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BLOOMINGTON — Now that President Donald Trump has taken office, many immigrants, particularly Muslims and Latinos, are living with uncertainty and, some say, fear of what might come next.

While campaigning, Trump vowed in his first 100 days to ban Muslim visitors and repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy.

Since 2012, the DACA policy has provided more than 700,000 young, undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children with temporary deportation reprieves, lawful work permits and in-state tuition and scholarships if they met certain requirements, including being law-abiding.

Under Trump, those youths, known as DACA-mented students, could be pulled out of their schools, homes, or jobs to face deportation, say local advocates.

"This is especially troubling for many of these youths because the federal government now has their information and knows that they are officially in the United States without documentation," said Illinois State University associate professor Beth Hatt. "Many undocumented students are too scared to talk right now."

Hatt, ISU professor Maura Toro-Morn and Nancy Vasquez, ISU assistant director of admissions, have created the Committee Advocating Undocumented Student Achievement (CAUSA) to help provide support to those students and educate teachers and others in the community about their plight.

ISU has 25 and Heartland Community College several DACA-mented students enrolled in college credit or ESL classes. 

"We have students who have been in the United States most of their lives and have worked diligently in high school or community colleges with hopes of earning their college degree," said Vasquez.

"The possibility of not having the opportunity to pursue a post-secondary education and or possibly being separated from immediate family members is terrifying; a devastating possibility." 

In December, the Bloomington District 87 Board of Education adopted a Not In Our School resolution declaring it opposes bullying, harassment, prejudice and all forms of intolerance toward any group or individual.

"There was a lot of rhetoric certainly by Trump and his camp relating to those of immigrant status," said Superintendent Barry Reilly. "We wanted to send a signal to our community that we support our kids and families and diversity."

Muslim community

Meanwhile, while wrestling with concerns about their futures, the Islamic Center of McLean County's new resident scholar, Sheikh Khalid Herrington, is urging the Muslim community to remain positive with Trump in the Oval Office.

"I am encouraging everyone not to become reactionary and to always maintain a positive stance against racism, prejudice and bigotry," he said.

As resident scholar, his responsibilities include advising the center's executive board, religious counseling, interfaith dialogue and public speaking.

Charlotte Alvarez, a staff attorney for The Immigration Project in Normal, said she is seeing more Muslims eager to complete the legal process to get their family members into the U.S. before legislation is enacted, or policy shifts affect their ability to ever see their families again.

"We have a lot of different immigrant groups in Bloomington-Normal and across the state that are holding their breaths and looking to see what happens," she said

The non-profit organization's four attorneys provided legal services to 722 immigrants in 2015 in 85 Illinois counties, with the majority of its clients from the Peoria, Champaign-Urbana, and Twin City areas.

Bloomington-Normal is a "pretty diverse community," with one of its largest employers, State Farm, employing people of East Asian, Indian, Pakistani and Latino ethnicities, said Alvarez. The area also has a growing Congolese immigrant population, said Alvarez and local school officials.

"The DACA-mented kids grew up in the United States and a lot are vested in education and training and have taken on professional and semi-professional jobs," she added. "So we are hoping that President Trump sees that these are productive residents of our society."

Trump's campaign promises included building a wall, or fence, along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border and stepping up immigration enforcement against the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Hatt said she's been asked to do professional development at elementary schools where children have built "walls" with snow or backpacks, claiming they need to "keep the Mexicans out." 

"So in my mind, it's not even really about whether someone has their papers or not, but instead the way Muslim and Latino communities have been marginalized and demonized; that somehow their rights as citizens matter less than the rest of us," she said.

It is the "great working relationship" that local Muslims have with the larger community that was a factor in Herrington's decision to move recently to the Twin Cities with his wife and five children, he said.

Hundreds of local residents turned out in December 2015 for a show of solidarity with their Muslim neighbors at an interfaith rally in downtown Bloomington. The local Muslim community reciprocated by holding open houses at their mosques.

"Decisions, rhetoric and policy on a federal level, of course, have a broad impact, but the relationship with the local community is far more important at this point in regards to day-to-day life and personal reactions," said Herrington.

Follow Maria Nagle on Twitter: @pg_nagle


Bloomington Reporter

Bloomington reporter for The Pantagraph.

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