DACA recipients in Austin relieved by Supreme Court ruling, anxious about road ahead


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Undocumented Austinites are balancing emotions of joy and anxiety following a Supreme Court ruling on Thursday that stated the Trump administration illegally rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, that protects 650,000 young immigrants from deportation.

The court ruled the termination of DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act (AP) by failing to adequately address the important factors bearing on the decision. But Chief Justice Roberts said the Trump administration could try again, leaving an uncertain future for DACA recipients in Austin.

“Until Congress can take action and pass legislation to provide a pathway to legalize these foreign nationals or to provide a pathway to citizenship, technically, (DACA recipients are) still deportable,” said Jason Finkelman, an immigration attorney in Austin.

Kassandra Aleman, deputy training director for the Texas Democratic Party and a DACA recipient, said “it’s been hell” since September 2017, when the Trump administration announced it was ending DACA.

“It doesn’t end with us,” Aleman said. “We still have to fight for the people who came after us. We’ve gotten to experience so much freedom, they have to, too.”

More than 109,000 DACA recipients live in Texas, according to an analysis by the Center for American Progress in 2009.

Ana Laura Gonzalez, a graduate of Texas State University who now works as a registered nurse at Dell Seton Medical Center, said uncertainty about the status of DACA has complicated her goal of pursuing a doctoral degree.

Gonzalez said federal legislation is necessary to solidify DACA status for thousands of young immigrants living in the U.S.

“I’m a really chill, go-with-the-flow kind of person but there are people that live with a lot of anxiety and fear,” Gonzalez. “That would, for all of us, mean so much.”

Speaking on the U.S. Senate floor, Sen. John Cornyn (R, Texas) said he will work with Republicans and Democrats to find a permanent solution for DACA recipients.

Attorney General Ken Paxton said on Thursday that he is “disappointed” by the Supreme Court ruling but will continue to fight the constitutionality of DACA in a case pending in the Southern District of Texas. Paxton has long argued that President Obama’s executive order in 2012 exceeded his authority.

Mayte Ibarra, a recent University of Texas graduate and DACA recipient, called the Supreme Court ruling “anticlimactic,” saying immigration reform is needed now more than ever.

“Especially when you’re going to U.T., you just feel like you’re living in this bubble where you kind of forget about your problems for a little bit,” Ibarra said. “Now that I’m graduated it just becomes more prominent just like it was four years ago.”

DACA allowed Pedro Villalobos to go to law school and ultimately become a felony prosecutor in Travis County. But without a permanent solution, his future remains uncertain.

“At the end of the day, I live in two year increments,” Villalobos said. “My future ends when my work permit ends.”

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