Daily Egyptian

Trump ends DACA: ‘I can’t hide,’ SIU undocumented students say

By Francois Gatimu

Oneida Vargas was one year old when she was carried by her mother across the Mexican border with her four-month-old brother in search of a better life in Chicago.

To Vargas, a junior studying political science, the United States is home — but that could change with President Donald Trump’s announcement Tuesday that he intends to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

Vargas is one of the estimated 800,000 undocumented immigrants protected under DACA. The program was launched in 2012 following an executive order issued by President Barack Obama to protect students who were brought into the country before reaching age 16.

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After wrestling with the decision for months, Trump called on Congress to find a way to replace the policy with legislation before the program fully expires on March 5. The government will no longer accept new applications to shield young immigrants from deportation, but officials announced the current recipients of the program will not be immediately affected. 

“I feel more at risk,” Vargas said. “When I applied for DACA, I gave my information to the government —  they know everything about me and they can deport me quite easily.”

SIU has 25 students enrolled under the DACA program, according to university spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith.

“SIU will continue to welcome current DACA students regardless of the status of the federal act,” Goldsmith said in an email. “We … are in the process of reaching out to them to let them know they have our support.” 

Vargas said the program has relieved her of a “sense of paranoia of the uncertainty of the future.”

“DACA has definitely allowed me to feel normal,” Vargas said. “Like I belonged, instead of feeling like an outsider looking in.”

Giovanni Galindo, a junior studying cinema and photography and a DACA student, was brought by his parents to the U.S. at age six from Mexico City.

Galindo said he and his family went through hardships as he was growing up to due to their legal status, including his father getting laid off from his factory job because he is undocumented.

“We struggled financially, but it was still better than our life in Mexico,” Galindo said “It’s the perception that people have of undocumented immigrants being bad people that I struggled with the most.”

Galindo said he has to pay his way through college with no help from the government because he is undocumented,  receiving scholarships only from private parties and SIU.

“I have to constantly work to be able to be at SIU,” Galindo said.

Immigration law professor Cindy Buys said most DACA recipients were brought to the United States when they were very young and thus have little recollection of their lives before.

“It doesn’t make sense to punish them for decisions that their parents made that they didn’t choose,” Buys said. 

With the issue now lawmakers’ responsibility and having no support from the president, the program faces imminent repeal that would spell trouble for its recipients’ protections under the law, Buys said.

Buys emphasized that in any case, the president doesn’t have the authority to revoke the rights already received under DACA until they expire.

“Let’s say you’re a DACA student — if the government were to take that away tomorrow, I think you’d have a pretty good lawsuit,” Buys said.

Becca Tally, the co-chair of the Southern Illinois Immigrant Rights Project, said her organization has been preparing for the possibility the program will end.

“We must support comprehensive immigration reform to humanely treat families who sacrificed so much to give their children opportunities, just like previous generations of immigrants,” Tally said. 

Last week Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the Trust Act into law, which prevents local law enforcement officials from detaining undocumented immigrants solely because of their immigration status.

Vargas said this came as a relief, but she isn’t at all surprised by Trump’s decision to get rid of the DACA program.

“We lived through worse times before DACA, and my parents prepared me for the worst when Trump got elected,” Vargas said. “Trump made a campaign promise to attack Mexicans in general, and attacking us in this way is in keeping with his promise.”

Since the federal government has all of her identifying information, Vargas said she has no choice but to face the ramifications of Trump’s decision. 

“I can hide anymore,” she said.

Staff writer Francois Gatimu can be reached at f[email protected] or on Twitter @frankDE28.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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