DACA 2023: On anniversary of Obama program, Chicago residents, lawmakers look for path forward

DACA recipient Ricarda Pedraza calls Chicago home

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Thursday, June 15, 2023
On 11-year anniversary of DACA, Chicagoans look for path forward
What is DACA? The Obama era program has allowed hundreds of thousands of people who came to the United States as children to avoid deportation.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Thursday marks 11 years since the Obama administration started the controversial program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

It has allowed hundreds of thousands of people who came to the United States as children to avoid deportation.

Chicago is Ricarda Pedraza's home. It is where she has raised her two children, but the 40-year-old mother of two has yet to become an American citizen.

For the past 11 years, Pedraza has been protected under the DACA program.

"DACA gave me an opportunity to be free, to go to school to go get a job and not worry about those questions, like when I'm I going to get a green card," Pedraza said.

The program provided young immigrants lacking permanent legal status who entered the country before the age of 16, known as "Dreamers," to go to school and work without the threat of deportation.

"DACA is life-changing, and it is a lifeline, and I think the biggest fear is it will go away," said Erendira Rendon, a DACA recipient who is with the Resurrection Project.

RELATED: New Illinois bill aims to pave path for DACA recipients to become police officers

Rendon has made a career out of trying to save the program. As someone who came to the U.S. at 4 years old, the University of Illinois graduate works for the Resurrection Project.

Rendon and the thousands of other recipients in the U.S. have lived through the Trump administration rescinding DACA, then a fight to keep it through the courts.

"The back and forth is frustrating, the back and forth makes it unpredictable, but you know folks like me have to continue," Rendon said.

But continuing with fear of the program ending and being deported is not how Pedraza wants to live.

"My son and my daughter belong here, so how do you split yourself? It's a mixture of emotions," Pedraza said.

Illinois lawmaker Delia Ramirez, D-Chicago, is the first member of Congress with a "Dreamer" spouse. Boris Hernandez came to the U.S. as a child from Guatemala.

Ramirez is hopeful DACA now has enough bipartisan support to become permanent soon.

She said $6.2 billion in federal taxes have been paid, and there is still no pathway.

"It's time to do it now," Ramirez said.

In a renewed call to pass a bill as soon as possible, President Joe Biden is hosting a film screening for DACA recipients and lawmakers highlighting the contributions dreamers have made in the U.S. Thursday night.