Waukegan Latinx activists protest renaming Thomas Jefferson, Daniel Webster middle schools after Barack and Michelle Obama

Some members Waukegan's Latinx community say former President Obama's record of deporting 2.5 million immigrants should disqualify him.

Video Transcript

JOHN GARCIA: Cheryl, the Waukegan School District is-- the school board, rather, is meeting here at the high school a little bit later tonight. And on their way in, they're expected to be met by protesters who oppose renaming one of the district's middle schools for the Obamas.

He was one of the country's founding fathers, but Thomas Jefferson also owned slaves, which is why the school district is changing the name. One of the three finalists for a new name, the country's first African-American president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama. But that option is also drawing opposition in this area with a large Hispanic population.

EDGAR CASTELLANOS: I will not be a part of renaming a school after someone who does not represent, and did not represent, the undocumented community.

JOHN GARCIA: School board member Edgar Castellanos came to the US, undocumented, as a child. Waukegan activist Julie Contreras works with a group that runs shelters for undocumented children at the US-Mexico border. She says former president Obama failed to deliver on promises to help the immigrant population. She's organizing protests against naming the school for the Obamas.

JULIE CONTRERAS: 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.

JOHN GARCIA: Waukegan schools are welcoming students back for the first time in a year next week for hybrid learning, but that's not what's drawing the most attention to the district this week. It is the school name change proposal. In fact, for two schools, Jefferson and Daniel Webster Middle School, which is named for a former Senator who supported slavery.

The school board president says the community has been talking about the name changes for months.

BRANDON EWING: I, personally, don't object to the name, but I have to be aware of the concerns and listen to them, and then help that guide me in my decision making process.

JOHN GARCIA: Well, there are three finalists for the name change, the other two, by the way, Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez, labor and unions and civil rights activists, and also John Lewis, congressman and also a civil rights leader. The board, however not expected to vote on that name change tonight. Live in Waukegan, John Garcia, ABC 7 Eyewitness News.