June 24, 2020

Supreme Court DACA Ruling Is Met With Joy, Apprehension, and Hope for More

By Donald Gilpin

In a decision that has had major reverberations in the local and Princeton University communities, the Supreme Court of the United States on July 18 ruled to keep in place, for now anyway, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that protects certain immigrants, the Dreamers, from deportation. The Supreme Court blocked President Donald Trump’s order to terminate the program, though he has promised to try again.

“I and countless others celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling that rejected the Trump administration’s effort to end DACA,” wrote Princeton Councilwoman Leticia Fraga. “For our Dreamers, it means that for the first time in three years they can breathe a little easier. I am pleased but apprehensive that the Trump administration will turn around and attempt to end the program again, but hopefully not before we have the opportunity to vote them out of office.” 

Fraga went on to emphasize the limitations of the DACA program and the need for Congressional action to pass legislation that can provide a path to citizenship. “As before, the program only allows for two-year, renewable work permits,” she wrote in an email. “What we truly need is for Congress to pass legislation that would offer a path to citizenship, not just for young immigrants but for their parents and others who are undocumented, so that they can continue to live and work in what is for many of them the only home they remember.”

Fatima Mughal, a local public school teacher, activist, and community organizer, described the Supreme Court decision as “a tiny step in the right direction, but we have a lot of work to do.” She continued, “Ending DACA would have meant losing 700,000 friends, family members, and students, as well as doctors, lawyers, teachers, volunteers, and countless others who play valuable roles in our community. After the ruling, there was a collective sigh of relief from our neighbors who depend on DACA to be legally allowed to continue living in the only place they’ve called home.”

Mughal described some of the effects of the program and the need for much more support for immigrants. “The DACA program was always a band-aid for a much larger conversation the government was unwilling to have,” she wrote. “While my friends who are DACA recipients are able to do things like apply for jobs and get a license to drive to school or to the doctor without fear, the millions of undocumented immigrants living without DACA are unable to do those simple things safely.”

She continued, “Many of those people who continue to live in fear are the parents and loved ones of DACA recipients. They are also integral members of our community, and they deserve the same basic courtesy of not having to live in fear of being ripped out of the communities they work so hard to help flourish. They deserve to be able to live in dignity.”

Princeton University, Microsoft Corporation, and Princeton 2018 graduate Maria Perales Sanchez are co-plaintiffs in a case challenging the government’s decision to end DACA. “Princeton University filed this suit because our success as a world-class teaching and research university depends on our ability to attract and support talented students from all backgrounds,” Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said in a June 18 statement.

He continued, “Today’s carefully reasoned Supreme Court decision rightly protects DACA beneficiaries against arbitrary agency action. We welcome that decision, but we also know that the Dreamers’ future, and our own future, will depend on legislation that gives them a clear path to citizenship. Princeton will continue to advocate on behalf of DACA beneficiaries and the many other immigrants whose talent, hard work, and creativity contribute so vitally to this University and to our country.”

Princeton University stated that it will continue to urge Congress to achieve a legislative solution that provides permanent legal protections for all Dreamers.

Perales Sanchez, who now works at a Baltimore nonprofit that defends migrants’ rights, also applauded the decision, but is eager to see more progress. “Today, we celebrate a positive decision, being well aware that we still need a permanent legislative solution that includes all 11 million of us – our families, our siblings, our parents, and folks who don’t fit the ‘Dreamer’ criteria,” she said. “I’m in awe of the power of youth to bring about change, and while I celebrate SCOTUS for the decision, I remind myself that this couldn’t come about without the millions of folks putting racial and social justice first. We will keep fighting for a world that includes, celebrates, and uplifts us, and sees us as human beings.”