Tag Archives: immigrants

Undocumented and exposed under a Trump presidency

By Alexa Mencia

[A version of the story was originally published in The American Prospect.]

Operating room nurse Jose Aguiluz knew that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was only a Band-Aid for his immigration problem. It wasn’t a pathway to citizenship. The benefits it offered were limited, temporary.

But critically to Aguiluz, it was a way out of the shadows. For the first time since he fled Honduras to the U.S. in 2005, he found himself not having to tell white lies to his friends and peers. With a Maryland driver’s license, Aguiluz didn’t have to pretend that he had environmental reasons for not driving a car. With a work permit and a Social Security number, he worried less about having a run-in with the police. He didn’t have to think about how any and every action he took might lead to his deportation. Aguiluz was even able to visit Honduras without fearing that he would be denied re-entry into the United States.

But the DACA benefits that made Aguiluz feel more secure under President Obama could make him suddenly vulnerable when Donald Trump becomes president. Aguiluz and thousands of DACA recipients trusted the Obama administration with their personal identifying information in a trade-off that gained them short-term security. But in the turnover to Trump’s administration, that same identifying information could now be used against them. It’s one of the many unknowns now burdening DACA recipients, who have no idea how long their work permits might be valid, and who fear transgressions as petty as jay walking might get them deported. Efforts to protect such immigrants, moreover, face practical and legal barriers

With DACA…With Trump

Trump has pledged to end DACA and to deport between 2-3 million “criminal” aliens. Many DACA recipients now wonder whether they even have a future in the United States—in most cases, the only home they have ever known. With no clear sense of how the Trump administration will define criminality, DACA recipients can only speculate over who might be targeted for deportation. To date, the incoming administration has provided no information or clear direction as to what might happen to DACA recipients’ work permits, which have given them access to higher-paying jobs, health insurance and steadier work.

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Close to Thanksgiving, hundreds of O’Hare workers set to strike

By June Leffler

[Update: On Mon., Nov. 21, SEIU Local 1 announced that the strike has been delayed until after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend and is now set for Tues., Nov. 29]

Baggage handlers, custodians, security officers and wheelchair attendants have voted to strike in the next few days, potentially through Thanksgiving weekend. Workers are protesting wage theft, low pay and unsafe work conditions.

“We don’t expect to shut down the airport,” said Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, the union organizing these non-union workers.

Balanoff said there are more than 3,000 of these non-union, contractor-employed workers at O’Hare, and that hundreds of them voted to and will strike. He did not say when the strike would start or how long it would last.

The workers are fighting for $15 an hour and union rights. Balanoff said most of the workers make under $12 an hour.
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Early voting eases the way for first-time immigrant voters

By Jingzhe(Kelly) Wang

Election day is Tuesday, of course, but people can vote every day until then.

There is a difference. Early voting doesn’t take place in neighborhood precincts. It takes place at designated places.

There is an important advantage, especially for first-time voters who may want assistance.  Come with first-time voter Kahkashan Noreen, as she makes registering and voting look easy at Truman College Nov. 1, when groups hosted an event to guide people through the process.

Kahkashan Noreen, a first-time immigrant voter from Pakistan, cast her ballot during early voting at Truman College on Nov. 1, with the help of her ESL instructor. (Jingzhe(Kelly) Wang/MEDILL)

Kids serve as translators for parents who speak little English

By Shanshan Wang

Idalia Cervantes still recalls vividly when she accompanied her mother to the doctor as her interpreter at age seven. Not yet knowing the word “cough,” she faked several coughs to help describe the symptom.

“I was learning English myself and I only knew a few words,” Cervantes said. Even though she was born in America, she spoke only Spanish at home and began to learn English in school. Yet, by the time she was four years old, she started to translate for her Spanish-speaking parents who immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico in the 1990s. “I was just doing the best I could,” she said.

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Palestinian music director conducts Persian Concert for packed house

By Vishakha Darbha and Hannah Gebresilassie

Emotional, passionate and a musical genius are just a few words used to describe Wanees Zarour.

Born and raised in Ramallah, Palestine, director and composer Zarour leads the Middle East Music Ensemble at the University of Chicago, which was established in 1997.

His “Persian Concert” at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts drew a packed house with over a dozen people sitting on the floor and a handful standing in the doorway to observe the Feb. 27 performance. This was the second of three Persian concerts. The third will be held in the summer.

Composer and director Wanees Zarour shares his music and his journey from Ramallah, Palestine to the United States. (Vishakha Darbha & Hannah Gebresilassie/MEDILL)

Zarour’s journey as a musician began at seven, when he learned to play the violin in Ramallah. He moved to the United States when he was 16.

Today, Zarour primarily embeds Middle Eastern music traditions, including Arab, Turkish and Persian throughout his music. His musical expertise is evident in the way he transcribes complex pieces, including those that lack notation.

The 45-piece ensemble includes a wide range of Middle Eastern instruments, including the oud, tar, santour, sitar, setar and qanun. The ensemble is composed of community members and students, whom Wanees has been directing in the ensemble for six years.

Photo at Top: Palestinian composer and director Wanees Zarour at The Persian Concert held in Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. The concert was held on Feb. 27 (Vishakha Darbha & Hannah Gebresilassie/MEDILL)

Cantonese opera strikes a chord in Chinatown

By Vishakha Darbha

The Chicago Public Library hosts a Cantonese opera every Wednesday and Saturday, performed by the Zhaoqiu Chinese American ART Center. Opened last August, Chinatown has seen a growth in the number of new institutions, including a Park District Field House.

Chicago invested $19 Million in building the library. It is designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, which also designed New York City’s One World Trade Center. This was part of the Chinatown Community Vision Plan, a step toward investing in the area. Chicago’s Chinatown is thriving, unlike others in the rest of the nation, with the population increasing by more than 25% from 2000 to 2010.

The Chinese-American community in Chicago has recently been energized by various political events. A large crowd of Asian-Americans came together to protest against NYPD officer Peter Liang’s conviction on Feb. 20, while 2nd District State Representative Theresa Mah has emerged as the first Asian-American legislator in the Illinois General Assembly.

Asian-Americans share their perception on the increasing visibility of the Chinese-American community, during a Cantonese Opera performance at the Chicago Public Library (Vishakha Darbha/MEDILL)
Photo at Top: Cantonese Opera Performer at the Chinatown Branch of the Chicago Public Library (Vishakha Darbha/MEDILL)

A tale of two cities: how education trumps war in Chicago and Reyhanli

By Aryn Braun

“There are lots of Syrians in Chicago like me, second-generation Syrians,” says Samia Akhras, 24, of Chicago’s growing Syrian Community.

But Chicago isn’t home. Chicago isn’t Syria.

Syrian-Americans, like Akhras and her family, are constantly reminded of the violence and upheaval that is everyday life in the Syrian Arab Republic. Akhras’ voice, normally lilting with enthusiasm, is grave and quiet when she talks about Syria’s constant turmoil and the danger her family members still face back in the Middle East.

“It was and it still is, really brutal,” Akhras says. “Every couple of months, every major event, I always think ‘That’s the worst thing that could ever happen. What could be worse?’ Then a couple months later a chemical weapon gets dropped, or a school gets bombed by Russia and ISIS is now in control of several cities throughout Syria.

“So it’s just never-ending pain.”

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Immigrants express a different reality on abortion rights

By Vishakha Darbha

Standing amid a sea of posters that proclaimed “My body, My Choice,” Loreen Targos recalled a story her mother had narrated to her about abortion in Taiwan.

Her mother’s friend did not want to have a sixth child, and lost her life in a desperate attempt to get an illegal abortion.
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