By Sajedah Al-Khzaleh
Recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy are urged to take action and prepare for the unforeseen future under President Donald Trump.
During his campaign, Trump promised to immediately terminate former President Barack Obama’s immigration action, DACA, which protected undocumented immigrants from deportation and granted them work authorizations.
However, at a recent press conference, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said that the president has yet to make a decision on DACA, but that he understands the magnitude of the problem.
“He’s going to work through it with his team in a very humane way to make sure that he understands, that he respects the situation that many of these children are in,” said Spicer.
Instead, Trump’s plan is to focus on immigrants with criminal backgrounds.
"The focus is going to be on people who have done harm to our country,” said Spicer.
It is important to keep in mind of this priority Trump has, according to Caroline Shoenberger, a supervisory attorney and immigration program director at the Chicago Legal Clinic (Room 1027), and a Harold Washington College faculty member.
“Unless you have a prior order of deportation, you have the right to see an immigration judge and make a defense,” said Shoenberger. “I would urge for anyone with prior orders of deportations and criminal records to seek action.”
Trials are likely to be delayed up until the year 2020, but preparation is still necessary, according to Shoenberger.
“The system can’t handle everyone. But we’re in an uncertain time. Know your rights and have an emergency plan,” she said.
Shoenberger’s legal clinic has a list of information and documents immigrants should have in case of deportation. For now, she advises that no one apply or renew their DACA, as the process will become more costly, ranging from $100 to $500. She fears that immigration lawyers will also increase their prices.
“There are some bad lawyers out there. They’re going to be increasing their prices. But there are a lot of nonprofit organizations with reduced fees,” she said.
DACA students at HWC have access to free legal consultations and referrals through The Chicago Legal Clinic.
Shoenberger is planning workshops with other lawyers to inform students of their rights.
“The best thing our schools can do is try to calm people down and try to give information as [it] becomes available” said Shoenberger.
DACA students at HWC are also taking matters in their own hands like Victor Guzman, president of the Undocumented Students and Allies Organizing Comité.
“We want to put pressure on representatives and politicians to support sanctuary cities and anything that can be beneficial to these communities,” said Guzman.
Guzman applied to DACA when he became a student at HWC, which at the time was a two month long process. Without it, he imagines his life will become more difficult, he said.
“I wouldn’t be able to get a job; I’d have to find one that doesn’t require a social security,” he said.
But Guzman is mostly concerned about his education.
“DACA doesn’t give a path to citizenship or residency. But it is a privilege,” he said. “My goal in life is to get an education and a better life. If there is no school for me then there is no point in me staying here. I don’t want to hide in the shadows.”
Preparation is necessary despite Trump’s focus on criminals, according to Guzman.
“Being undocumented is under the category of being a criminal. I know that for him, I’m a criminal,” he said. “But I deserve to be here because I’ve contributed to this country. I pay taxes, I’m an active community member and I’d say that we are making American great again by getting an education.”
Yet Guzman is hopeful.
“I think there is a lot of community support. I know that if something happens there’s going to be people that stand up for us. There are more good people than bad,” he said.