SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program across the country, including right here in Utah joined in celebration Thursday of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that the program was illegally rescinded by the Trump administration.
In a statement provided to ABC4 News by the University of Utah Dream Center Director Xris Macias, they wrote, “We are elated to hear that the rights of DACA-eligible individuals are being upheld. This is a victory for the movement for immigrant rights and for those who work tirelessly contacting representatives and community partners to ensure that their voices are heard.”
Xochitl Juarez came to the U.S. from Mexico when she was just a child with her family to pursue a better life. Now, she’s in school for social work and hopes to get her Master’s degree to become a counselor.
She said Thursday’s SCOTUS ruling brought her to cry “tears of immense joy.”
“I just remembered everything we’ve done to get this far – all those trips to Washington D.C., all the marches, the talks, all the platforms my story has been shared on. It just really made my day,” said Juarez. “I looked at my babies as they were sleeping and thought, ‘Mommy isn’t going anywhere.'”
Another one of those 650,000 DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers” is Diana Trochez, who said the past three years have felt painstakingly long for undocumented immigrants who have been legally protected under the Obama-era program introduced in 2012. Five years later, the Trump administration announced it would end the program.
“It was just not knowing what was going to happen to me, am I going to get deported? You know, this is the only country I know,” said Trochez. “There was a definitely a part of me that felt a lot of fear and anxiety about the uncertainty of the future. I think that’s the biggest thing we face.”
Trochez came to the United States with her mother 17 years ago from Honduras. Since then, she’s completed her post-secondary education at Brigham Young University.
Last October, she joined Heidi Chamorro in successfully petitioning to the Utah Supreme Court to allow Dreamers to practice law in the state. She now works as a immigration attorney.
Trochez said news of Thursday’s SCOTUS ruling came as a surprise.
“Honestly, back in November when SCOTUS announced they were going to take up the issue, I was a little worried about that. Just because I know our Supreme Court is on the conservative side of things at this moment,” she said.
University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Professor Leonor Perretta said because SCOTUS ruled the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) reasoning for rescinding DACA was unlawful and violated the Administrative Procedures Act, it could still come back and try again.
But if it does, it would take several more years to sort out in federal court.
“I’m not sure if that’s in their best interest for the Trump administration to do that given that there’s a lot of support for DACA even among Republicans and it’s an election year,” said Perretta, who is also an immigration attorney.
She said the next step for DACA is to wait and see if DHS will accept new applications and grant advanced parole for current recipients, which allows travel outside of the U.S. for humanitarian and work purposes.
“My prediction is we will go back where even new people who have not previously held DACA may be able to apply. That would include a lot of people who were not yet 15 years old when DACA was rescinded,” said Perretta.
However, Perretta said what she’s ultimately hoping for is immigration reform.
“The biggest thing is that Congress needs to look at this issue and find something more permanent for the Dreamers so that they can have some permanent status,” she said. “Many Dreamers have gone on to college, finished, worked jobs, pay taxes, and bought homes. They’ve been here their entire lives. They feel as American as the rest of us do.”
Chamorro said she also hopes to see action from Congress.
“My hope is that we can stop this administration from continuously attacking the livelihood of Dreamers. In order to do that, Congress needs to step in and step up,” said Chamorro.
Despite all of the questions still left unanswered, Trochez and Chamorro said they’re still calling Thursday’s SCOTUS ruling a “big win.”
“But at least for tonight, I think I’m going to sleep with a little bit more ease knowing that the Supreme Court ruled that for now, DACA is going to stay in place. It shows that no one, not even President Trump is above the law,” said Trochez.
“I was expecting a loss and was overjoyed with the SCOTUS ruling. I had worries and anxiety over my future and the future of my friends. But for now, I can breathe easy,” said Chamorro.
Trochez added, “To other DACA recipients out there, remain optimistic because we have a lot of people rallying behind us with love and support. Things will work out one way or another.”
In a statement to ABC4 News, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Deputy Director for Police, Joseph Edlow wrote:
“Today’s court opinion has no basis in law and merely delays the President’s lawful ability to end the illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty program.
DACA was created through an Executive Branch memorandum after President Obama said repeatedly that it was illegal for him to do so unilaterally and despite the fact that Congress affirmatively rejected the proposal on multiple occasions. The constitutionality of this de facto amnesty program created by the Obama administration has been widely questioned since its inception.
The fact remains that under DACA, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens continue to remain in our country in violation of the laws passed by Congress and to take jobs Americans need now more than ever. Ultimately, DACA is not a long-term solution for anyone, and if Congress wants to provide a permanent solution for these illegal aliens it needs to step in to reform our immigration laws and prove that the cornerstone of our democracy is that presidents cannot legislate with a ‘pen and a phone.’”