Some local immigrants, as well a local Hispanic advocacy group, were celebrating Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote that the Trump administration would not be allowed to immediately proceed with its plan to end a program that protects some 700,000 immigrants from being deported from the United States.
The court’s decision didn’t say President Donald Trump couldn’t execute an order to eliminate DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), just that his administration would have to go about it in another way.
Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion, which explained the Trump administration could try to fix procedural issues with the way it went about trying to eliminate DACA.
“We are very happy,” said Ricardo Perez, executive director for the Hispanic Affairs Project, a Montrose-based nonprofit that, among its programs, offers immigration legal assistance. “This morning we spent time talking with many other organizations across the state, and many across the state are expressing relief for now.”
Part of what HAP does to assist DACA recipients — often referred to as Dreamers, named after the DREAM Act of 2001 that sought to grant legal status to young immigrants after unlawfully brought to the U.S. — is to help them renew their legal status every 15 months, help them get involved in their communities and assist with legal processes when necessary.
Perez estimated that HAP works with more than 100 Dreamers on the Western Slope and about 17 from Montrose.
A Montrose DACA recipient
One of those DACA recipients is Carlos Sigueroa, who first moved to the United States from Mexico with his family when he was 7 years old and moved to Montrose in the fourth grade. He is 26 now, lives in Montrose, and works for the City of Ouray in the summer and the City of Telluride in the winter.
“I actually saw it on social media — the Supreme Court’s decision,” he said Thursday. “Honestly, it felt good in the sense that we are going to be able to be here and still be contributing to our communities. And there’s a glimmer of hope that we still have that balance of powers in our country.”
When he first came to the States, he came with his mother and father, two older siblings and two younger siblings. His father got work as a stonemason in the United States, which meant he would be able to work and support his family in a new country. His older siblings were able to get legal working status, and his two younger siblings also applied to become Dreamers. They were both accepted.
One of the main frustrations for Sigueroa about the White House’s attempt to end the DACA program is that he has many more memories in America than he does of living in Mexico. He feels the promise that DACA brought to him and his younger siblings shouldn’t be taken away.
“I honestly felt a little betrayed (when I first heard of DACA repeal efforts) because this is where I went to school and grew up,” he said. “You can come here with nothing and make something of yourself, and when DACA came, we were doing things to contribute here. When it was getting taken away, it was like getting stabbed in the back. It was like, ‘We want to help you, but now we’re taking that away’.”
On top of that, he says he feels just as American as anyone.
“I was here when 9/11 happened, and I was just as saddened as everyone else,” he said. “I did the Pledge of Allegiance just like everyone else — freedom and justice for all. I’m a transplant from Mexico, but that doesn’t make me any less American than any other person I grew up with.”
But that’s the reality Sigueroa and hundreds of thousands of others across the country are living with now. He has to watch people debate DACA on TV, citing statistics and some even labeling immigrants like him as criminals.
“It feels kind of surreal just because I hear a lot of people talking — they’ll have their talking points about it, but for someone in my position, it’s the reality of my life. This is my reality, and this is what it looks like for me,” he said, adding many don’t care about the actual stories behind the DACA recipients.
Sigueroa explained that he’s had to file paperwork every two years, paying around $500 every time in order to maintain his DACA status. He is required to stay out of trouble — no felonies of any kind — and prove that he has good character.
“That’s why we’re able to have a lot of people who are involved willing to still allow DACA,” he said. “Because they know of the hurdles we’ve had to clear.”
Perez agrees with Sigueroa and sees DACA as a valuable program that needs to continue.
“The point is the United States is a country of opportunities,” he said. “And those kids coming as a child, they came to the U.S. when they were 9 months, 1 year old, 2 years old. The U.S. is the only place they know as home, going to high school and leaving high school with the opportunity to go to the workforce or college and contribute to society.”
He explained DACA is essentially a work permit for its recipients. It’s permission to stay in the country in exchange for working and being valuable members to society, he said.
Perez also explained he wouldn’t be surprised to see the Trump administration move forward with attempts to eliminate DACA, even after the Supreme Court decision.
“From the beginning, with the current administration, we are expecting at any time these kinds of attacks against communities of color, immigrants, refugees,” he said. “These are the attitudes from the White House, so it’s pretty normal. However, we are trying to be very positive to help give people hope. We want to continue to advocate for our community.”
The White House and Colorado politics
Trump took to Twitter Thursday after the Supreme Court decision to express his frustration, part of which was that he was hoping the courts would help in eliminating the 8-year-old program.
One of his tweets read: “As President of the United States, I am looking for a legal solution on DACA, not a political one, consistent with the rule of law. The Supreme Court is not willing to give us one, so now we have to start this process all over again.”
Another read: “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?”
Some Colorado politicians, including U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, praised the court’s decision.
Gardner said in a provided statement, “While today’s decision provides some clarity for thousands of DACA recipients who call Colorado home, Congress still needs to reach a long-term solution for Dreamers in the United States — including a pathway to citizenship. That’s why I support immediate passage of the Dream Act and would also support the House-passed Dream and Promise Act. The Senate should act quickly to provide permanent relief for Dreamers. I will continue to work across the aisle with my colleagues in Congress to deliver certainty for Dreamers in a way the Court cannot.”
The Democrat-led U.S. House passed the American Dream and Promise Act in 2019 to expand protections and provide higher education opportunities for Dreamers, but the Republican-majority Senate has yet to act on it.