DACA rally held in support of recipients as program officially ends

CHICAGO -- A rally was held Monday morning outside Chicago's Immigration and Customs Office to mark the official end of the DACA program, which could jeopardize hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who brought to the U.S. as children.

In September, the Trump administration said it was pulling the plug on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Monday was a looming deadline that finally was going to force Congress to tackle the perennial political hot potato of immigration.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, blamed Trump for the gridlock.

"The Trump administration created this humanitarian crisis, the Trump administration needs to solve this problem. We have tried to work with the president. We have given him 6 different bipartisan solutions, bipartisan where Republican join with Democrats to try to solve the problem created by the president. He has rejected every single one of them," he said.

The Chicago rally included singing and prayer, as well as testimonials from some of the state's nearly 40,000 DACA recipients.

"They say that they want to relieve people like me of my fear and anxiety. I can never be relieved of that fear," said DACA recipient Esthe Jeon.

The rally started at Willow Church in Chicago and marched to the ICE office on Congress Parkway in the Loop. The event included a multi-faith coalition.

"I'm here on March 5 because it's a symbolic day in which families feel great threat, threat to their family setting up their roots in our society some of our wonderful neighbors trying to make things begin," said F. Brendan Curran, of Dominican University.

The deadline exists on paper. But it's become more of a symbolic marker than a moment when anything major is expected to happen for the roughly 700,000 DACA recipients.

Here's a look at how we got here, and what happens next:


The Obama-era program protected undocumented immigrants who were illegally brought to the United States as children. Those who passed background checks and paid fees got two-year permits allowing them to live and work legally in the United States.

People on both sides of the issue have been trading blame for weeks over why Congress and the President have failed to find middle ground on immigration and pass a new measure to extend protections for DACA recipients.

There's plenty of room for debate about that. But no matter where you stand, it's clear a series of recent court decisions changed the conversation.

In two separate district court rulings, federal judges ordered the administration to keep accepting DACA renewal applications while the courts weigh legal challenges over how the administration went about ending the program.

The Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to jump into the fray, but the high court said this week it would stay out of the debate for now.

That took the teeth -- at least temporarily -- out of the administration's efforts to end DACA. It also gave Congress a way to punt this issue down the road.


That's a question immigrant rights advocates answer with a resounding, "No."

They've been campaigning hard online and in the streets to make the case that things are still dire.

Even though DACA recipients can still renew their protections, advocates say many could find themselves in limbo. Inevitably, they argue, some recipients' renewal applications won't be processed before their current work permits and other protections expire.

How exactly that will play out in communities across the country is anyone's guess. But at a time when immigration authorities have repeatedly said no one is exempt from enforcement, fear is running high.

Still, some leaders have been offering reassurances. Defense Secretary James Mattis has said the hundreds of DACA recipients in the military have nothing to fear. And other administration officials have suggested that deporting any DACA recipients who've lost their protections wouldn't be a priority.

Activists say time is running out for officials to come up with a permanent solution. They're planning a protest in Washington Monday to make their voices heard. The courts have offered a temporary reprieve for DACA recipients, they say, but there's no telling how long that will last.


So did a lot of people.

But the much heralded Senate immigration debate last month ended up lasting less than an afternoon.

Plenty of lawmakers said they wanted to make a deal.

As a bipartisan Senate compromise picked up steam, the White House vowed to veto it, saying it would compound problems rather than fix them.

In the end, none of the proposals on the table garnered enough support to pass.


It's difficult to pin down where the President stands on DACA.

His administration ended the program, calling it unconstitutional. Lately, Trump has pinned blame for DACA's demise on Democrats.

At times, he's taken a softer stance, promising to address the matter "with heart."

The immigration proposal he pitched during his State of the Union address included what Trump described as a path to citizenship for current DACA recipients and more than 1 million other undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.

That drew sharp criticism from some immigration hardliners who'd supported him. Some posted on Twitter that they were burning their "Make America Great Again" hats.


There are a number of pending federal court cases dealing with DACA. A common thread tying them together: claims that the Trump administration didn't follow proper procedures and violated recipients' constitutional right to due process.

Final rulings in these cases are a ways off, and even then, appeals are expected. Judges weighing the cases have temporarily ruled that the Trump administration has to keep accepting DACA renewals, and that officials can't revoke DACA protections in individual cases without giving notice, an explanation and an opportunity to respond.

The Trump administration has slammed federal courts -- particularly in California, where at least two of the DACA rulings have occurred -- arguing that activist judges are overreaching.

Given how difficult it's been for Congress and the President to make a deal, when it comes to DACA -- for now, at least -- it looks like judges and justices will cast the deciding votes.

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WLS-TV contributed to this report.