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10 year anniversary of DACA program comes with uncertainty

Defend DACA
Posted at 6:43 PM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 00:21:15-04

BAKRESFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — Wednesday marks the 10th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program also known as DACA. A decade later and DACA's future as a program is in the hands of the courts.

Weeks from now the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will hold hearings to discuss if DACA is legal. This follows a judge at the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas ruling it illegal last year.

On July 16, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas held that the DACA policy “is illegal.” The Court granted summary judgment on plaintiffs’ Administrative Procedure Act (APA) claims; vacated the June 15, 2012 DACA memorandum issued by former Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano; remanded the memorandum to DHS for further consideration; and issued a permanent injunction prohibiting the government’s continued administration of DACA and the reimplementation of DACA without compliance with the APA. The Court, however, temporarily stayed its order vacating the DACA memorandum and its injunction with regard to individuals who obtained DACA on or before July 16, 2021, including those with renewal requests.

Consistent with this order (PDF, 401.59 KB), DHS will continue to accept the filing of both initial and renewal DACA requests, as well as accompanying requests for employment authorization. However, pursuant to the July 16, 2021 order from the Southern District of Texas, DHS is prohibited from granting initial DACA requests and accompanying requests for employment authorization. Also consistent with that order, DHS will continue to grant or deny renewal DACA requests, according to existing policy.

Now on DACA’s 10th anniversary recipients share how DACA has changed them and how they feel if it would be taken away.

“Once I got in the mail the acceptance letter, I was very joyful, very emotional, very happy,” says Bakersfield College student Vicente Reyes.

Reyes’ American dream reaches for the stars. He's getting his degree with the hopes of becoming a robotics engineer for NASA. Reyes says becoming a DACA recipient five years ago put him on that path to citizenship and to a better, education, job, and life for not only himself but his family.

It’s a passion for young immigrants that ignited through grassroots efforts by young immigrants.

United We Dream Executive Director Greisa Martinez is "undocumented and “unafraid.” For her, seeing the DACA program become federal law a decade after lobbying Congress to provide that pathway to citizenship is personal.

“I organized a yellow school bus of undocumented young people and my friends, from Texas all the way to Congress. I’ll never forget the feeling I had standing in the Capitol gallery, watching in the despair as the bill failed, five votes short of passing in the Senate.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration reports that as of 2021, 175,000 of the 616,000 total active DACA recipients in the country are from California. That's more than any state in the nation. More than 5,000 are from the Bakersfield area.

The uncertainty came in 2021 when a Southern District of Texas judge ruled that DACA was illegal. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Department of Homeland Security continues to accept “initial and renewal DACA requests” and along with them employment authorization. But they say DHS can’t grant DACA requests with the recent order.

“The reality is that DACA will end at the Supreme Court again leaving immigrant young people like myself, and many others in a continued state of limbo,” says Martinez.

Martinez adds since then 80,000 eligible youth who have applied to DACA last year have had their applications frozen.

Reyes explains how he feels about DACA potentially ending.

“It’s very traumatizing. I think for those that do have it because it’s not only their career that they’re put online sometimes it’s their whole family, their future. And for those that planned on having big dreams like me to work for NASA and the government, those dreams would be crushed."

According to the Coalition for the American Dream, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals will consider the Texas ruling on DACA being legal.