Supreme Court temporarily brings DACA back to life


*Editor’s note: Due to the current political climate and protection of sources in the story, The Journal gave the DACA recipient an alternative name.

A recent United States Supreme Court decision will protect Webster student Maria from deportation. Maria is one of the 3,500 young recipients of the protections of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in Missouri.

The Supreme Court refused to hear the Trump administration’s case to stop receiving visa renewals for the children of undocumented immigrants. This will allow Maria and her husband to renew their visas and remain protected from deportation for the time being.

“This will allow me to continue working and studying as well as maintaining a legal status,” Maria said. “However, it is still only a temporary solution, not a permanent one that will grant us certainty about our futures.”

The Trump administration stopped accepting applications for DACA on Sept. 5 last year. Trump gave Congress six months to find a legislative solution for the program with a deadline set for March 5, 2018. Congress did not meet the deadline.

Maria, now 23, arrived to the U.S. when she was 12 years old. DACA granted her protection from deportation as well as a permit to work, attend college and open a bank account. She said she is more familiar with U.S. culture than Mexican culture. She established a life, got married and bought her first home here.

DACA recipients were no longer allowed to renew their two-year permit as a consequence of the September decision and were, therefore, exposed to deportation. This also meant the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was no longer accepting new applicants.

The termination of DACA in September put Maria’s future on hold. She said she hoped the deadline gave people and Congress a sense of urgency to find a permanent solution. She said she is disappointed Congress could not find a solution in the past six months.

“I felt unwanted and I’ve felt scared about the uncertainty of our future, but I also felt hopeful that it was going to be for the best,” Maria said. “I felt that this pressure would lead congress to finally give us a solution that would be even greater than DACA.”

Numbers as of March, 2017 from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Graphic by Sara Bannoura
Numbers as of March, 2017 from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Graphic by Sara Bannoura

Immigration lawyer Jim Hacking said people were afraid bad things would happen if Congress did not meet the deadline. He said the fear of the deadline was irrelevant because the consequences of ending DACA in September were immediate. Hacking has no affiliation with Maria or her family.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) gave DACA recipients a month to renew their permits after Sept. 5. Maria was able to renew her permit during this period. USCIS reported there were 689,800 DACA recipients as of Sept. 4, 2017. Hacking said DHS started deporting those with an expired visa after Oct. 5. DACA enrollees can now file to renew their DACA protections and be sheltered from deportation.

“[President Trump] doesn’t really care about DACA. He’s just playing politics,” Hacking said. “Congress is incapable to pass anything meaningful. While I appreciate the student being glad that it’s being discussed, the point is Congress is just intractable and I think that the idea that they’re going to get anything done anytime soon is sort of ridiculous.”

Republican Trump put DACA on hold because the Obama-era program did not go through the normal appeals process. Former Democratic President Obama made the executive decision to launch DACA after the bill passed the Senate but not through Congress.

Hacking said republicans in the office would not let it come to a vote. He said Obama got frustrated and launched it through his executive power. Trump believes only Congress can do what Obama wanted to do and hence, put the program on hold and gave Congress six months to make it lawful.

Northern California District Judge William Alsup ordered DHS to continue accepting renewals on Jan. 9 this year. This happened after several California cities and the University of California urged Judge Alsup to order the continuation of DACA. Judge Alsup agreed that the Trump administration did not follow proper procedures in cancelling DACA and ordered DHS to continue DACA protections.

Brooklyn-based U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis issued a similar injunction on Feb. 13 this year, ordering the administration to keep DACA’s status quo and in the books.

In return, the Trump administration took an emergency appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case and sent it back to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Hacking said the Supreme Court did this without any analysis or digging into the merits of the appeal. DACA will stay in the books as the case goes to lower courts and new applicants can not apply during this period.

Graphic by Sara Bannoura
Graphic by Sara Bannoura

“[The Trump administration] sort of threw a Hail Mary, a long shot at the Supreme Court because they knew the Ninth Circuit was going to rule against [ending DACA] because the Ninth Court is the most liberal court in the country,” Hacking said.

The Ninth Circuit fought Trump’s travel ban denying entry from mostly Muslim majority countries. Hacking said the Trump administration wants to use DACA recipients as leverage to cut back on legal immigration.

Eighty-four percent of the American public favors granting legal status to immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, according to the Pew Research Center. Hacking said immigration lawyers hope for a clean DACA bill but legislatures keep complicating the matter.

“If so many people want to help these kids then why not just help the kids and deal with the other things later,” Hacking said. “That’s not how Congress works.”

Maria said her hope in Congress to pass legislation to address the fate of DACA is shattered. She said DACA going back to normal means there is no progress toward a more stable solution.

Maria wants people to educate themselves about DACA and its people. She said they work twice as hard to move a step forward. They pay taxes, contribute to society and have established careers. She said her life is here in the U.S. and it makes no sense to her that the government is not taking care of her and her people.

“The U.S. is also our home and we love it just as much as our countries of origin. Yet, my voice doesn’t count, I cannot vote, and I am unwanted. It doesn’t make sense,” Maria said. “We are back to where we started. It feels like we’re are just being tossed around and put off. Right now, it just feels like we are hostages of the nation.”

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