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Supreme Court ruling brings relief for Dreamers, but uncertainty remains

Moments after the Supreme Court issued its June 18 decision to uphold DACA, 26-year-old Boris Carpio scanned the headline of a Washington Post article sent to him by a friend: “Supreme Court blocks Trump’s bid to end DACA, a win for undocumented ‘Dreamers.’ ” He couldn’t believe his eyes.

“Immediately, I was just overjoyed,” he said in a recent interview.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that President Donald Trump has  ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2017 improperly and without adequate reason. 

“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies. The wisdom” of those decisions “is none of our concern,” the 74-page opinion states.  “Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients. That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner.”

The Obama-era program  for undocumented young adults, colloquially known as “Dreamers,” who were brought to the United States as children, allowed them to remain here, attend school and work. The program offers a two-year reprieve from deportation proceedings and can be renewed every two years, so long as applicants meet eligibility standards, which include not having a criminal record.

The Supreme Court ruling estimates that there are currently 700,000 DACA recipients living in the U.S.

Mayra Gonzalez, a 23-year-old Mattituck High School graduate, said the decision took her by surprise. “I was fully expecting a negative decision for DACA because of how the Supreme Court is made up right now,” she said.

And while the ruling is a win, she and other DACA recipients say it’s only a temporary solution.

“That same day, the president’s administration said they still intend on finding a way to get rid of DACA, so it’s not like we’re completely out of the woods yet,” Ms. Gonzalez said.

Chief Justice John Roberts again sided with the liberal justices, as he did on a landmark LGBT civil rights ruling earlier this month.

President Trump took to Twitter to slam the high court’s decision. “These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” he tweeted.  

Mr. Carpio, who was just 7 years old when he arrived in the United States from Ecuador, graduated from Riverhead High School in 2013 and currently works in product development for a perfume company in Manhattan.

Until DACA was enacted in 2012, he recalls feeling painfully aware of his undocumented status, especially as his peers began applying for jobs, driver’s licenses and colleges.

“I was 14 and all of my friends started working at Splish Splash,” Mr. Carpio explained. But without the proper paperwork, he had to take a job as a dishwasher off the books — the first of several realizations that his life would present a different set of challenges.

DACA changed that, and threats of the program ending leave his future in jeopardy as he dreams of finishing college and marrying his boyfriend.

“What happens to the people who’ve managed to buy homes and open businesses?” he said. “With DACA, so many of us were able to jumpstart our lives.”

Returning to Ecuador, he said, would mean adjusting to life in a country he’s never really known, and one that may not be as accepting of gay men. “It’s a society that’s not really open to that,” he explained.

And though the ruling did evoke a sigh of relief, he says it’s only temporary. “It’s still just a Band-aid on a bigger wound that needs stitches from Congress,” he said.  “It’s a joyous moment, but it’s not a permanent solution.”

It’s been eight years since President Barack Obama signed DACA into law, but Ms. Gonzalez said without a clear path to citizenship, DACA recipients are living “in limbo.”

Ms. Gonzalez, who was born in El Salvador, now works for an education advocacy nonprofit in Washington, D.C. She hopes the ruling will serve as a catalyst for action. “The moment is ripe right now,” she said, for progressive policies to take shape.

Ms. Gonzalez is advocating for comprehensive immigration reform that impacts a wider swathe of immigrants, not just DACA recipients. 

“While DACA is an important part of immigration reform, it’s not the only part,” she said. “We need [reform] that supports DACA recipients but also their families, so they can be active participants in their communities and not live in fear.”