Last week, president Donald Trump caused panic across the country for thousands living within our borders when he announced his intentions to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Better known as DACA, the program has allowed a path to citizenship for children brought to the United States illegally with a parent or guardian. Trump’s remarks put the program in jeopardy but in the time since, Chicago has emerged as a leader in the country advocating for the rights of so-called “Dreamers”. That sentiment was underlined by the actions of one of the city’s leaders over the last week.
As the Alderman of Chicago’s 25th Ward, Danny Solis oversees an area that has one of the largest hispanic communities in a state that’s consistently in the top ten for residents of Mexican descent. An immigrant himself who came to the United States as a child with his family, he decided to take a stand against what he has referred to as the “heartless and evil” measures for children by president Donald Trump. It’s with that understanding that he made available $30,000 to help students at Pilsen’s Juarez High School reapply for their DACA status, a process that can cost up to $600 or more.
“Last week when I was there and I was talking the folks who run the workshops and the training, I was told that out of the 200+ Juarez kids 50 of them are up for renewal. The application fee for renewal is just under $500 and the legal assistance that they would need would be about $50,” said Solis over the phone Tuesday. “What motivated me was seeing the faces of the scared kids and their parents at these workshops where they go on a roller-coaster. it’s emotional and psychological problems that these kids are facing plus the fact that financially they can’t get a job, they don’t have social security, it’s very difficult to think about going to college and so I thought it was the right thing to do.”
The $30,000 was diverted campaign funds from donors, according to Solis. In response to the announcement of the initial donation, others from around the city came in and where sent to the One Chicago, a non-profit organization started in March with the aim to “unify all Chicagoans as one city and one voice.” They have aided undocumented Chicagoans and played a role in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s lawsuit against the federal government over Sanctuary City status.
For undocumented families facing the uncertainty or deportation, the time and money necessary to retain DACA status, which must be renewed every two years, is cumbersome when stacked on top of the daily responsibilities of raising children, paying rent and living a life in the country’s third-largest city. For the students at Juarez, at least, part of that burden has be eased through the actions of Solis and others in the community. While recent developments in a possible bill, spurred by bipartisan conversations between Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, Senator Chuck Schumer and Trump that seem to be leaning in favor of either replacing or protecting DACA, uncertainty is still apparent in the communities that stand to be most affected.
“It’s emotional and psychological problems that these kids are facing plus the fact that financially they can’t get a job, they don’t have social security, it’s very difficult to think about going to college and so I thought it was the right thing to do,” said Solis. “This meeting with Trump and Pelosi and Schumer is encouraging, they announced that this [DACA Protection] was going to happen or is likely to happen. I think that’s good and maybe this will just be the beginning of an effort that also looks at the broader issue of comprehensive immigration reform.”
Regardless of what happens at the top-levels of the government regarding immigration, it’s becoming clearer by the day that officials in Chicago are intent on proving that they mean what they say in protecting every Chicagoan. For a local governance that often gets it wrong, it’s so far made the right moves when it comes to the matter of DACA and immigration in general.
“I think that the city and I think the county and now the state as a whole is starting to appreciate how much immigrants mean to this city and this state and what they mean to the whole country.,” Solis said. “You have to be heartless and evil, especially when what they’re mainly doing is just working hard, trying to raise their families and trying to add to what makes this country great.”