Respect

Latino activists protest renaming school after the Obamas

Story at a glance

  • The Waukegan Board of Education is deliberating what to rename the city’s Thomas Jefferson Middle School due to the president’s ties to slavery.
  • A leading contender for a new name is Barack and Michelle Obama Middle School.
  • “From the time Barack Obama became President until 2017 when he left, he today is still the highest ranking president with deportations in our nation,” Julie Contreras, an activist that helps run shelters for undocumented children at the U.S.-Mexico border and Waukegan resident, said.

Some Latinos in an Illinois community are pushing back against a local school board’s consideration to rename a school after former President Obama due to his record on deportation, according to ABC Chicago

The Waukegan Board of Education is deliberating what to rename the city’s Thomas Jefferson Middle School. The push to change the school’s name stems from the fact the third president was a slave owner. The board is expected to officially decide whether to rename the school in the coming weeks. 


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A leading contender for a new name is Barack and Michelle Obama Middle School. But on Tuesday as the board held a meeting and heard comments from the public, many Latinos were not pleased with the suggestion and protested outside the meeting. 

“From the time Barack Obama became President until 2017 when he left, he today is still the highest ranking president with deportations in our nation,” Julie Contreras, an activist who helps run shelters for undocumented children at the U.S.-Mexico border and Waukegan resident, said, according to ABC Chicago. 

“If you’re removing the name of Thomas Jefferson – one oppressor – the name of Obama is another oppressor and our families do not want to see that name,” Contreras said. 

School officials are also looking at renaming Daniel Webster Middle school, as the former senator and school’s namesake supported slavery, according to ABC Chicago. 

Waukegan is just north of Chicago and has a population that is more than 50 percent Latino. A final decision on the new name is still at least a month away, according to WGN. Another popular name change suggestion is Civil Rights icon John Lewis. 

According to the Migration Policy Institute, former President Obama deported more than 5 million people during his presidency, compared to 12 million deported under former President Clinton and 10 million under former President George W. Bush.


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