On Thursday, the Trump administration’s attempt to end the programme was officially shut down, at least for now – we speak to DACA recipients about their response to the verdict
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – or DACA – is a US government programme created in 2012, under Barack Obama, that allows eligible children who were brought into the US illegally by their parents to remain, work, and study in the country. Since 2017, however, DACA has been threatened by the Trump administration, which has made repeated plans to abolish it.
For many of the almost 700,000 young people living under its protection in America – known as Dreamers – this could mean returning to countries they’re completely unfamiliar with, where they might not speak the language, and where, in extreme cases, their lives may be at risk.
Thursday, however, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration has given insufficient reason to shut down the DACA programme, a vote swung by Chief Justice John Roberts after it came down to a 4-4 tie between liberal and conservative Justices. Regarding his decision, Roberts called Trump’s “total rescission” of DACA “arbitrary and capricious” (cue: the inevitable Twitter tantrum from Trump).
These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives. We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2020
Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2020
All in all, it’s a huge legal defeat for the President (and, equally, a cause for celebration among Dreamers). Although it doesn’t necessarily mean that the administration can’t try to abolish DACA again, the decision goes a long way towards halting the process and ensuring recipients’ lives aren’t under immediate threat of being turned upside down.
“This Supreme Court decision upholds DACA, a victory immigrant youth fought for and won,” José Alonso Muñoz, National Communications Manager for United We Dream, an immigrant youth-led network campaigning in support of the programme, tells Dazed. “This decision is a continuation of our broader fight for justice.”
“We're going to continue advocating for permanent protections for people that don't come at the cost of putting more people in the path of enforcement agencies like ICE,” Muñoz adds, also emphasising the ongoing threat of Trump’s administration: “It's clear that their end goal is to make life as hard as possible for immigrants and Black and other people of color in the United States.”
Following Thursday’s verdict, we also spoke to some DACA recipients about what exactly it means to them, and what their thoughts and feelings were in the moment they received the news.
MELIDA, 22, HOUSTON
“I am a DACA recipient, an organizer for United We Dream, and a student at The University of Houston. The DACA decision comes in a time of monumental uprisings for racial equity and economic uncertainty. However, it is such a relief to know that the people have a voice and that we can influence our communities and government for change.
For us immigrants and undocumented individuals, everything is ten times the battle, from having an identification, to being able to attend college. We don’t have a 10-year plan because we know at any time and in any moment our lives can be demolished by the people in power and our government systems.
The DACA decision means I can continue to pursue my dreams of finishing college and becoming an active member in society through advocacy. It means I can make plans to keep visiting my family once a year, but it also means I can temporarily breathe and not worry about being deported.
While today was a victory won by the people, this is only the beginning to a permanent solution. A path to citizenship and racial equity is our end goal and we will not stop dreaming and fighting until we reach that.”
JASON, 24, NYC
“I was really anxious waiting on a decision today. It was a relief to see the news and know that I could continue my studies and keep working towards my dreams. NYC has been my home since I’ve been a year old, and my favorite rapper Nicki Minaj, who also immigrated to New York at a young age, paid my tuition to support my ambitions.
You wouldn’t know I am a DACA recipient from the way I look or speak but I am, and we are active parts of society who need a proper path to citizenship to keep contributing.”
ROMINA, 21, MIAMI
“I grew up in Miami, Florida, where I arrived from Mendoza, Argentina at the young age of two along with my older siblings and my parents back in 2001. Throughout my childhood/teen years, my family was transparent about our situation: we were undocumented. Since the age of fifteen, I've had my DACA status and have known of the consequences of what termination to the program would look like not only for myself but for my family.
In November 2019, I stood at the steps of the Supreme Court of the United States and used my voice, among thousands of other DACA recipients and allies, to show the overwhelming support that the program has. Finally, the decision day has arrived and I believe that the SCOTUS has done a fantastic job in proving that the way the Trump administration handled the rescinding of the DACA program was arbitrary and capricious.
All in all, today was a victorious day for our entire undocumented community. DACA was originally won by our people – meaning this will absolutely not be the last of our victories. Even so, we know that the Trump administration will attempt to strip this win away from us. It's clear that programs like DACA will continue to be a political bargaining chip until we find a permanent solution. While we celebrate today, we must look at tomorrow as an opportunity to continue fighting for our right to live freely.”
EMMANUEL, 23, SEATTLE
“I am a Mexican immigrant who has been in the United States for 22 years. Being a recipient of DACA has changed my life. If it wasn’t for DACA I would not have been able to go to college and then been able to get a job as a veterinarian technician. Hearing the news that the Supreme Court was not going to allow President Trump to end DACA is a huge relief for me and millions of other Dreamers. Even though there is still a lot to fight for many undocumented people in the US, hopefully this is a big step forward.”
VANESSA MERAZ, 23, WASHINGTON, DC
”I remember the exact moment when President Trump rescinded DACA in 2017, pulling the rug out from underneath hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and our families and communities. Yesterday, after nearly three years, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief in knowing that we had won this battle in court. I had a feeling that yesterday would be the day, but I never imagined this positive outcome.
Yet the fight goes on. The decision was a win for nearly 700,000 DACA recipients and our families, but we must keep fighting until all undocumented folks in this country have permanent protections. Moreover, we must acknowledge that the fight for immigrant justice is part of a larger, collective fight for justice. Juneteenth is a beautiful reminder that we owe much gratitude to our predecessors in the movement and that our liberation is intrinsically tied.”