DACA Recipients Fear the Future Under Trump

The rush is on this week for some immigrants who may have come into the country illegally, but have been able to work and receive some benefits under a program started by President Barack Obama.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to reverse the program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which is a renewable program allowing immigrants brought here as children to apply for this protected status.

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Under DACA, immigrants won't be prosecuted while their status is valid, and they can obtain a permit to work, along with some other benefits.

But during the campaign, Trump promised to cancel the program.

The Resurrection Project, a nonprofit community organization based in Pilsen, has been hosting workshops and counseling sessions with immigration attorneys this week to answer the questions many DACA recipients have.

For now, they're telling them that if they're planning to make a first-time application, to hold off on giving their information to the federal government. By the time it's processed, a new president will be in the White House and there's no certainty that he will keep the program.

And if they're planning to apply for a renewal, immigrants are being advised to do it quickly, so that the federal government will have it processed before Trump takes office. It's left many recipients and those eligible fearing an uncertain future.

Jeff Halm, a Trump supporter and the president of the Chicago Young Republicans says that while he's sympathetic to the plight of this group of immigrants, he believes that Trump has the right to undo the program because the action should have gone through Congress instead being done through executive order by Obama.

He added that the fear that immigrants will be rounded up and deported is overblown–that's not what's being proposed. But he does believe that there is a process to being a legal immigrant and DACA recipients have been allowed to skip the line.

Below, read our Q&A with Halm.

Chicago Tonight: What do you think of the possibility of President-elect Trump canceling the DACA program?

Halm: This is the natural consequence of doing something by executive order rather than passing law, because executive orders can be undone by the next president. It should've gone through the House and Senate.

CT: Do you think this order is unfair? Should Obama not have signed it?

Halm: I think they’re a sympathetic audience [the DACA recipients]. It’s no fault of their own, but the fact is they came here illegally. It’s not fair to those people who spend years waiting in the green card lottery, that these people get to jump the line, it’s not fair to people willing to go through proper processes.

CT: Do you think the Trump administration will use DACA to identify and locate immigrants for deportation?

Halm: That's an overblown fear, we don’t have the kind of police action you'd need to round up that many illegals in U.S.—Americans won't stand for it. It’s not going to happen, that’s not what's being proposed. We need to reform a busted immigration system. If people are here illegally, there'll be an opportunity to make it right. I don't know what that entails, it depends. At the end of day, they're here illegally. That's the bottom line. I'm sympathetic. America is the greatest place in the world. I can understand why people would want to come here. And I understand going through a broken immigration system is frustrating and unappealing, but that's the way it is.

CT: Do you think these folks will have to retreat back into the shadows?

Halm: It’s hard to speculate, it all depends. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel was saying Chicago is committed to being a sanctuary city, which is something I disagree with. At the end of the day, it's the same thing, if they're here illegally, they're not supposed to be here, and there's a way to do it the right way. If people are unwilling to do that ... I don't know what to tell you. It’s like breaking any other law, if you break a law there are consequences.

CT: Many Illinois Republicans did not support Trump during the campaign. Are you a Trump supporter?

Halm: Unfortunately, we had a binary choice in the election, and for me the choice between Trump and Hillary was not a choice. I voted for Trump. He got elected last week, everybody's freaking out. People need to give him a chance. We don't know what he's going to do. Normally, it takes an average of five weeks for a cabinet to be selected, and people are freaking out because a week later he hasn't named all of them. Judge him by his actions. There is a huge opportunity here for the Republicans; we have complete control over the federal government. The left is doing all this fear-mongering that aliens will be rounded up, transgender people will be rounded up—it’s crazy. None of that is going to happen. You have to give him a chance.

Interview has been condensed and edited.

Follow Brandis Friedman on Twitter: @BrandisFriedman

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