DACA recipients await Supreme Court ruling
‘Every Monday morning, I wake up dreading’ a decision, one Austin recipient says
By Maria Recio
With their fate in the hands of the U.S. Supreme Court, thousands of immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children await word of a ruling that they fear could lead to the loss of jobs and benefits, even deportations.
Known as “Dreamers,” the immigrants have legal protection to work and study in this country — for now.
But President Donald Trump has moved to end the program known as DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — arguing that it was illegally created in 2012 by an executive order from then-President Barack Obama.
As the Supreme Court weighs several challenges to Trump’s attempt to cancel DACA, nearly 650,000 “Dreamers,” including 110,000 in Texas, await a ruling that could be life changing.
“Every Monday morning, I wake up dreading a Supreme Court decision,” said Karen Reyes, 31, an Austin school district special education teacher.
The high court typically issues opinions on Monday mornings, though extra release dates are often added as the court nears the end of its term in late June.
Reyes, who arrived in Texas from Mexico with her mother when she was a child, teaches deaf and hearing-impaired students. Her story is part of a friend-of-the-court brief, filed by the National Education Association, that urged the court to protect the immigration program, saying it gives young people new hope and a reason to strive for academic excellence.
Reyes attended oral arguments in the case, held in Washington, D.C., in November.
“We have to be prepared for anything,” she said. “The last four years have been very tough on the immigrant community.”
Reyes — whose DACA standing allowed her to get a driver’s license, which enabled her to get a Social Security number — graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with an education degree and earned a master’s degree in deaf education and hearing
from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.
As a DACA advocate, she has met with lawmakers and found support from U.S. Rep. Bill Flores, R-Bryan, who agrees with Trump that the program was not legally created but still wants to find a solution for the young people who now have temporary status but whose future is unknown.
“When it comes to the “Dreamers”, those children and young adults who are here through no fault of their own, I believe Congress should quickly find a solution to ensure they can stay in the United States, which for many is the only home they know,” Flores told the American-Statesman.
“I look forward to working with President Trump and my House and Senate colleagues to improve our immigration laws and better secure our borders,” he said.
There are 10 “Dreamers” on staff at the People’s Community Clinic in East Austin, including Dania Cabrera, 24, a financial counselor.
Cabrera was 5 when her mother’s friends sneaked her across the Mexican border — sedated to keep her asleep and prevent her from speaking to border agents — using another child’s identification papers.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do until DACA,” she said.
Under the program, Cabrera was able to get legal status, which does not constitute citizenship, at age 16 and go to college, graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in finance.
At the clinic, she loves helping patients, many of whom are Spanish speakers, get insurance coverage and financial assistance.
“During the pandemic, speaking to the patients and having their gratitude, that’s the favorite part of my job,” Cabrera said.
As for the uncertainty surrounding the Supreme Court decision, she said: “It has been a scary thing, the thought of me not being able to work.”
And she remembers almost nothing of where she is originally from, Coahuila in northern Mexico.
It is unclear if the administration would move to begin deportations if the Supreme Court backs Trump or if it will, as officials have said, look for a comprehensive immigration reform package to propose to Congress, a challenging prospect in an election year.
“No one is very optimistic about the outcome for DACA recipients because of the conservative bent of the court,” said Sarah Pierce, policy analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute.
‘It’s on my mind every day’
The DACA program has strict criteria, requiring applicants to show that they were under age 16 when brought into the country and that they have continuously lived in the United States since June 15, 2007. They also must be in school, have graduated from high school or have been honorably discharged from military service.
Daisy Cantera, 25, a health information management specialist at People’s Clinic, is grateful for what DACA has given her.
“It opened so many opportunities for me,” she said, adding that with her documentation secured, “it was a weight off my shoulders.”
But the Supreme Court legal battle brought the weight back.
“It’s on my mind every day,” Cantera said. “It’s always on the back of my mind.”
Christopher Ponce, 25, of Bastrop, is a firstyear medical student who went to Oregon for his studies after an undergraduate career at Texas Tech University. The Texas medical schools did not accept DACA students, he said.
“Around my senior year of high school, I decided to go to medical school because my mom had some health issues, and, without real access to health care, it was a way to figure out the problem,” he said.
Ponce came to Texas from Mexico with his parents when he was 4, and his parents are very much on his mind.
“With the termination of the program, what a lot of us are concerned about is not so much us but our parents that could be affected,”hesaid.Theparents of many “Dreamers” are in the U.S. illegally.
When the coronavirus crisis resulted in canceled in-person classes, Ponce returned from the Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine in Portland to finish with online classes from his family home.
“It would be devastating tohaveDACApaused,”he said. “It does create anxiety for a lot of us.”