On Sept. 13, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program illegal.
Ultimately, it’s expected the final decision on the program’s future will lie in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court – that would be the third time DACA has come before the high court since it was instituted by executive order during the Obama administration in 2012.
Hanen did not order an immediate end to the program or actions against DACA recipients, but the ruling has nevertheless created an uncertain future for the hundreds of thousands of “dreamers” in the U.S.
“My immediate reaction was just exhaustion and almost like deja vu, like we were just here, a year or two years ago, going through the same thing,” said Dulce Dominguez, a member of Alianza Americas and a DACA recipient. “Concern for myself, for my family members and community members that are constantly having to just wait on decision after decision to figure out what’s going to be next for them and their families.”
She said many are left wondering what the future holds.
“Even though nothing has changed for DACA, it still puts communities in kind of like an emergency mode, survival mode. Do I need to apply now? Am I going to lose my status right away? What are those documents that I need to get in line? So I think primarily it’s confusion,” Dominguez said.
Erica Andiola, communications director for the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, said the political tug-of-war around DACA has caused some people who would be directly affected by its repeal to drop out of the discussion in their day to day lives.
“We’ve been trying to follow all the different sorts of court decisions and it’s hard, I think even for myself,” Andiola said. “I’m an advocate, I’m also a DACA recipient. It’s even hard for myself to keep up with all the different court maneuvers and the different decisions. So I can only imagine people who don’t follow this for a living like I do how hard it must be to try to just keep up and understand and I think sometimes a lot of our community members sort of tune out until something terrible happens.”
U.S. Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Illinois, whose husband is a DACA recipient, said though she disagrees with Judge Hanen’s decision, he was correct in pointing out that Congress has yet to pass legislation to replace DACA even though it has come under legal challenge repeatedly.
“Congress should have passed legislation that would create this pathway. The reality is that … when Democrats were in the majority and not Republicans in the majority, neither have passed it,” Ramirez said. “And I think it’s because we are at a place that there is such political division that we have forgotten that our job is to govern and represent the people in the community. I’m the only member of Congress in a mixed status family. Knowing that just gives me a higher sense of responsibility in making sure that we get just five Republicans on this side to vote for it, but enough in the Senate to finally codify it.”
Ramirez said this threat to DACA is one she hopes will spur Congress to take more permanent action.
“We have the Promise and Dream Act Bill that’s been reintroduced this time … this ruling that we knew was happening put the fire under us to finally push this forward. But in the meantime, [we are] calling on the president to ensure that there are those program protections,” Ramirez said. “The reality is that despite the appeal of the Supreme Court, we know what the decision will be. What they’re saying is until we close the border, we won’t do anything about DACA. It’s a pitting of communities against each other. We have to stop that. And 80% of Americans support a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. We need to codify. We have to pass legislation this Congress.”