Paola Amaral

This photo shows Paola Amaral, who was attending a luncheon to celebrate high school seniors part of the Nyssa Migrant Education Program in May 2018.

ONTARIO — This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Donald Trump’s attempt to dismantle the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program, protecting about 650,000 “dreamers” in the U.S.

The high court’s vote was a 5-4 decision, ruling that the Trump Administration’s attempt to rescind the program was unlawful.

In his syllabus, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the court was not making any decision based on DACA itself, but the procedure that the Trump Administration used to try and rescind it.

“We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action,” Roberts wrote. “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.”

Created in 2012 by President Barack Obama, DACA protects undocumented immigrants, who were brought into the U.S. as children, from deportation. Through the renewable two-year period, recipients are eligible to obtain a work permit in the U.S., attend school and receive other social security benefits, like obtain a driver’s license.

Since President Donald Trump took office, he has been working to rescind DACA, starting in 2017. Federal courts were able to stop that ruling, allowing current DACA recipients to keep their status (and renew their status), but freezing all new applicants since October 2017.

Local impact

While Thursday’s ruling affects DREAMers nationwide, there are many in the Western Treasure Valley who are here because of DACA.

An incoming junior at Eastern Oregon University, Paola Amaral graduated from Nyssa High School in 2018. Amaral was born in Tepic, Nayarit, Mexico, and arrived in Nyssa when she was 3 years old. She was able to stay in Nyssa School District through DACA.

Amaral is attending Eastern Oregon with the Dream.US National Scholarship and is studying to become an elementary educator. In the fall, she said ending DACA would completely uproot her plan, as she would have to pay out of pocket to continue her education, but then wouldn’t be able to find work because she would lose her Social Security number.

“Once I heard the ruling I was so relieved,” Amaral said. “I started crying because I couldn’t be any more happy and relieved that I didn’t have to be scared of what if it did end. Now I can go on about my life a little bit more peacefully and not constantly have to think about the what ifs now that a decision has been made.”

In November 2019, the Supreme Court first heard arguments on the Trump administration’s work when it rescinded DACA. Around that time, Amaral said she was in contact with other students at Eastern Oregon who shared her concern. On Thursday, she said her phone was buzzing with text messages from peers who also expressed their relief.

“It’s just unbelievable because I know I’m not the only one in this position or situation. So knowing that I’m not the only one that’s happy to hear about it just makes me happy for other people because I’m sure they feel the same way I do. That they don’t have to be afraid and they don’t have to live in fear. The what ifs. What if they ended it? Just in the future of being afraid. DACA comes with a lot of privilege. The driver’s license. The ability to work. Obviously the ability to attend school and if it were to have ended, it would have ended a lot of careers and a lot of stuff that people could do. Students like me and people like me, DREAMers, we’d have to go back to living in fear. I don’t think anyone wants to go back to being afraid after they’ve been free.”

Politicians, Department of Ed director react

Following the ruling, many Oregon politicians have weighed in on the Supreme Court’s response.

In a news release, Senator Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, called Trump and Stephen Miller’s effort to cancel DACA “not just morally wrong but also legally wrong.”

“DREAMers are members of virtually every community throughout our nation, and they are American in every way except for a piece of paper,” he wrote. “Today’s decision should also be a stark reminder that DACA recipients’ fate never should have been at the whim of this president or this court in the first place.”

Merkley demanded lawmakers work to bring the Dream and Promise Act of 2019 to the floor.

“The House passed this bill over a year ago, and it has languished in the legislative graveyard of the Senate. Dozens of senators on both sides of the aisle have stated that they stand with DREAMers,” he said. “Now is the moment to match words with action and ensure that DREAMers never have to live through this legal limbo again.”

Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill also weighed in on the ruling.

“This decision is an important first step towards protecting Oregon’s students, families and educators and a reminder we still have more work to do to protect DACA recipients,” Gill wrote. “The ruling impacts approximately 650,000 DACA recipients nationwide including more than 11,000 in Oregon. As we move forward, the department reaffirms our commitment to protecting the rights of DREAMers. ODE will continue to support districts in redoubling Oregon’s efforts to ensure schools and classrooms are safe, inclusive, welcoming and respectful for all educators, students and their families, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status or documentation status.”

Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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