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NORMAL — Carlos Flores is entering his final semester at Illinois State University, and said his education wouldn’t have been possible without protection from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

“I was brought to America as a 1-year-old and I’ve been living here for 21 years,” said Flores, of Bridgeview. “With 800,000 of us under DACA, we’re contributing a lot to society.”

Flores joined a rally in support of DACA at ISU on Tuesday.

ISU student Cyndy Alvarez of Texas helped organize the rally that included Illinois Wesleyan University students.

“We want to affirm that, for students who are currently protected by DACA, they belong. This is their space. Those of us who are born citizens will protect them,” said Alvarez.

Attendees circled the quad, shouting “Defend DACA” and waving signs that said “Nobody is Illegal.”

ISU President Larry Dietz stood with students at the event.

"Our job is to teach and provide service to students who meet the academic criteria. The good news is there are six months for Congress to address this. Hopefully that will alleviate any anxiety students or families may feel now," said Dietz.

Trump is giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix before the government stops renewing permits for people already covered by the program.

A statement released from Dietz after the rally said ISU will “continue to admit, serve and support undocumented students as authorized by law.”

Marinelly Castillo-Zuniga, ISU Spanish professor, joined the event with her class.

“People protected under DACA were brought here as babies. It wasn’t their decision,” said Castillo-Zuniga. “Like everyone, they have dreams of getting an education, a well-paying job, a family.”

Castillo-Zuniga added that it's often forgotten that DACA does not just apply to Mexican immigrants, but to children who came to America from any country.

“I’ve had some immigrant students in my class. They are passionate. I can see in their eyes that they want to do well. The only thing they should have to worry about right now is their homework and studying for tests. They shouldn't have to worry about losing their education and dreams,” she said.

IWU student Tayyibah Ahmed of Hanover Park came to the ISU rally with a group of friends.

“I have friends and their siblings who would be affected if DACA was to end. We came here because we want to make a difference and raise our voices,” said Ahmed.

Rally leaders encouraged the group to call lawmakers to voice their support of DACA.

The Obama administration created the DACA program in 2012 as a stopgap as it pushed unsuccessfully for a broader immigration overhaul in Congress.

U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Channahon Republican, said in a statement that he voted to support DACA “because I believe these children, who only know America to be their home, deserve an opportunity to be here legally.”

“With that said, Congress now has an opportunity to act on immigration reform and we have the support here to do it,” said Kinzinger. “It’s critical that we act on a permanent, legislative solution that allows these immigrants, individuals who have come out of the shadows and contributed to our society and economy, to stay here legally.”

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., also responded to the DACA news.

“Dreamers and DACA recipients are doctors, teachers, students and service members. They have mortgages and jobs. They know only one nation: the United States, which is where they were raised. To end a program that allowed these patriots to come out of the shadows and more fully contribute to this country is irresponsible and heartless,” she said in a statement.

YWCA McLean County called the removal of DACA “racial profiling, xenophobia and bad public policy” in a statement.

“We are outraged that this promise is being broken and that those who came to this country as children will be criminalized and driven underground.” 

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Follow Julia Evelsizer on Twitter: @pg_evelsizer

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Public Safety Reporter

Public safety reporter for The Pantagraph.

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