Dreamers, lawmakers in the northwest react to US Supreme Court DACA ruling
Tens of thousands of dreamers in the northwest celebrated Thursday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program protecting undocumented immigrants that came the the U.S. as children from deportation.
DACA recipients, also known as dreamers, apply for the program every 2 years meaning it isn’t a permanent solution but it offers some security.
Maria Soto lives in central Washington and arrived in the U.S. from Mexico when she was 4-years-old. She is a dreamer. She graduated from Heritage University in Toppenish in May of 2020 and starts a Master’s program at the University of Washington in the fall. She candidly shared her story with Heritage University as the main student speaker in a fundraising event before the landmark DACA ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court. She commented on the uncertainty of her status in the U.S. and the pending court ruling. She was relieved to find on June 18 she would continue to be protected through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“I was feeling a lot of anxiety because we didn’t know what would happen,” Maria said, “I honestly was expecting the worst. So I was mentally preparing for it. I didn’t think that they would rule in favor of DACA recipients to be quite honest.”
She spoke to KAPP-KVEW about her hopes to work with agriculture workers in Washington after completing school. Plans of making a difference in the state she has called home for 15 years could be taken away if programs like DACA were not in place.
“It’s often very difficult to explain to others,” Maria said, “I could have been sent back to my home country and I would have had to, I don’t know, start from zero at that point.”
Maria, like many dreamers, integrates into U.S. activities and cultures. She said she has always done what is expected of her to contribute to society and become a better person.
“I went to school, I went to college, I got the grades. I did the extra curricular activities. I do community service, everything that was expected of me, but I don’t have the paper that says that I can be legally here unless I have DACA.”
There are more than 16,000 dreamers in Washington state and more than 12,000 dreamers in Oregon. Lawmakers shared comments on the 5-4 ruling online and in official statements to the press. Gov. Jay Inslee from Washington held a press conference at 3 pm on Thursday to congratulate dreamers and talk about future efforts.
“The sun is shining as brightly as I have ever seen it here in our state and there’s at least one reason for that and that is because the cloud, the shadow of uncertainty over our dreamers has been removed,” Inslee said.
He mentioned the failed efforts of the Trump administration, the confidence of DACA recipients and the fight to ensure their safety.
“I was surprised I couldn’t believe it wasn’t repealed,” Maria said, “Tears started coming down my face because it was like this emotion of gratitude and also peace because we were feeling so much anxiety for so long that it’s a great feeling, but also a lot of happiness. The fear that we were feeling for a long time, it like just went away. I understand that there’s still a lot of work to do, but for today we celebrate and tomorrow we get back to work, but today’s a good day.”
She said undocumented people live in fear despite the progress being made.
“I was mentally preparing myself for that because I really thought that it was going to be repealed,” she said.
The Obama administration put DACA in effect to protect young undocumented immigrants. Maria says they didn’t have DACA for a long time so although some positive change is being made, they know there is a long way to go.
“A lot of us go through a lot of trauma,” she said, “That’s all I know the fear of being undocumented and the possibility of being deported. So when something good happens we take it in, but we also questions that. Also, sometimes the bills passed are not permanent. So as for DACA, it’s a two year program, so you have to renew it every two years. I have to make sure that I renew it every two years and it’s not permanent. So I’ll have to keep that in mind that my status is also vulnerable and it’s not something that will lead me to citizenship.”
Although undocumented immigrants live with uncertainty, Maria says there is power that comes from fighting for your freedom.
“After I decided to publicly say that I am undocumented it was empowering,” she said, “It’s part of us, we identify as undocumented individuals and it’s part of our lives and it has affected us negatively and also in a positive way where we’re more resilient. Once I was able to publicly say that I’m undocumented and when I felt ready, there were a lot of people that reached out to me and they told me like, I’m also undocumented. It gave me a really warm feeling because it made me know that I wasn’t alone, that there’s a lot more people out there just like me and that we’re not in this by ourselves so that we’re in this together.”