In 2012, U.S. Homeland Security announced a new program. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals would allow those who were brought to the U.S. by their parents through unofficial means, to have a renewable two-year reprieve and the ability to work in the country.
But efforts to strip DACA protections from thousands of young Americans have persisted, threatening their ability to stay in the only country they've ever known and creating a legal limbo — would DACA stand and allow young Americans the right to continue living in the U.S., or would the courts strike the policy down, sending crowds of residents pouring into countries they've never lived in?
On June 18 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling, and DACA recipients could finally stop holding their breath.
"This is a huge win because at this point, we are stating that the U.S. is composed of so many cultures and those who come here with DACA, they may not have been born here but they have lived here their whole life, this is home for them," said Rosa Davalos, the outreach and engagement coordinator for South Albany High School. "This is what they know. This is it. So the fact that DACA was rescued, it gives them a breath of fresh air they've been needing for some time."
The June 18 decision came after the Trump administration brought the matter to the courts, attempting to end the program. The opinion from the court, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, called the effort to end DACA “arbitrary and capricious" and therefore a violation of federal law.
The decision to uphold DACA protects approximately 700,000 immigrants across the U.S.
And in Albany, it takes a little weight off an already heavy load.
"We call people who hold DACA dreamers," Davalos said. "Their parents came here with a dream and they grew up and have their own dreams. Whatever language you want to use, more than anything, the court's decision saved the dreams of these kids who feel like their dreams don't matter or that there's no way to get there. They have enough barriers to accomplishing those dreams."
Davalos was hired in October of last year to help South Albany's effort to continue raising the Latino graduation rate. She walks students through the process of applying for college, navigating the state process that allows undocumented students to apply for funding and has comforted students who arrive at her office in tears because they've gotten word of an ICE raid and their parents can't be reached.
Those challenges, while real and difficult, are not always visible.
"There are times people are working or teaching with students and they don't know their immigration status," said Javier Cervantes, director of institutional equity, diversity and inclusion at Linn-Benton Community College. "They don't know that a student is a DACA student. We educate all students, and we don't particularly care one way or another how a student comes to us."
LBCC does not require information surrounding a student's immigration status, but the decision on DACA, Cervantes said, will help students personally as they work to finish their education and enter the work force.
Davalos, who often refers students to LBCC's institutional equity, diversity and inclusion services once they've graduated from SAHS, agreed.
"You have a right to get an education and a job and accomplish your dreams," she said. "As a district, for students who hold DACA, it's going to make life easier and give them an opportunity to say, 'I can get there.' The ugly and scary part is even people who hold DACA, it can be difficult for them to voice that about themselves."
"This is still business as usual for us," Cervantes said. "DACA students are like any other students coming to us from schools in Lebanon, Albany, Corvallis, Sweet Home, Philomath, any area. They're just like any other student. They want to improve their lives, and they want a career."
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