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As DACA Decision Nears, Youth Lead Call for Reform

By Maria Haydee Harley- Staff Writer

The U.S Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments that will determine the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Uncertain of what will happen to the legal status of hundreds of thousands of youth across the country, the policy has sparked a counter-movement of protest, including here in New York City.

DACA, created by President Barack Obama in 2012, allowed some undocumented people who arrived to the U.S. to have temporary protection from deportation and access to work authorization. This applied to those who were under the age of 16 when they arrived to the U.S., were under 31 years old as of 2012, and have lived continuously in America since 2007. The program was created as a stop- gap measure until Congress took on the issue of immigration of reform.

But that policy was disrupted when President Donald Trump ended the program in 2017, leading to several lawsuits that have now arrived to the Supreme Court. The court’s decision could affect as many as 700,000 DACA recipients, including some residents of New York City, who could be subject to deportation themselves.

“New York City has about 3,000 recipients as well as 45,000 more that are potentially eligible, which is a lot,” said Jeremy Buchman, an associate professor of political science at Long Island University.

Buchman believes there are three possible outcomes from these oral arguments. One would be to uphold DACA. The second one would state that the Trump administration has givensufficient justification for making apolicy change. And the third one would be to rule that the program is illegal.

Out of these possible outcomes, Buchman says that the third option would be the most damaging for DACA recipients. “It would be the worst because it means that the future presidents wouldn’t be able to reinstate the program,” Buchman added.“Ideally, [the decision] should be able toaddress the status of everybody – both legal immigration and undocumented immigration,” he said.

Critics of DACA say that the Obama administration overreached by implementing the DACA program, which had to be renewed every two years. They argue that a long-term legislative solution to immigration should have been enacted on a federal level instead. But Buchman says that a crisis has now arrived because Congress did not act on the issue.

“That is what led Obama to proposeDACA on the first place. Everyone knowsit is meant to be a stop-gap,” he said. “Ifthey [the Trump administration] wantedto end the program, they could do it tomorrow. Yet, they don’t want to own the consequences of the decision.”

Pushing For Change

While the future of undocumented immigrants has largely been focused on border states like Texas, New Mexico and California, the issue has been playing out across the country, including here in New York.

Among the local organizations that have been advocating for reform, with protests and lobbying, is Make the Road New York. Joining them in that effort has been some DACA recipients themselves.

Greisa Martínez Rosas, 31, arrived to the U.S. with her family from Hidalgo, Mexico when she was 7 years old. After settling in Texas, Rosas grew up as an undocumented immigrant in Dallas. She was an outspoken advocate as a student at Texas A&M University, whereshe founded its first undocumentedyouth-led group.

Today, Rosas has been actively following the DACA case before the Supreme Court as the deputy executive director of United We Dream, an immigrant youth- led network based in Washington, D.C. She has attended hearings in the case and has protested outside the Supreme Court. “As we approach the 2020 election, all political leaders will need to make their choice crystal clear,” she says. “We, the people are watching and will mobilize voters to the polls.”

Buchman believes that the increased activism from the youth has been helping to make a difference, such as a New York state law that took effect last December that allows undocumented persons to apply for driver’s licenses forthe first time. “It’s one thing to talk aboutillegal immigration, but it’s another to actually confront young people who have lived their whole lives here, and have contributed to the community. The issue takes a different waiver when it has a face,” he said.

Rosas says that she and her cohorts are advocating for their own lives and for loved ones. “We are building a country where everyone can thrive and wherepoliticians [should] pass policies thathelp people without hurting people. We expect the Supreme Court justices to be the check on Trump’s lawlessness,” she said. “Our home is here. We’re here to stay. And we’re ready to mobilize to defend our families, our communities, and this country’s democracy.”

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