DACA denial impacts Lake County immigration services

Gregory Harutunian for Chronicle Media

The Waukegan-based HACES. offices have seen increased numbers in customers, as Congress is tasked with forming a youth immigration program. (Photo by Gregory Harutunian/for Chronicle Media)

The Trump administration’s announcement that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is to be halted has sent private-sector county agencies scrambling to meet the increase in its client bases, while awaiting a definitive resolution from congressional leaders. The Sept. 5 edict will effectively dismantle the initiative, created under the executive authority of President Barack Obama in 2012, and leave federal legislators with the task of replacing the program.

Constructs of the program were established to protect children brought into the country illegally by their parents, who themselves were undocumented aliens. Obama’s original initiative was the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minorities (DREAM) program that was not approved by legislators, and DACA emerged as a compromise, five years ago.

Guidelines stipulated the young adults could not have entered the country after their 16th birthday, not entered the country past the date of June 16, 2007, and not be older than 30 years old when the program was put into place under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security.

“When the news broke, people here in the office were crying, not accepting that it would happen,” said Maria-Elena Jonas, CEO, and founder of the Hispanic American Community Education and Services. “We must accompany the people to see what we can do. The situation and announcement came with no specifics, which adds to the confusion.

“We organized workshop sessions for the coming weeks to use that margin of time in the coming weeks to complete renewal applications, before they shut the door,” she said. “Ethnic groups are reacting, there were 40 people at the first session.”

HACES, a nonprofit agency, has been working toward supplying social services and guidance in meeting the needs of Lake County’s diverse immigrant community. Its mission focuses solely on citizenship, assistance, and programs to ease the transitions of naturalization while offering steps toward beginning the process.

Trump’s decision fulfills a campaign promise to overhaul the immigration policies and address the illegal immigration of Hispanic populations from the south. Two-year work permits will be renewed, however new applications will be rejected for DACA-eligible individuals. The potential is for those young adults to lose their protection from deportation, and the ability to work in the United States.

“You are talking about approximately 800,000 people,” said Jonas. “Now, it’s on congress to fight for these kids, and I personally hope that they will protect them, and retain the gateway of opportunity for them. People are renewing their documentation out of fear, since they were afraid to do it before. They are doing it, at this time. They are being proactive in their citizenship, and the current administration provided the spark.”

The U.S Census Bureau Decennial Census and American Community Survey, conducted in 2010, showed the Latino population in Lake County at 19.8 percent, based on 139,987 out of a 704,462 county total. Estimates from July 2016 reflect and anticipated increase to 21.5 percent.

“At this time, Lake County government has no stance on the DACA situation, and any action would take place through the Lake County Sheriff’s Department,” said Lake County Communications Specialist Alex Carr.

–DACA denial impacts county immigration services–