service members. They have mortgages and jobs. They know only one nation: the United States, which is where they were raised. To end a program that allowed these patriots to come out of the shadows and more fully contribute to this country is irresponsible and heartless. Congress must act immediately and pass legislation to make DACA the law of the land.”

The University of Illinois system called the DACA decision “inconsistent with (its) commitment to accessible and high-quality education for all qualified and deserving students.”

“As a public university system, we will always comply with all federal, state and local laws,” U of I said in a statement. “However, our values as a land grant institution compel us to speak out when government action puts members of our own communities at risk.”

U of I said it would continue working with state and national institutions “in calling for policies and laws that continue to provide access to educational opportunities for undocumented and DACA students.”

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., quickly introduced legislation Tuesday similar to measures Durbin has brought before Congress for the last 16 years.

“Hundreds of thousands of talented young people who have grown up in our country are at risk of deportation to countries they barely remember,” Durbin said. “I’ll do everything in my power as a United States Senator to protect these Dreamers and give them the chance to become American citizens so they can contribute to a brighter future for all Americans.”

Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger, IL-16, had previously helped roll out a similar package in House. “America is a nation of laws, and it is the sole responsibility of Congress to create and pass legislation,” he said Tuesday.

“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.”

Bishop Malloy echoed Kinzinger’s sentiments, calling on members of the Catholic church to stand up to the Trump administration’s decision. “As Catholic people, we are called to treat our fellow brothers and sisters with justice and be merciful. This decision does none of this.

“I pray that this decision will be a call to action for all of us as Americans, and especially to people of faith, to demand that those we have elected to represent us in Congress, immediately work on a comprehensive and just plan for immigration reform. This work can no longer wait.”

The Illinois Business Immigration Coalition estimates that ending DACA without replacement legislation in place would cost Illinois’ GDP $2.3 billion over the next 10 years. R.

Find more in this week’s issue.

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