Suburban Dreamers greet high court ruling with relief and (cautious) optimism
Sandra Diaz spent Thursday morning glued to her phone. But the 22-year-old Gurnee resident wasn't checking texts from friends. She was checking for updates on whether the Supreme Court would allow Dreamers like her to be deported.
She wasn't the only one. Bolingbrook resident Ana Campa Castillo was equally anxious. When the announcement came that the high court had rejected the Trump administration's attempts to end protections against deportation for immigrants known as "Dreamers," Castillo sighed in relief and exhaled the breath she felt she had been holding since the justices agreed to hear the case.
For Diaz, the ruling was "a huge weight off my shoulders."
But the relief they felt was tempered by cautious optimism that protections -- including the right to work in the U.S. -- established by 2012's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, may not be permanent. The court's decision suggested the dream shared by some 650,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children had inched a bit closer to reality but falls short of a solution.
For Irvin Gomez, a Dreamer who grew up in Waukegan, the announcement was bittersweet.
"It's easy to get caught up in the celebration of 'wow, we did it,'" said Gomez, 28, a DACA recipient who graduated from Dartmouth College. Younger brother Topiltzin Gomez, also a DACA recipient, graduated from Yale University.
"More than anything this is a pit stop. Let's recharge and continue to fight for folks who don't have what we have," said Gomez, a mentor with the Schuler Scholar Program that assists college-bound people of color, and first-generation and low-income students.
Suburban congressmen sounded a more optimistic note, with Rep. Brad Schneider of Deerfield and Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville describing the decision as a victory in separate prepared statements.
"Today, I am given new hope that the United States will again be the beacon of democratic values other nations aspire to. For the 6,000 'Dreamers' in our district and the 700,000 across the country, home is here," Schneider said.
Foster said securing permanent protections for the immigrants remains one of his top legislative priorities.
"We have always been a nation of immigrants, and we are a stronger nation when we embrace our diversity," he said.
The decision is one victory in an ongoing series of battles, said Castillo, 29, who attended the 2018 State of the Union address as a guest of Foster and works informally helping DACA recipients renew deferred action requests.
"DACA is not enough," said the recent college graduate. "We need a permanent resolution to benefit not only Dreamers but our families as well."
Had Carlos Robles not been a DACA recipient, the Palatine High School and Harper College graduate "would have been just another hardworking kid in limbo," he said.
Robles, 30, also believes comprehensive immigration reform is essential. The failure to enact reforms "crystallized the importance of voting," said Robles, a mentor with Excel Beyond 211, a Palatine-Schaumburg High School District 211 program supporting low-income, first-generation college students.
The court's decision illustrates the need for legislation offering long-term solutions rather than "small patches that leave a percentage of the population vulnerable."
"The most frustrating part is knowing my future and the future of all DACA recipients is in the hands of a few people who will never be in this situation," said Diaz, 22.
Growing up, she and her sister watched her parents struggle financially while worrying they might be deported.
"That fear translated to us," she said. "When DACA came along, it was like, we can be kind of normal."
Gomez said there's no denying immigrants, undocumented or not, are a big part of the American fabric.
"This is a huge win for one segment of that population, but there's still a lot more work to do," he said.
• Daily Herald staff writer Marni Pyke and The Associated Press contributed to this report.