DACA recipients watch immigration battle

Friday, January 12, 2018
DACA recipients face uncertain future
The week's political events left DACA recipients uncertain of future in the U.S.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The battle over immigration continues to rage on Capitol Hill, and that means life for DACA recipient Laura Mendoza remains uncertain as ever.

"This situation right now highlights how fragile our situation really is," says Mendoza, a 28-year-old Chicagoan. "We need a Dream Act. We need permanent legislation as soon as possible."

Mendoza, 28, works for the Resurrection Project, an organization that has helped nearly 500 DACA applicants. She has lived in Chicago since her mother brought her to the United States from Mexico at the age of seven. This puts her among the 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents.

Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, people like Mendoza are eligible for work permits. President Trump rescinded DACA in September and gave Congress six months to come up with a plan for former recipients.

This week in particular has left DACA recipients with political whiplash as they watched the president and legislative leaders debate their fate.

"We can't continue to live our lives according to a Tweet or whatever happens on the news," Mendoza said.

This week alone, Illinois' 40,000 DACA applicants have watched as President Trump alluded to a bipartisan deal. Later, a firestorm of Republican criticism halted that process.

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of six senators declared they had reached an agreement, which was followed by declarations that a deal had not been made.

Tuesday, a federal judge ruled that the Trump administration could not end the DACA program.

"It's like a roller coaster ride," said Ana Nino Flores, a DACA recipient. "It's been hard."

In the meantime, advocates for immigrants' rights are not backing down.

A phone bank was in full force Thursday at the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. Organizers said they have called 70,000 registered voters to encourage them to pressure their elected officials to support immigration reform.

"We've heard a lot of rumors about a deal, but we haven't seen the details of the deal," said Lawrence Benito, CEO of IL Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. "Until it's officially announced, we have to keep organizing."

An emergency meeting for DACA applicants is also taking place at The Resurrection Project.

Laura Mendoza attended the meeting as a presenter.

"The reason why I do the work that I do is because it helps me deal with my situation," she said. "It helps me feel empowered. It helps me feel like I'm part of what's happening and not just sitting by the sideline."