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The Supreme Court Sides with DREAMers, Protects the DACA Program

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The Supreme Court of the United States blocked the Trump administration from ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), saving nearly 700,000 DREAMers from deportation. 

Chief Justice John Roberts, who was the swing vote on the 5-4 decision, wrote that the administration’s attempts to abruptly end DACA did not follow the procedures required by the law and was “arbitrary and capricious”. Chief Roberts also found that the administration did not consider how rescinding the program would affect DACA beneficiaries who relied on the program’s protections against deportation and the ability to work legally.

Former President Barack Obama, who approved the program in 2012, responded to the news on Twitter.
“Eight years ago this week, we protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation,” he wrote. “Today, I’m happy for them, their families, and all of us. We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals.”

Celebrating the Victory

“I feel so happy, it’s like a weight has been lifted off of me!”

Josué Tayoud, DACA recipient

Around this time last year, Josué Tayoud was working in the intensive care unit of Del Sol Medical Center in El Paso, Texas. Two months later, he would care for multiple victims from the infamous El Paso shooting, the deadliest attack on the Latino population in the U.S. in recent history. Almost a year later, in the midst of working on the front lines during the global pandemic, Tayoud was facing yet another worry: the upcoming decision on his ability to remain in the country.

“It was quite stressful,” Tayoud told Revolution English. “On one hand you are worried about the virus and the fact that I could be putting my family at risk of infection. And on the other hand, there was the fact that I have DACA and I didn’t know if I would be able to work anymore. All that multiplies, that feeling of stress and at the same time, like the powerlessness that you cannot do anything to change your immigration status.”

Thankfully, due to the ruling, Tayoud and his DREAMers counterparts won’t be at risk of deportation and will be able to keep their work permits for now. 

The Fight For Their Rights 

Brought to the U.S. without papers as children, the DREAMers were allowed to legally work and avoid deportation if they met certain requirements and passed a background check. Some of these immigrants, who are now in their 30s, speak only English. They generally feel a much stronger connection to the United States than the country they immigrated from, since they remember little if anything about the few years they spent in their country of birth.

“It is inhumane to take away this opportunity that we have worked so hard to obtain,” Marissa Molina told Revolution English. “How inhumane it is to take that away from so many people who have fought so hard to say ‘I am not only going to fight for my American dream, but I am also going to fight for my community, for my state, for my family.’”

Like Tayoud, Molina came to the country when she was only a child at 9 years old. When the program was approved in 2012, she had been considering dropping out of her Political Sciences studies because she “saw no way to continue paying for the university” and knew that “perhaps I would never be able to obtain that diploma to practice my profession.” After becoming a DACA beneficiary, she was able to finish her college and become a teacher in her community. 

“I developed a great sense of commitment for this country and with my community. I thought, ‘well, I have this great opportunity, so how am I going to use it to do something good for my community?’”

Marissa Molina, DACA recipient

According to the Center for American Progress report, DACA recipients’ contributions to the economy are sizable. DACA households pay $5.7 billion in federal taxes, $3.1 billion in state and local taxes. They also pay approximately $613.8 million in mortgage payments and $2.3 billion in annual rental payments. Democrats and businesses, who have long supported the program, have made a point to stress these contributions in their arguments.

“Rescinding DACA would result in an estimated loss of $460.3 billion from the national GDP over the next decade,” the Joint Economic Committee Democrats said in a letter. “Ending DACA would also remove an estimated 685,000 workers from the nation’s economy over the next two years—at a rate of more than 30,000 jobs a month—leaving employers in a lurch to fill these positions. Further, replacing these individuals is expected to cost employers more than $3.4 billion in unnecessary turnover costs.”

Facing The Limitations

However, the DACA program has its own room for improvement. 

“From the beginning we knew that DACA was not a permanent solution,” Molina said. “I feel that the greatest cost of these benefits has been to our mental health and to our spirit, because we are in a constant state of waiting. What is going to happen? What if they will not let me renew it or if the renewal doesn’t arrive or it’s late? What about my job? That is the burden of living your life in increments of two years.”

Aside from maintaining a spotless criminal record and tax history, DACA recipients have to renew their work permit every two years. Additionally, they have to go have their biometrics taken so their criminal background can be checked. Any slip and they could lose their benefits and be in danger of deportation. 

“They are mixed feelings,” said Tayoud. “I am a nurse, because I like what I do. But there is always uncertainty because you know that they can end it at any time, they can even deport you. So what will become of your future? What does the future hold for me, then? It is quite frustrating.”

The program was also criticized eight years ago for not including many young people who met certain criteria but still didn’t qualify for the benefits.  A good example is the people who were over 30 at the time of the announcement and therefore didn’t qualify or those who were 17 or older when they initially arrived. Additionally, other members of the family, like the parents of the DREAMers, didn’t receive any migratory status.

How You Can Help Moving Forward

“I think it is important that right now DACA beneficiaries surround ourselves with all the people who love us, who support us, and who tell us ‘do not back down, we will continue to fight, and we will do everything in our hands to make the laws change,’” Molina said. 

You can also donate to organizations that support DREAMers (there are some listed below) or volunteer for one of their programs. Spreading awareness about the topic is always a helpful way to be useful to those who need it. Additionally, communicating with local politicians and congressmen to voice your support for the program can be more important than you think. 

“This is an election year, and for all those who are listening or reading this piece I think it is crucial to recognize how important that is. If you have the privilege to exercise your vote, you should do so, because all of us, who do not have that privilege, depend on the leaders who are elected by the American citizens so that the laws can change.”

Marissa Molina, DACA recipient

Resources for DREAMers

Many organizations are devoted to helping DREAMers make their journey a bit easier. Some of these include Beyond DACA, an organization devoted to helping DREAMers navigate their lives. On their website, they offer several resources such as mental health counselling connector, wellness gatherings, tools to help get tuition assistance in California and an immigration service that helps DREAMers learn about their options to get a more permanent legal status. They also offer advice on topics such as how to navigate college applications and get a job under DACA. 

Other organizations include UnidosUS, United We Dream, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, Inmigrante Informado and more

Alexandra Tirado Oropeza is a Venezuelan journalist covering politics, immigration, entertainment and social justice. She moved to the U.S. in 2014 to pursue a Writing degree at The University of Tampa, and after graduating, she moved to Los Angeles where she works in broadcast and as a freelance writer. She’s passionate about equality, freedom of speech, art and dogs.