A Supreme Court decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that the Trump administration’s attempt to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is “arbitrary” and “capricious” and the Department of Homeland Security failed to offer a sufficient justification for ending the program. Roberts was joined in the 5-4 ruling by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.
Amid the cheers and relief being expressed by the recipients of DACA, often called “Dreamers,” there is a sense that the fight to gain citizenship or a steady living solution in the place they call “home” is far from over. DACA is an Obama-era program that provides legal protection to children of undocumented immigrants who grew up in the United States. Their status is subject to review every two years on conditions including contribution to the economy and a crime-free record.
The SCOTUS ruling said, “The dispute before the Court is not whether DHS may rescind DACA. All parties agree that it may.” It further clarified that the dispute is primarily about the “procedure the agency [DHS] followed.”
The ruling makes it clear that the Trump administration or future administrations will have scope to present the case against DACA again.
Jahahi Mazariego, Social Services Coordinator and Equal Opportunity & Title IX officer at University of Nevada, Reno, told This Is Reno that the University is “cautiously optimistic.”
“We are going to continue to give assistance to students’ communities and students from DACA making sure that DACA recipients are aware of their opportunities to renew their status as well,” she said.
Nationwide, there are 649,00 active DACA cases as of Dec. 31, 2019, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The exact number of DACA recipients in Nevada is unknown as “No institution in Nevada collects that type of information,” said Mazariego. “But, I think USCIS said in the past that there are 13,000 DACA recipients in Nevada.”
There are some 1,770 DACA recipients in Reno according to USCIS.
Both the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and UNR are nationally recognized as having “diverse” student communities.
Since September 2017, when the Trump administration announced that it would take steps to end DACA, many among the student community at UNR and Truckee Meadows Community College have publicly protested the decision, at the cost of risking exposure to legal consequences.
Cindi Mercado, a Vegas-based Dreamer who came to the United States when she was 3 years old, said that growing up she never shared her immigration status with any of her friends for the same reasons.
“I felt scared that something bad would happen if I was honest about my status, and also because I knew some people would treat me differently if they knew I wasn’t born here,” she said.
She went to UNLV and graduated with a degree in journalism. She currently works with a public relations company. But her journey has been marked with struggles that most Americans do not experience.
“Things people take for granted, like applying to a job, [working] my way through college, applying for a scholarship, being able to have a driver’s license, being able to travel within the United States, all of the little freedom, just being able to live and work, I did not have that,” Mercado said.
She said that the SCOTUS ruling is “great, but it’s unfortunate that new candidates cannot apply…There are immigrant kids studying at the high school, who really need help from a program [DACA]; I know because I was in that situation.”
After the historic ruling, a statement from the Nevada System of Higher Education said, “The Nevada System of Higher Education has vocally and staunchly sided with DACA students and supporters.”
For the time being, officials like Mazariego, who directly work with students, feel that the decision has given Dreamers momentary relief.
“We know that it will help DACA students experience less anxiety,” she said. “A lot of the students who are DACA recipients or know someone who is, experience a lot of intense psychological pain. There is so much stigma and misinformation around immigration that DACA students internalize these problems and suffer deeply, which affects their work and study.”
There is a growing demand in Washington D.C. political circles to arrive at a permanent solution. Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen said, “We must continue working to permanently protect our Dreamers.”
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto pointed out the uncertainties faced by Dreamers and made a call for actionable policies.
House Democrats have urged Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019, which aspires to lay down the legal processes for providing a solution to the recurring DACA-related problems, once and for all.
Sudhiti (Shu) Naskar is a multimedia journalist and researcher who has years of experience covering international issues. In the role of a journalist, she has covered gender, culture, society, environment, and economy. Her works have appeared on BBC, The National, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Reno Gazette-Journal, Caravan and more. Her interests lie in the intersection of art, politics, social justice, education, tech, and culture. She took a sabbatical from media to attend graduate school at the University of Nevada Reno in 2017. In this period, she has won awards, represented her school at an international conference and successfully defended her thesis on political disinformation at the Reynolds School of Journalism where she earned her Master’s in Media Innovation.