DACA recipients are your closest friends, your classmates, your baristas, your doctors, your nurses. The list goes on. Jasmine Razeghi talks to two of them about their reaction to the SCOTUS ruling and what they think people should know about DACA recipients.
On June 18th, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against Trump’s attempt at ending the Obama-era immigration program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The ruling comes as a win for the 643,560 current DACA recipients in the U.S. who faced uncertainty when President Trump vowed to get rid of the program.
Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts surprisingly authored the opinion for the case. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor joined him in support of DACA. Notably, Roberts called the termination of the program “arbitrary” and “capricious”. Justice Sotomayor filed an opinion that referred to Trump’s history of racist remarks against immigrants. She said, "the impact of the policy decision must be viewed in the context of the President’s public statements on and off the campaign trail.” Sotomayor references Trump’s controversial statements that characterized Mexican immigrants as “criminals”, “drug dealers”, and “rapists”.
On Friday, political advisor Judd Deere released the following statement that discussed where the President currently stands with DACA. “As the President announced today, he is working on an executive order to establish a merit-based immigration system to further protect U.S. workers. Furthermore, the President has long said he is willing to work with Congress on a negotiated legislative solution to DACA, one that could include citizenship, along with strong border security and permanent merit-based reforms. This does not include amnesty. Unfortunately, Democrats have continually refused these offers as they are opposed to anything other than totally open borders.”
RAICES, a non-profit legal services organization, tweeted about the President’s announcement, “Now, what can this mean? It could be that he is gearing up to release his immigration reform plan, which most likely provides a path to citizenship for DACA recipients AND a complete nightmare for all other immigrants. He'll use them as bargaining chips.” The Texas based organization sees Trump’s announcement as a sham.
The Obama administration first established DACA in 2012. It was an executive order after the DREAM act failed to pass in Congress. The program allows those who are eligible to receive protection from deportation and a work permit. DACA is able to protect recipients for 2 years, then recipients must renew their application to remain in the U.S. under DACA. While the majority of DACA recipients are from Mexico, DACA protects individuals from at least 30 countries including Honduras, El Salvador, China, Poland, Canada, and India among others.
Yussef Elbagory is currently a Computer Science major and Religion minor at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. When asked why he chose his major and minor, he said, “as with many Egyptians, the idea of success was derived from a need for financial security which took form in the shape of careers like doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Today, within the context of significant media suppression both back in Egypt as well as here in the United States, I seek to combine both computer science and the law to protect those who have mustered up the courage to stand for their unalienable right, the freedom of expression.”
Yussef is a DACA recipient and considers New York City his home. He specifically stated that he always considered NYC to be his home over Egypt. In response to the recent DACA decision, Yussef told me that it provided relief for not only DACA recipients but for those who continuously fight to improve the United States’ relationship with immigrants. He did note the exception in his relieved response is that the fight is not over. He said, “I was, however, taken aback by the overjoy that has taken over my social media . . . We must remember that the SCOTUS decision does not deal with the legitimacy of DACA itself but instead Trump’s method for removing DACA.”
On June 19th, the President vowed to get rid of DACA when he tweeted, “we will be submitting enhanced papers shortly in order to properly fulfill the Supreme Court’s ruling & request of yesterday.” The acting deputy secretary Kevin Cuccinelli retweeted Trump and added, “We are on it at @DHSgov Mr. President!”
I asked Yussef if the decision made by SCOTUS was something he expected to happen. “I had been in constant discussion with friends and family about the ramifications of this court case. I was planning the necessary documentation to fight a deportation case against me as well as researching [the immigration policies of other nations] so that I can one day make a permanent home,” he stated.
When I asked what people should know about DACA recipients, Yussef told me, “DACA recipients are your closest friends, your classmates, your baristas, your doctors, your nurses, the list goes on.” He went on to highlight the people affected by the fight for immigration reform. “This fight isn’t just for me but for all those who have died crossing the borders, all the children who are currently detained in holding cells all across the nation, all those who tried their best to come in ‘the right way’ but due to no fault of their own, found that the only path to a better life was doing what was ‘illegal’. These rights need to extend farther than simply for those deemed most redeemable,” Yussef stated.
Estephania Esparragoza is currently a Sociology major with a Business Administration minor at the University of Houston. Her goal is to help her parents retire someday. Instead of a typical birthday gift for her 15th birthday, she was able to get DACA protection. Estephania saw the limitations of undocumentation when she applied for colleges. She knew it would affect her ability to get financial aid. She described it as a “slap in the face”, knowing her opportunities had limits.
With the recent SCOTUS ruling, Estephania feels relief. “When you’re out and about on a regular day, it’s a sense of security that you can’t get deported for just being here,” she said. Estephania expected the Supreme Court to rule in favor of DACA and noted that it was not the first time there were arguments against it.
When she described her experience as a DACA recipient, she highlighted the benefits that come with DACA status, such as the ability to get a driver’s license, a work permit, and to pay in-state tuition for college in Texas. She also mentioned the limitations that DACA cannot assist her with. She noted that some jobs require citizenship status for its employees. Her driver’s license specifically notes her undocumented status. She cannot reenter the country at any time and must exercise care in traveling outside the country. Also, she cannot apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) like many students do for need-based aid.
Estephania wanted to make clear that DACA recipients do pay taxes. In Texas alone, DACA recipients paid $596.2 million in 2017. She also noted the expenses that come with maintaining her DACA status. It currently costs $495 to renew DACA. However, under the Trump Administration, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proposed an increase in immigration fees, which included the DACA fee. According to United We Dream, the price hike would make the fee $765.
Estephania pointed out that the United States currently has no pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. She assumed that it was because the U.S. would want her to eventually return to where she “came from.” “I hope that people realize we deserve to be here. Most of us DACA recipients don’t know any other country as our home and it’s absurd to take that away from us. We are just as important as those with [Citizenship status]. We will fight until we get a clear pathway to citizenship,” she stated.
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