Monday, September 18, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: Community members at a Sept. 8 informational meeting at PASO-West Suburban Action Project in Melrose Park. | Alexa Rogals/Wednesday Journal
President Donald Trump’s recent decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a policy implemented in 2012 by President Barack Obama, has many community members in Proviso Township worried, anxious and preparing to push back.
“There’s a huge sense of anxiety,” said Claudia Medina, a Forest Park resident and the first Latina elected to the Proviso Township High Schools District 209.
Medina said that she’s spoken with D209 administration officials about the district providing extra support services for students who may be affected by the president’s recent decisions. And earlier this month, the district released a letter stating their support for DACA recipients.
Reyna Wences goes over information about renewing applications on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, during a West Suburban Action Project’s DACA informational meeting in Melrose Park, Ill. | Alexa Rogals
DACA offers a two-year period of relief from deportation that can be renewed, in addition to the opportunity to obtain a work permit, to people who immigrated to the United States illegally as minors.
Jeneth Vazquez, 23, of Maywood, said that she came to the United States with her family at eight years old. The work permit she obtained through DACA expires in 2019.
“As it stands, I will not be able to renew it,” she said. “After that, I don’t know what will happen.”
In the meantime, Vazquez said, she’ll continue her graduate studies in social work and her activism with PASO-West Suburban Action Project, the Melrose Park-based immigrant rights group for which she serves as a board member.
“Earlier this month, Vazquez attended an informational meeting hosted by PASO. Since Trump’s decision, officials with PASO have been busy planning protests, hosting meetings, recruiting new members and helping anxious immigrants file applications.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will continue to process renewal applications until Oct. 5 from recipients whose DACA status expires between Sept. 5 and March 5, 2018. Recipients whose status has already expired won’t be eligible for renewal.
Mony Ruiz-Velasco, PASO’s executive director, said the organization helps immigrants even Maywood. PASO was influential in the passage of welcoming ordinances in suburbs like Berwyn, Forest Park and Oak Park — measures that she suggested other communities with sizable immigrant populations adopt as well.
The organization was also part of the negotiations that led to the passage of the Illinois Trust Act, which limits the extent to which local law enforcement can cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Ruiz-Velasco said she and her fellow PASO members are working on creating rapid response teams to deal with ICE’s draconian deportation measures. ICE agents have been trying to ramp up the number of deportations, she said, in order to justify receiving additional federal funding to build more deportation centers.
Mony Ruiz-Velasco talks with attendees on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, during a West Suburban Action Project’s DACA informational meeting in Melrose Park, Ill. | Alexa Rogals
Audrey H. Perez, with the Coalition of Spiritual and Public Leadership in Maywood, said during a community event in Maywood earlier this month that her organization is also working on training rapid response teams to help immigrants, and their families, who may be at risk of deportation.
“There are resources close by, but it’s sometimes hard to immediately access those in the suburbs,” Perez said. “A lot of our neighbors in Maywood are affected by Trump’s new policies on immigration, so we really wanted to respond to that in a thoughtful way.”
Valerie Perez, a 15-year-old Proviso Math and Science Student, said during an interview earlier this month that her best friend is a DACA recipient who was prompted to take a trip to Washington, D.C. earlier this month.
“The night before the trip, she asked me to go with her,” said Perez, who lives in Maywood. “I asked my mom and she said it was okay. There was nothing I could do at home other than worry and feel bad. So, I packed a duffle bag and got on a bus. I didn’t know anybody we were with or where we were going to stay when we got there. I just knew that I was going to fight for what I believe in.”
Betty Alzamora, of Forest Park, showed up at the PASO meeting to get information to relay to her friends, neighbors and fellow members of a group called Western Front Resist.
“I never get any rest,” said Alzamora. “It’s just one thing after another. You see it with your neighbors and the kids and the schools and the people you work with. If you have any empathy, you want to pay attention to these kids and their families.”
Medina, a third-generation American and a PASO board member, said that the fight is personal.
“My uncle is undocumented,” Medina said. “He has no papers. He can’t get any. He came here as a minister for a church and a lawyer didn’t hand his papers in on time, so he lives in the shadows now. This is personal for me; it’s my community.
“My aunt died from kidney failure. They kicked her out of the hospital and she had to die in excruciating pain, with no medication. That’s what they do to undocumented people.” VFP