While a conservative appeals court in Louisiana was expected to deliver a decision against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, that knowledge didn’t make its release on Wednesday any easier for the young people protected under the policy.
In fact, it’s only prolonged the anxiety, anguish, and uncertainty many have felt throughout years of legal battles and ensuing headlines. And while the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals left it partially in place as it ordered back to a lower court for review, affected individuals said there was not “a moment for sighs of relief.”
“Our lives are at stake,” tweeted Greisa Martinez Rosas, a DACA recipient and executive director of immigrant youth-led United We Dream. “It’s cruel to see our livelihoods treated like political games.” Young immigrants and their allies took to the streets on Thursday to call on federal lawmakers to act on permanent relief.
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Immigrant organization CASA tweeted that young immigrants launched a rapid response overnight, and traveled to Washington, D.C. From Union Station, they headed to Capitol Hill, chanting “Congreso, escucha, estamos en la lucha,” or, “Congress, listen, we are in this fight,” the organization said.
“Citizenship offers the only truly permanent relief that will end these constant battles in the courts & provide DACA recipients with the certainty they deserve,” CASA said. That was certainly recognized in that statement and the statement from our nation’s leaders and federal lawmakers. In his statement, President Joe Biden said he was “disappointed” in the Fifth Circuit’s decision. “The court’s stay provides a temporary reprieve for DACA recipients but one thing remains clear: the lives of Dreamers remain in limbo.” He called it “long past time for Congress to pass permanent protections for Dreamers, including a pathway to citizenship.”
The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals left in place a 2021 ruling from Judge Andrew Hanen, who halted brand new DACA applications but left the program in place for current and former beneficiaries. While the appeals court sent the case back to Hanen in light a new pro-DACA rule implemented by the Biden administration this past summer, he is an anti-immigrant zealot unlikely to shift.
“While the program is still in effect for current DACA recipients this ruling leaves millions of people at risk, with the same fear that I have of being separated from my loved ones and it cuts opportunities to work and live without fear,” Make the Road New Jersey Youth Leader Neyda Perez said in a statement received by Daily Kos. “Immigrant youth will continue organizing until we get permanent protections. Congress to take bold action and pass a pathway to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants.”
In a statement received by Daily Kos, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the appeals court has “put in jeopardy the long-term safety and security of DACA recipients who’ve been waiting in limbo as the judicial system decides their future.”
“While this ruling keeps the existing DACA program in place, it continues to deny other eligible recipients the possibility to receive protection,” Schumer continued. “For these reasons, it is time for Republicans to join Democrats in supporting legislation that will codify these life-saving protections and ensure Dreamers have the opportunity to finally receive the citizenship they’ve worked hard to earn.”
But Republicans in the chamber have had more than enough time to do this, and have in fact actively impeded efforts to vote on legislation. While a small number of House Republicans joined House Democrats to pass the Dream and Promise Act last year, no Republican has tried to champion DACA recipients in the Senate. Nor when the insurrectionist president rescinded the policy in 2017. Following Wednesday’s ruling, organizations and affected individuals stressed the need for current and former beneficiaries to renew or reapply for relief as the case heads back to Hanen.
“This decision is a reminder that we have been living with immense uncertainty and that we are unwilling pawns in a political game,” said DACA recipient and Make the Road New York organizer Angel Reyes Rivas. “We have survived relentless attacks on our communities and our fight does not end here. We will continue to vigorously demand a pathway to citizenship.”
“For people like me and undocumented immigrants across the country to truly be protected, we need a permanent solution,” Reyes Rivas continued. “We urge the Biden administration and Congress to take immediate bold legislative action to deliver a pathway to citizenship for our community.” United We Dream’s José Alonso Muñoz tweeted that “[s]omething has got to give here. DACA recipients have been in court for YEARS now. How much more of this legal back and forth? It’s beyond time for Congress to take DACA recipients out of this cycle of abuse and uncertainty.”
Polling year after year has shown overwhelming support for putting young undocumented immigrants on a pathway to citizenship, including a 2021 survey showing more than 70% support for the DREAM Act. “Nearly two-thirds (63%) of voters say they would be upset if immigration reform does not pass and a plurality of voters would blame both parties equally for the failure,” that poll said.
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