Fears over end of DACA bring parents to Dist. 116 info session

The looming end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program brought about 30 members of the Round Lake Area Unit District 116 community out to a DACA information session Tuesday night at the Magee Middle School library.

The district, whose student body is 73 percent Hispanic, partnered with Round Lake-based Mano a Mano Family Resource Center to organize the event. Eric Apgar, the assistant superintendent of student services, said the district wanted to provide resources to district families because it is such a big topic.

“I had students crying in my office today,” said Penina Noonan, a counselor at Round Lake High School.

Last Monday the White House announced it would end DACA in six months, calling on Congress to come up with a policy on immigrants who entered the country illegally. The program — which assured that undocumented young people who were pursuing their education and stayed out of trouble would not be prioritized for deportation — was created by President Barack Obama via executive order in 2012.

When announcing the program's end on Monday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions questioned whether DACA was legal, long a complaint lodged against it by conservatives.

Noonan said several students who took it the hardest were preparing to file for DACA for the first time, applications that are no longer being accepted.

Jael Mejia, the engaged citizens program manager for Mano a Mano, gave a 30-minute presentation in Spanish and then fielded questions from the crowd.

“They were asking about what is going to happen after it expired, which we don't know,” Mejia said. “This past week we've had to tell people the bad news and then tell them that we don't know what happens next.”

Megan McKenna Mejia, the executive director of Mano a Mano, said the organization has been extremely busy answering questions and providing immigration consultations for undocumented suburban residents.

While people can no longer apply for DACA, a small portion of those already in the program can renew their status one final time. McKenna Mejia said Mano a Mano usually charges $50 to help people with their DACA renewals, but the organization is waiving that fee in an effort to get as many renewals in as possible before the deadline.

Mejia said the agency has received a surge of donations in the wake of the White House's decision.

“People who maybe a month ago didn't know what it was are now paying attention,” Mejia said. “We're going to harness that attention and help from our community to help these young people.”

Mano a Mano will host two other informational sessions this week, the first at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at La Vina Comunidad Cristiana at 342 Townline Road, Mundelein, and the second at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at 801 N. Main St., Wauconda.

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