Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
New Mexicans who depend on DACA are anxiously waiting as a series of court rulings decides their fate.
A federal judge in Texas is hearing arguments today on whether to issue an injunction ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in a case filed by that state’s attorney general.
Meanwhile, four federal judges have issued rulings that would protect the program President Donald Trump announced last year that he was ending.
“They’ve reinstated the renewals of DACA, and that happened in San Francisco, New York, Maryland and now the latest one is D.C.,” said Isaac J. De Luna, communications director of the New Mexico Dream Team, a nonprofit organization advocating for DACA recipients and other immigrants in New Mexico.
The dueling court cases affect more than 700,000 people enrolled in the Obama administration program, which protects undocumented immigrants brought to the country illegally as children from deportation and allows them to work legally.
New Mexico is home to at least 6,800 DACA recipients. Under the program, renewals are required every two years.
“If DACA gets taken away, it closes many doors for me,” said Viridiana Lopez, a senior in Rio Rancho Public Schools who plans to attend college and later law school.
Lopez was brought to the United States from Chihuahua, Mexico, when she was 3 years old.
“I communicate more in English, and I feel safer here than I would in Mexico,” she said.
Lopez follows news about DACA closely and worries when she hears the program could end soon.
“I’ll cry,” she said. “I really do, because it’s scary.”
Victor Nevarez, 19, shares her concerns. He arrived from Sonora, Mexico, when he was 7 years old.
“Mexico is where I was born, but my home is here,” said Nevarez, who is enrolled at Central New Mexico Community College and works.
Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen, who is hearing the case filed by Texas and six other states, previously ruled against a separate Obama administration attempt to create Deferred Action for Parents of Americans, or DAPA, to shield some undocumented parents of U.S. citizen children from deportation. He is not expected to make a decision on the DACA hearing right away.
In yet another case on the issue, on Friday, U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington, D.C., ordered the Trump administration to fully reinstate the DACA program and gave the government until Aug. 23 to appeal.
If there are competing injunctions to end and restart the program, the cases may go to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“We know this is litigation that will escalate all the way to the Supreme Court,” De Luna said.
Some DACA advocates have expressed concern that if the current makeup of the Supreme Court changes before the case is heard it could have a negative effect on the outcome, from their perspective.
De Luna, who has permanent U.S. resident status, has a personal stake in the court cases. His 22-year-old brother is a biochemical engineer, a University of New Mexico graduate and DACA recipient.
“DACA is the one piece of paper that is keeping him with his loved ones and allowing him to continue growing as a professional and as an individual in New Mexico,” he said.