DACA recipients across the United States had a win on Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Donald Trump’s effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“I was on the verge of tears because it meant that I could continue working and start my dream job,” said Raul Enrique Castañeda.
Castañeda, 24, is a nursing graduate from Nashville. He was at a coffee shop studying for his state board exam when he saw the news on social media. Castañeda said he was anxious and nervous, but he felt a sense of tranquility with the new ruling.
“We have lived here for years and just like our parents, we contribute to society and deserve the chance to be recognized as Americans. We deserve the right to be seen as part of this country,” he said.
DACA is a program that was introduced in 2012 by President Barack Obama and offers legal protections to about 700,000 young immigrants. Among the benefits it offers is the permission to remain in the country, receive work permits and, in some states, obtain a driver’s license.
Working legally allows DACA recipients to pay for school, giving them the chance the pursue higher education.
Jensy Matute Guifarro, 21, is a senior at Florida International University studying public relations and her plan is to go into law school after she receives her bachelor’s degree.
Many recipients sighed with relief knowing they get to keep their jobs. On average, those protected by DACA are in their mid-20s and the oldest are in their late 30s.
For Matute, the SCOTUS decision allows her to continue giving back to her parents who, she said, gave her everything despite having nothing when they arrived in this country.
“To work means I can be financially stable to keep up with college expenses and to provide for my family,” said Matute.
Thursday’s decision means that President Trump’s reason to end the program was not legally sufficient. The Trump administration must now provide a more solid justification or give up on trying to eliminate the program.
DACA recipients say there is still more work to do in their fight, but they celebrate this victory and hope for a better future.
Matute hopes more allies will join the thousands of young immigrants and fight with them.
“We have a long way to go for true justice,” she said.
In 2017, President Trump attempted to end the program and since then, no new applications have been accepted. Immigrant advocates fought to maintain it partially alive for those who were already protected under the status.
“We have to continue fighting for the countless others who are not able to apply for DACA. We cannot leave our community behind,” said Castañeda.
He believes the country needs immigration reform and shared his sympathy for those who remain uncertain about their futures as they live in fear without any protections.
“I was in their shoes before and that I still am. I know their pain and their worries. I am here for them and together we will make change happen,” he said.
Recipients under the current DACA program do not have a path to citizenship, which they say is what they are fighting to reach.
“Now, me and 700,000 others will be able to keep pursuing our dreams and making the impact we want to while fighting for the next best thing: something permanent,” said Matute.