Latino activists are protesting an Illinois school board’s decision to rename a school after former president Barack Obama, citing his record on inhumane deportations.
The Waukegan Board of Education announced earlier this year that it would rename Thomas Jefferson Middle School because of the third president’s past with slavery.
The board is expected to announce the new name some time this month, and the top contender is Barack and Michelle Obama Middle School, according to ABC Chicago.
However, many Latinos were not pleased with the choice and held a protest outside the school board’s latest 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,” said left-wing activist Julie Contreras, a Waukegan resident.
“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 added.
School-board member Edgar Castellanos also protested the choice, reminding the rest of the board that Waukegan’s population is more than 50% Latino.
“I will not be part of renaming a school after someone who did not and does not represent the undocumented community,” he said.
School board president Brandon Ewing said he “personally” does not “object” to naming the middle school after the Obamas, but said he is “aware of the concerns.”
According to the Migration Policy Institute, the Obama administration deported more than 5 million people during his presidency.
“We feel that Barack Obama did a disservice to us,” Contreras said. “He denied us, and he didn’t stop the deportations the way he promised.”
Another woman who joined the protest, Mauricio Sanchez, said naming the school after Obama would serve as a painful reminder of her father’s deportation under the Obama administration in 2015.
“It was something very sad,” she said. “We couldn’t even say goodbye to our dad. We just hoped for him to be able to get out.”
The school board is also considering renaming the middle school after the late congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis, D-Ga.