Last week’s Supreme Court’s deadlock on U.S. v Texas was a tremendous blow to millions of immigrant families who are long overdue for relief. The 2012 DACA program for Dreamers transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people. The 2014 expansion of DACA, and new policy for parents of U.S. citizens, would do the same for others on an even larger scale, explaining why the Supreme Court deadlock is so heartbreaking and unjust.
Yet as immigrants and their allies dust themselves off and prepare to fight for the longer-term, they are demonstrating their resiliency and resolve. They are also renewing their focus on those responsible for blocking these policies as well as broader immigration reform.
In a new CNN.com op-ed, Nevada-based Dreamer Astrid Silva reflects on the four year anniversary of the 2012 DACA announcement and how it changed her life. Silva also shares her frustration and heartbreak that millions of individuals eligible for the DAPA/DACA+ programs will remain in limbo as a result of the Supreme Court deadlock. Silva points a finger at Republicans, including the governors and attorneys general who brought the legal challenge, as well as 2016 GOP candidates up and down the ballot – including Rep. Joe Heck, who is running for Senate in Nevada with a voting record blemished by multiple anti-DACA and anti-DAPA votes.
Writing in Vice, Meredith Hoffman captures the story of Juan Carlos Ramos – a 22 year-old young man who stands to benefit from DACA+, but whose immediate future is now uncertain. In the face of this heartbreak, Ramos is determined to keep up the fight and help others in the larger immigrant community. See below for excerpts highlighting the reflections of Silva and Ramos:
Astrid Silva on CNN.com, “SCOTUS ruling won’t defeat us”:
“…I am able to drive and work and live without fear. Thanks to DACA, I have been able to go to college and devote my life to fighting for fair and comprehensive immigration reform for all. Looking back on the anniversary of this program that changed my life, I am grateful that hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, like me, have been able to contribute to the country that we call home.
Yes, I am grateful, but I am also angry today — angry for my family members, neighbors and loved ones. Despite qualifying for deferred deportations under President Obama’s 2014 directives, they are being forced to remain in the shadows by a partisan lawsuit — and now, in part, by a partisan effort against filling the vacancy on the Supreme Court. To know that the hard-fought protections that I celebrated in 2012 are still not available to many whom I love motivates me every day.
DACA currently provides me with the ability to live without the constant fear of deportation. And the same could be true for millions of undocumented parents who would qualify for the DAPA program, if only Republican governors and attorneys general hadn’t decided to stand in the way of that relief. We are mad, but we are not defeated.
Yes, the decision is a setback, but I know the immigrant community will continue the fight, and parents like mine, who immigrated to the United States, will fight to provide a better life and better home for their children.
Watching Donald Trump rise to prominence on the back of anti-immigrant stereotypes and xenophobic rhetoric, I am reminded just how much there is to fight for. While I am fortunate enough to have DACA, as long as hateful rhetoric and Donald Trump’s brand of politics prevail, DACA and programs like it are in danger. And it’s not just Donald Trump who endangers these programs. Republican lawmakers in Congress have voted to end DACA and DAPA, and in doing so, destroy the protection from deportation for thousands of young people like me — people who contribute to America’s success.
This includes GOP Congressman Joe Heck from my home state of Nevada, who recently voted against DAPA. And Rep. Heck is running for Senate this cycle. So for me and countless other Nevadans, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
This week, it may seem that the partisan politics and fear-mongering of 26 Republican governors and attorneys general prevailed, but it won’t be enough. While I can’t vote in this election, I will dedicate everything I can to making sure the victories we’ve won are protected and that Republican politicians and candidates threatening the immigrant community are held accountable in November and beyond.”
Meredith Hoffman’s story in Vice, “How the Supreme Court’s Decision on Immigration Affects America’s Undocumented Youth”:
“Last Thursday, on his day off from work, Juan Carlos Ramos took the train from his suburban Maryland home into Washington, DC, to stand on the steps of the US Supreme Court. He huddled with several friends, all of whom checked their iPhones feverishly, refreshing the court’s live blog for news on a groundbreaking decision: whether or not the court would uphold President Barack Obama’s deportation relief for five million undocumented immigrants.
For Ramos, a 22-year-old undocumented immigrant from El Salvador with a final deportation order, the ruling could change his whole life.
…Since he moved to the United States at age 15, Ramos has come to expect disappointments as a result of being undocumented. Like when he graduated high school in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 2012 and got into all five colleges he applied for, but didn’t qualify for in-state tuition or federal loans because of his undocumented status.
‘Senior year was when my status hit me. Every high school student can to go to [college] as soon as they graduate, but for me it was not the case, because I couldn’t afford it,’ said Ramos.
If he had qualified for the original DACA program, which was launched in 2012 and granted special immigration status and legal benefits to undocumented youth who arrived in the United States before their 16th birthdays, he would have received in-state tuition. But the program only included youths who had lived in the country since 2007, and Ramos had arrived in 2009.
‘The original version of DACA happened six days after I graduated high school. At first it was very frustrating because I was so close to the cutoff, but at the same time I was like, ‘I can’t be depressed, I need to move forward and do something,’’ Ramos told me.
So instead, Ramos started helping his peers to apply for DACA. Every time he helped someone put together their application, he says they would ask him, ‘Have you applied yet?’ and he’d have to tell them, ‘I don’t qualify for DACA, and that’s why I’m personally helping people like you apply.’
…But as he became a vocal part of the DACA movement, Ramos knew he was putting himself at risk for deportation. He had no desire to return to El Salvador, which has become increasingly violent in the past few years, prompting a massive influx of asylum seekers entering the US.
‘I used to live in San Salvador, one of the most dangerous cities in the country,” Ramos told me. When he was ten, he says he narrowly avoided a gang shootout while he and his sister were on their way to school. “That’s the kind of environment I grew up in. But the violence wasn’t as bad as it is now. Now gangs are taking over.’
Ramos can no longer look to the expanded DACA program for protection—nor is he eligible for a work permit, discounted college tuition, or the relief of knowing he won’t be forced to leave the country.
‘All my hopes and dreams are up in the air somewhere, but we’re always trying to prepare ourselves for whatever happens. Now we have to focus on what’s next,” he told me. “For the moment the focus is to stop as many deportations as possible, and to draw attention to the ones that are happening.’”