By Tom Holmes
Most Forest Parkers, based on an unscientific sample, disagree with President Trump's decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which could see some 800,000 young adults nationwide become eligible for deportation beginning in March.
As you would expect from Forest Park residents, 85 percent of whom voted for Hillary Clinton last year, the majority of responses received by the Review were critical of the president's decision.
Naoto Hasegawa was born in Japan, has a green card, lives in Forest Park, is a member of Forest Park's Diversity Commission and is married to an American citizen.
"I believe the recent statement by the president on DACA is a direct contradiction to my understanding of what the United States of America stands for," he said. "In my humble opinion, this has nothing to do with national security but simply to tarnish the American Dream. I am having a really hard time finding the rationale for phasing out DACA, to squeeze out those who are already making a positive impact on the American economy."
Manuel Oropeza, who lives in a Forest Park condo, didn't hold back on how he felt.
"What I think Trump wants to do is give the racists a reason to protest," he said, "and thus show there is no support for immigration reform."
Don Glassi, who does maintenance work for several Forest Park condo buildings, was also cynical about the president's motives.
"I think he's on a mission to rescind anything that a very intelligent — unlike himself — most recent former president put in place," he said. "Doesn't matter what it is."
Clark Craig, a staff member at the Progress Center for Independent Living, sent out an email blast the day Attorney Jeff Sessions read the announcement about the president's decision for the media. The email invited people with disabilities to participate in a protest rally in Chicago. When asked why the disability community would get involved in the DACA issue, he responded, "First, they, like us, did not choose to be in the situation we are in, and second, if 20 percent of the population in the U.S. has a disability, then a significant percentage of the Dreamers will have one too."
Louis Cavallo, District 91 superintendent in Forest Park, declared, "Personally, I find this decision deplorable. All families in our community belong in our public schools. Ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program does terrible harm and disrupts our pursuit of these goals. This decision leaves some of our most vulnerable youth in a state of uncertainty and threatens their future. To feel that their lives are of such little value that our leader would gamble on their very existence to push forward an agenda must be a horrible feeling."
Last year the D91 English Language Learner (ELL) teachers organized an ELL night where representatives and attorneys who work for DACA provided information to parents on their rights and helped them finish applications.
One D91 ELL teacher, Vanessa Reyes, said some immigrant families have told her they are "feeling negative feelings" from other people about being a recent immigrant, regardless of their status, be it work visa or green card. "I have heard from a family," she said, "who might move back to their homeland despite the years it took them to get their papers in order to come here legally."
She said there are rumors, which proved to be false, that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials were staked out at the Forest Park mall.
Rev. Leonard Payton, pastor of St. John Lutheran Church, touched on the complexity of the issue when he said, "Some of our members have noted the pickle President Trump and our government are in, and that is, when you set aside the rule of law, no matter how good your motivations, where does this go? I'm fairly sure my people would be all over the map on this one, as they were in their presidential votes."
Forest Park resident Tom Reich also tried to see both sides of the issue, saying, "I like that President Trump put it in the hands of Congress to come up with something in the next six months. I believe Trump will support a decent resolution to this problem."
Reich then mentioned what almost everyone, be they for or against the president's decision, said: "Personally, it is a very difficult situation as the fault lies with the parents and not the children. It would be nice but unrealistic to determine deportation on an individual basis. A college student or hardworking migrant worker should not be thrown out of our country. But an individual who is just here from the freebies our government gives should go. And how about the people who came here and are now legal citizens? They put in a lot of hard work and sacrifice to become citizens. How do they feel?"
John Conversa, Ferrara's director of manufacturing in the U.S., looked at the DACA issue first as a private citizen. "If the government told me I had to leave," he said, "my question would be, 'Leave to where? This is home.' Those affected/protected by DACA were brought to the states when they were 15 years old or younger. They are not the ones who broke the law, merely victims. I do believe illegal immigration is a problem that needs to be addressed, but let's address those breaking the law vs. those who had little to no control over their upbringing."
Conversa also looked at Trump's decision from the perspective of business. "As a business person," he said, "our hope is to build the economy. If we have a law abiding, hardworking society, then why disrupt it? There is too much hate in the world and hate is never the path to progression."