Supreme Court backs DACA, deals blow to Trump, saves thousands of Miamians

Alexandra Ruiz spent her Thursday morning refreshing the U.S. Supreme Court’s website.

She stopped at 10 a.m., after the court had ruled the Trump Administration acted illegally when it revoked the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2017. 

“It’s a relief that we have time to work and continue doing what we’re doing without fear,” said Ruiz, a 22-year-old DACA recipient who lives in Fontainebleau. “There are a lot of things that could have happened, and you didn’t know how they were going to change your current life.”

Ruiz graduated from Florida International University this past spring as an anthropology major. She’s from Colombia and came to the United States when she was 2 years old. She was a high school freshman when DACA began in 2012. She had worried about whether she would be able to stay in the United States and attend college. The program allayed that concern.

DACA protects about 650,000 young immigrants  — about 25,000 in Florida — from deportation and allows them to work. But it doesn’t give them permanent status in the United States. The Trump administration moved to end the program, arguing that it was unconstitutional and that Congress needed to work towards a permanent solution. 

“This decision means they revoked it incorrectly,” said Juan Carlos Gomez, director of the Carlos A. Costa Immigration Human Rights Clinic at FIU. “It doesn’t mean DACA is completely legal but that it was removed incorrectly. So, the fight goes on.”

Gomez said the decision impacts the lives of thousands of immigrants in South Florida, the economy, and enrollment at colleges and universities like FIU — as DACA allows them to study and work legally.

The decision also means the courts have the authority to review and intervene in the actions of the executive branch, Gomez said. 

The justices ruled 5-4 that the administration was wrong in the way it tried to end the Obama-era program. The administration has the authority to eliminate DACA, but must better consider the consequences and comply with the Administrative Procedures Act, which governs how agencies make rules.

Former President Barack Obama started the program via executive order in 2012 to temporarily protect undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. He issued the order after Congress failed to pass an immigration bill that year. 

Nicolas Foglia, 26, arrived in the United States from Argentina in 2002, when he was 8 years old. Before DACA, going to college meant paying out-of-state tuition even at Miami Dade College. Since he couldn’t work, he couldn’t save enough to afford it. 

DACA began as he was graduating high school, and colleges started considering DACA recipients as in-state students in the fall semester after he graduated. He enrolled at MDC and got his associate’s degree.

He’s now a senior at FIU studying international relations with a minor in political science. He has a part-time job and a remote internship with the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute. The decision means he has at least two more years to work and continue with his career, he said.

While this ruling gives young immigrants protection for two more years, it doesn’t bring them permanent peace. DACA doesn’t give them a path to citizenship, and the administration could find another way to challenge it.

Activists and legislators have called on Congress for years to pass a law that would give these immigrants permanent protection. 

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said on Twitter that while there’s “strong bipartisan support” for a permanent solution, it requires a majority in the Republican-controlled Senate and the President’s support.

For his part, the president tweeted that the court’s decision was politically charged and “shotgun blasts” against Republican and conservative Americans. He said he would nominate more conservative judges to the Supreme Court and continue fighting DACA.

The decision represents a political blow to the president, who ran in 2016 promising immigration reform and now faces an election year, a pandemic, a social justice crisis and two Supreme Court decisions that directly contradict policies he has pushed. 

“I’m hoping that the administration does not take steps to revoke DACA,” said Gomez, “but that it does the right thing and tries to find a reasonable solution in Congress.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the Supreme Court’s ruling. The revocation of DACA was illegal, the court ruled.

Alejandra Marquez Janse is a Venezuelan journalism student minoring in political science. She is passionate about understanding policy and informing people on issues that affect them.