Reaction mixed to prospects for undocumented youth
Thousands in line at Navy Pier as Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, take part in a DREAM Relief Day, assisting undocumented students apply for deferred action to stay and study in the United States legally, Wednesday, August 13, 2012 .
Updated: October 7, 2012 6:12AM
LA GRANGE — West suburban reaction is mixed to the Obama administration’s policy allowing undocumented youth to apply for a two-year deferred action status allowing certain benefits.
“Imagine living in constant fear of being deported, arrested and separated from your family,” said Jesus Casas, a chiropractor and deacon heading the Hispanic ministry for three years at St. Cletus Catholic Church in La Grange.
“These are very smart, intelligent and dedicated young people who want to do something to better themselves,” Casas said. “It’s a terrible situation I hear from all my undocumented brothers and sisters.”
Casas said he doesn’t personally know anyone deported, “but I know a lot of kids not able to get into college.”
Without a Social Security number, college hopefuls aren’t eligible to apply for federal financial aid, and minimum-wage jobs make it difficult to afford tuition at $600 per credit hour, or more.
“I hope the changes and reforms are enacted so there are more opportunities for a lot of youngsters,” Casas said. “They have not known any other country than the U.S., and they have a right to follow a dream.”
Immigration experts expect the most inquiries for application help to come from students, either in high school or a community college.
High schools aren’t permitted to inquire about a student’s legal status, but must provide an education if the student can prove residency through utility bills, a mortgage or rent payments.
Sister Marybeth McDermott of the Congregation of St. Joseph, an immigration advocate who provides pastoral care to deportees in Broadview and McHenry detention centers, said the policy change may offer hope for some.
“It’s good news in one way, but a lot has to be worked out,” McDermott said. “There are a lot of things to go over to see if someone is eligible.”
But not everyone is supportive of the administration’s policy change.
Steve Erickson, executive director of the West Suburban Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he intends to poll businesses and organizations represented by the Chamber in seven communities surrounding La Grange and Western Springs.
Speaking as the owner of a business consulting firm and not on behalf of the chamber, Erickson called the policy “an election year scheme” to increase Obama’s voter appeal.
Erickson said he finds the policy “problematic,” because it “demands nothing along the lines of earning citizenship.”
“I am surely of the school embracing the principle that all citizenship is earned and won by those aspirants who follow the rules, and that ignoring those rules devalues us all,” he said.