FOX 32 NEWS - President-elect Donald Trump's proposed immigration crackdown has already created a public health crisis.
Mental health and suicide hotlines have been flooded with calls.
“My students are terrified,” said Tanya Cabrera of Illinois Dream Fund.
A children's hospital is an unlikely place for a news conference on immigration. But at Lurie Children's Hospital Monday, elected officials gathered with community leaders over concerns that President-elect Trump's proposed crackdown on undocumented workers has created a public health crisis by pushing some children over the edge.
“Some of them haven't shown up to school, counselors and allies are worried, some can’t get up in the morning, they feel hopeless and scared, uncertain of the road ahead,” Cabrera said.
Several undocumented students who have been shielded from deportation by the DACA program discussed their own mounting anxieties.
“I've been trying to reckon with the reality and the possibility that my dad will lose his job, that my family will lose their home, and that I will lose my friends and family to deportation and suicide,” Luis Gomez said.
Erendira Rendon's father arrived in the U.S. as an undocumented worker from Mexico three decades ago. She joined him here when she was 4 years old, and eventually graduated from the U of I.
“Up until Tuesday, I, at least, lived in an America where I thought we were going to be able win legalization one day for my parents. I lived in a place where I knew I could work, where I knew I wouldn't get deported, and it gave me strength,” Rendon said.
Mayor Emanuel tried to reassure them, promising Chicago would always be a sanctuary city where undocumented kids have full access to city programs.
“You are safe, you are secure and you are supported in the City of Chicago,” Emanuel said.
But there is concern that such reassurances, and mental health counseling, won't reach everyone in need.
“We really want to be looking for those youth that are already marginalized, and if they're not coming to school, are people doing outreach to them,” said Colleen Cicchetti of Lurie Center for Childhood Resilience.
Lurie Hospital officials also say that beyond immigration issues, there's evidence of increased bullying due to the heated political atmosphere. They’re encouraging parents to be on the lookout for such conduct.