Thirty-two-year-old New Castle resident Janeth Niebla said she cried tears of joy Thursday morning when she read that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration in upholding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
“Along with all of my friends who were just patiently waiting to see what decision we were going to get, I feel just really excited, really grateful, really blessed,” she said.
Niebla is a board member and co-founder of Voces Unidas de las Montañas and works at the nonprofit Manaus, two local organizations that advocate for Latinx and immigrant rights. She’s also a DACA recipient.
Since 2012, DACA has enabled eligible immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to obtain work permits and receive temporary resident status.
The Trump administration announced in 2017 that it would wind down the program. That action triggered a host of lawsuits that culminated in the Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday.
Niebla said the ruling brings an end to years of limbo for DACA recipients who wondered if they would be deported after their temporary resident status expired. She said, in many ways, her life feels like it’s been on hold.
“When planning for the future, there was always this question in my mind when it came to considering different opportunities that would come up. Does it make sense for me to go after a certain job opportunity if I don't know what's going to happen with my work permit?” she said.
Sydney Schalit is the executive director of MANAUS, which works to achieve equity for the Latinx community in the Roaring Fork Valley. She said, for the past few years, she’s seen how local immigrants and DACA recipients have lived in what she said is a “constant fear” of deportation.
“A fear of even calling for help,” Schalit said. “Calling 9-1-1 felt like a threat for a lot of Latino families that I worked with.”
Schalit said the Supreme Court’s decision is a victory for more than just Dreamers — a name that comes from a bill in Congress called the DREAM Act that would grant legal status to certain immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The decision, she said, provides stability throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.
“It's a huge win for our community from Aspen to Battlement Mesa,” Schalit said. “DACA recipients are teachers, and they work at nonprofits, and they work in city government and for law firms. And they are also a significant portion of our frontline workers during COVID-19.”
The Supreme Court left the door open for the Trump administration to come back with adequate reasons to shut down DACA.
The 5-to-4 decision, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., notes that the ruling does not reflect whether DACA was a legitimate policy.
“We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” he wrote.
Justice Clarence Thomas said that the court should have found the program illegal rather than extending the battle in the courts.
“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Thomas wrote.
And Niebla said that DACA is not a permanent solution to the problems facing the country when it comes to immigration. She’s focused on the Dream and Promise Act, legislation that would allow Dreamers to apply for green cards and ultimately to become legal residents and qualify for citizenship.
Now, though, Niebla’s allowing herself a moment to celebrate a Supreme Court ruling that provides her with a sense of normalcy that she hasn’t felt for a long time.
“This is just a way for us to work, contribute to the economy, pay taxes, have more of a normal life and also be protected from being deported,” she said.
Spanish translation of this story is made possible by a grant from the Google News Initiative’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund.