by Dariel Chaidez
In recent times we have witnessed a shift in the political and social climate of our nation. Growing sentiments on social issues and policy culminated with the election of Donald Trump and since then the rhetoric surrounding controversies has changed, and not for the better. Immigration is one of several of these issues that are on the current forefront of the American mind.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, has been an American institution since it was signed into law by President Obama in 2012. DACA was established as a way for pressure to be taken off of low-priority illegal immigrants, we know these illegal immigrants as children. The policy was instituted so that children who were brought to the United States before their sixteenth birthday could remain here under a renewable two year period of deferred deportation.
DACA was instituted primarily to aid children of immigrant parents as they completed their educations, being in school is one of the many requirements to receive DACA. Currently there are about 800,000 DACA recipients in the United States. Obtaining this provision is no small task: Recipients have to reapply every two years and pay a fee of $500 among a long list of other criteria in order to obtain deferred action. Contrary to some common beliefs, DACA is not just handed out on a silver platter; it is an arduous process that requires steady commitment and drive to strive for better.
In September of this year, the Trump administration announced that DACA would be rescinded. This announcement has come with mixed reception, outcry, and a general concern with the status of stability in the United States. The department of Homeland Security repealed DACA and the administration has since left Congress to rework it within the next six months. In the meantime, a memo from “The Department of Homeland Security urges DACA recipients to use the time remaining on their work authorizations to prepare for and arrange their departure from the United States.” Demonstrations and public displays of disapproval have been voiced in urban areas like New York and Chicago, but what about North Park?
Mayor Rahm Emanuel had said before that he wants to make Chicago the most immigrant friendly city in the nation. Chicago has a history of being a sanctuary city, a place of refuge for the masses of immigrants and refugees around the world. The city’s unique stance on immigration policy makes for an interesting climate with no shortage of controversy and activism. North Park University has always claimed a title of global acceptance and outreach. With our location within the city of Chicago, and more specifically the Albany Park neighborhood which is known as one of the most diverse areas in the nation, we are smack in the middle of the debate on immigration and DACA, and we have the exclusive privilege of witnessing just how national politics affect local people.
Here at North Park, we have a beautiful history of consistently helping DACA students in their quest for higher education. From initiatives started by former First Lady Linda Parkyn to the recent Justice Rally held on campus in support of recipients in the community, NPU has grown into a save haven and a bed of activism. Pedro Garcia is a North Parker who happens to be a DACA recipient. He had this to say about his experience with North Park, “I’m very grateful that North Park offered me an opportunity to take part of this great community. Events like the [Justice] rally at North Park give me a sense of hope.”
The rally was held on October 18 and was a joint effort between North Park, Northeastern, Roosevelt High School, and Von Steuben High School. The event called for a meeting of protestors at 10:30 am on Kimball in front of Roosevelt. After about ten minutes of getting organized, the group moved north towards Foster. Shouting phrases like “Undocumented! Unafraid!” or “All of us, or none of us!” the crowd built up momentum as cars began honking in support of the cause. Crossing Foster, the protesters made their way to inside Northeastern University. Linda Lowe, a faculty member of NEIU, commented on the rally, “THe staff at NEIU stand in solidarity with all of our students. We all stand together.”
Leaving Northeastern, the rally-goers headed back towards Foster, ending up at the rally space in front of Brandel library here at NPU. The group of college students, high schoolers, and faculty were met with a stage where for the next hour they had the opportunity to listen to speakers share their testimonies. The rally was filled with good vibes and support as one by one, speakers gave their own flair to the event. Words by faculty members Daniel Whitehodge and LIza Ann Acosta resonated with words from high schoolers and college students from NPU and the community. According to Dr. Barrington Price, it was an “opportunity for students to share their personal stories. If we’re going to be in a community, we need to understand each other’s stories.”
The success of the Justice Rally was a great way for the community to spread our vision of acceptance and activism, but it is only a small step in the greater conversation surrounding DACA and immigration. By being a proponent of the national dialogue, each and every one of us an be an ally in the fight against dehumanization, we are all called to be safe havens. Let us fulfill our task.