The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 5-4 decision against the Trump Administration’s bid to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals on Thursday, June 18. Despite a favorable ruling for DACA recipients, some at the University of Nevada, Reno say this is just the first obstacle.
DACA refers to an executive order placed by the Obama-Biden administration to provide temporary protection status for individuals who immigrated to the United States before the age of 16. The program allows students to work and pursue higher education.
Currently DACA provides opportunities to over 700,000 individuals. Dulce Medina, a senior at the university, is just one of those recipients.
Medina said she was preparing herself for the worst outcome, but after hearing the ruling she felt relieved.
“I was incredibly nervous all morning and then when I found out I started crying in disbelief,” Medina said. “It sounds crazy but I was almost sure that the Supreme Court would get rid of the program, so much so that I began to look at alternatives and seek out help. When I found out though I was surprised and overwhelmed with happiness, and when I finally truly processed the news it felt like a huge weight was off my shoulders. For a while, I was constantly nervous about my future, and I still am but at least now I have longer to prepare, and for the time being I can still go to school and work, which is what matters.”
If Medina did not have the program, she said she wouldn’t have a life in the United States.
“If the program were to be struck down I would lose my social security number, thus I would lose my job, scholarships, tax benefits…,” Medina said. “This program is quite literally my life because it is what proves in one way or another that I do not only belong in this country, but that I deserve to be in this country, and that I can call myself at least a little bit American.”
For Maria Villasenor-Magana, another DACA recipient at the university, the ruling means her family can stay together.
“I opened my eyes and grabbed my phone, went on Instagram and saw a bunch of posts about the decision and I was static with happiness,” Villasenor-Magana said. “I got out of bed and went to look for my mom to tell her the news and we just both looked at each other and hugged. It was the best possible way we to start my day. My immediate thoughts were my brother and I can stay.”
Villasenor-Magana added the ruling is giving her an opportunity to make a life for herself in the country.
“This decision literally changes my future, I’m graduating in fall 2020 and that means I can go and apply for my dream job,” Villasenor-Magana said.
Looking forward, Villasenor-Magana and Medina said this is just the first hurdle towards a path of citizenship.
Medina said she is now waiting for the government to provide an avenue to citizenship.
”This decision means the same thing it has always meant,” Medina said. ”I’m still waiting on Congress to act on my behalf to provide all of us DREAMers with a more permanent solution, but now I’m less afraid that the opportunity will be taken away suddenly.”
Villasenor-Magana said the decision gives DACAmented individuals for a hope of permanent citizenship.
“This decision means we [Dreamers and allies] are being heard and that we are not simply settling it for the Supreme Court decision, we want and need a path to citizenship,” Villasenor-Magana said.
After the SCOTUS’ decision, university President Marc Johnson issued a statement to the campus community on Friday, June 19, in support of the decision.
“Along with the Nevada System of Higher Education and Chancellor Reilly, we stand in clear solidarity with our DACA students and their families, who have enriched our university community in so many ways,” the statement read. “The University of Nevada, Reno will continue to work through the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration to advocate for a much needed defining resolution to this issue. As information is being gathered on how today’s Supreme Court’s decision will impact our DACA students, we continue to monitor the decision and its implications for our campus community.”
Following the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind DACA in 2017, The Nevada System of Higher Education and all eight Nevada institutions joined the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration. The Alliance is comprised of institutions from across the country to urge for legal protection DACAmented and undocumented students in higher education.
In a statement issued by NSHE on Thursday, June 18, Chancellor Thom Reilly said NSHE will continue to find ways to support DACA recipients.
“Today’s ruling by the Supreme Court has lifted a tremendous and overwhelming burden that our DACA students have been carrying,” Reilly said. “We remain steadfastly united in our support of our immigrant, undocumented, and international students, who are some of our best and brightest students. NSHE and the Board of Regents reaffirm our commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equity.”
After the ruling, President Donald Trump tweeted saying he is filing paperwork to end DACA protections.
“The Supreme Court asked us to resubmit on DACA, nothing was lost or won,” the tweet read. “They ‘punted’, much like in a football game (where hopefully they would stand for our great American Flag). We will be submitting enhanced papers shortly in order to properly fulfil the Supreme Court’s ruling & request of yesterday.”
Presidential hopeful Joe Biden issued a statement calling for individuals to vote out President Trump because of his stance on DACA.
“The joy of [Thursday, June 18] victory does not erase the difficult road ahead,” Biden’s statement read. “We know that much work remains to be done. But I will continue to stand with DACA recipients, their parents, and their families at every step, and in November, joined by millions across this country, we will reject the President who tried to rip so many of our family members, friends, and coworkers out of our lives.”
Students at the university who are DACA recipients or undocumented and need support/resources are advised to reach out to the Jahahi Mazariego, the university’s social service coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has an immigration clinic which provides free consultation and support for DACA students across all NSHE institutions. Students needing legal guidance are encouraged to schedule an appointment at: (702) 895-2080.
Andrew Mendez can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @AMendez2000.