The Supreme Court is expected to rule any day on the status of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an Obama-era policy that shields from deportation millions of those whose parents brought them to the United States at a young age. President Trump’s Administration moved to end the program early in his term, arguing that such sweeping immigration policy should be the domain of Congress, not solely the Executive Branch.
In 2017, when the administration announced its intention to terminate DACA, President Trump issued a statement regarding his decision: “I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize that we are a nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws.”
Details of the case
The case before the court is Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, and justices will determine if the administration followed correct protocol and procedure in terminating the program. This includes proper justification for the decision and adequate adherence to the processes in place.
According to Reyna Montoya, a DACA recipient and the founder and CEO of Aliento AZ, a DACA advocacy group and , there are “three to four likely scenarios.”
The “worst case-scenario for DACA recipients” is that the Supreme Court not only rules that the president followed proper procedure, but that the program itself was unconstitutional. This means that “it can set a precedent for other programs in the future,” says Montoya.
A more likely equally distressing outcome for DACA recipients is that the president’s termination of the program was justified and that the court will allow a “phase-out” of the program.
Another possibility is that the Supreme Court sends the case back down to lower courts. While not ideal for proponents of the program, it does mean that it would continue to be litigated and thus avoid an immediate termination.
“One of the deepest fears” among “DACA-mented” individuals is that the program could be terminated “on-the spot.” However unlikely, it is still within the realm of possibility.
Whatever the outcome, it is sure to be one of great importance.
Luis Acosta’s story
Luis Acosta, a public affairs professional, had the opportunity to share his story as an immigrant and DACA-recipient.
“My family came to the United States when I was two-years old,” says Acosta, “Growing up during S.B. 1070 and the Sheriff [Joe] Arpaio raids, you learn to hide.”
Acosta was able to go public about his DACA status when he served as Arizona’s director for the Mike Bloomberg for President campaign earlier this year and was, featured in a campaign video on immigration policy.
The focus of his career has been working internally within organizations “to help them draft and create pragmatic policy that’s really going to push everybody forward in a positive direction.”
For him, this moment is a crossroads. A program “that has given so many opportunities just in the state of Arizona” is now at risk of termination. There are “roughly 30,000” DACA-mented people in the state. Each and everyone of them is worried that once again they will have to go into hiding.
There are “countless people in Arizona who have been nothing but stand-up citizens, and now their lives are being left in limbo,” Acosta says.
Glenn Hamer, president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, believes that keeping the DACA program in place is “the right thing to do morally. You start there.” But, he says, you cannot neglect the enormous positive economic impact immigrants—particularly DACA recipients—have in Arizona.
“These are people who are going to university. They’re working. They’ve been in the military,” Hamer said. “They’re all contributing to a better Arizona and to a better America.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has also made their outlook clear: “Ending DACA would be a nightmare for Dreamers. A nightmare for businesses. A nightmare for America’s economy.”
According to a 2018 report compiled by the U.S. House Committee on Small Business, “DACA enrolled and eligible immigrants contribute roughly $2 billion each year in state and local taxes.” Deporting DACA recipients could “cost $60 billion and reduce economic growth by $280 billion.” This means that it could cost the United States “over $460 billion in economic output over a decade.”
There is one sure path to comprehensive immigration reform that all sides seem to agree on: bipartisan cooperation in Congress. Despite the hyper-polarization of the current world, polls show a glimmer of hope for proponents.
According to a 2019 poll by Gallup, an all-time high of 55% of Americans believe that immigrants “mostly help” the economy. Furthermore, over 80% of Americans favor a path to citizenship for undocumented people currently living within the United States. Better yet for DACA proponents, a 2018 Gallup poll revealed that 83% of Americans favor the DACA program specifically.When President Trump approved the winding down of the program in 2017, he also made clear that he would favor congressional action to renew the program. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, then-White House press secretary, said that the president wanted “DACA made permanent as part of ‘comprehensive’ immigration legislation.”