In Chicago, we speak to youth who've been able to work and study under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
With Trump in office, they say they fear they and their families will be deported
Learn more Tuesday on HLN’s “MicheaLA” at 11 a.m. ET.
Luis Gomez held back tears while speaking about Donald Trump’s America.
“I have been reckoning with the reality and the possibility that my dad will lose his job. That my family will lose their home. And that I might lose my friends and family to deportation and suicide,” Gomez said with a shaky voice.
Gomez was 11 years old when he came to the United States. As an undocumented immigrant his sense of security has been a roller coaster of emotion. When he was a senior in high school, he said, he felt hopeless.
“I was depressed. I felt like giving up and I was in a very dark place,” Gomez said.
But his fears were eased when President Barack Obama offered young people who were brought to the United States as children a legal stay in 2012, through DACA. DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, allowed hundreds of thousands of youth to come out of the shadows and get jobs and seek education opportunities.
Gomez felt a sigh of relief under the DACA blanket. He enrolled in college and began studying biochemistry at Illinois Institute of Technology.
But the grim feelings of despair returned when Trump won the election.
“Since Tuesday night, I have been feeling the same way I felt senior year. I feel as if my degree will mean nothing once my DACA expires,” Gomez said.
Public health crisis in Chicago
Gomez’s fears and those of other immigrants, refugees, Muslims and LGBTQ people have leaders in Chicago calling the post-election scene in the city and around the state a public health crisis.
Calls to mental health hot lines have increased by 200% at the state level and 250% at the national level, said Patrick Magoon, president and CEO of Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago during a press conference citing crisis center data.
“We’ve also been alerted about an increase in demand for counseling services at colleges and schools across our state,” Magoon added.
In a press release, the hospital pointed to evidence that some students have interpreted the rhetoric of the election as permission to bully students of color and minorities. Schools are reporting instances of hate speech, racist vandalism and classes being canceled due to safety concerns. The medical community worries for the well-being of the victims of bullying because of the possible mental health risks.
“Whether they be adults or children who are concerned or scared, and suffering, we need to make sure that they feel the protective shield of an adult community that loves them and will connect them to appropriate services,” said Colleen Cicchetti, executive director of the Center for Childhood Resilience.
The pain is real, said Nancy Villa. She is a DACA recipient whose anxiety skyrocketed when Trump took the White House.
“I’m scared. I cannot focus in school. I worry all the time,” Villa said. “The anxiety and the worries that I fear hurt.”
Villa, 21, fears deportation and said she has experienced the separation of family before. Her mother made the trek to the United States from Mexico when she was a little girl, leaving her behind. Eight months later, Villa, who was 9 years old, made the two-week journey to Chicago with her grandfather. Reuniting with her mother, Villa said, is a moment she remembers vividly and emotionally. It was Mother’s Day 2004.
“I got down off the bus and I got to see her from far away, so I ran to see her and hugged her,” Villa said.
Her single mother, she said, has raised her and her five siblings by cleaning bathrooms and offices in a factory. Villa’s dream is to finish college and get a good job, so her mother doesn’t have to clean bathrooms for a living.
“Without DACA I cannot do this. I will not be able to work. I will not be able to pay for my school and I will not be able to help my mom,” Villa said.
When asked if Trump’s latest interview with “60 Minutes,” in which he said he would focus on deporting criminals rather than the masses, gave her peace of mind, she said words from Trump don’t settle her fears.
“I don’t have faith in the things that he says, I guess. It’s kind of hard to trust him,” Villa said.
Chicago is a sanctuary city
To calm the fear and the anxiety in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel reiterated his support and the city’s commitment to immigrants and people of all faiths living in the city.
Chicago is a sanctuary city, Emanuel emphasized, a place where local police will not coordinate with immigration agents or federal agencies to enforce federal deportation efforts.
“To be clear about what Chicago is, it always will be a sanctuary city. To all those who are, after Tuesday’s election, very nervous and filled with anxiety, you are safe in Chicago,” Emanuel said.
Like many cities around the country, Chicago has seen hundreds of protesters hit the streets after Trump’s win. Some of the protesters are undocumented, and have taken their fears and turned them into action.
Gomez, the DACA recipient who fears Trump’s America, said he hopes politicians take action on immigration, too. It’s the only way to end the roller coaster of fear and anxiety that has marked his life in the United States.
“Protect us, protect my community, protect me. Or get ready to step down for those who are ready to fight Trump’s policies,” Gomez said.