The future of the United States’ Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program is in limbo, once again, after a federal judge in Texas declared it illegal last month. While the ruling does not end the program, it prolongs an already years-long legal battle over its existence.
Current DACA recipients are still eligible to reapply for the legal protections that allow them to stay and work in the country.
President Joe Biden and advocates have called on Congress to pass permanent protections for Dreamers, but proposals have failed multiple times.
On this week’s “In Focus SoCal,” host Tanya McRae meets a longtime DACA recipient who is among hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the United States as children and who continue to wait for a path forward to citizenship.
Areli Hernandez, who serves as the director of executive affairs at CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, came to the United States from Mexico when she was 5 years old. She said she realized the consequences of being undocumented at a young age when she and her family saw people in her city get picked up by Immigration and Naturalization Service, now ICE.
“My mom, in her wisdom, came to my bed and said, ‘Don’t ever tell anyone you weren’t born here. Don’t lie to them, but don’t tell anyone that you weren’t born here,’” Hernandez said.
Hernandez has been a DACA recipient since it was created in 2012 by the Obama administration.
“My biggest relief came the day that my California driver’s license came,” she said. “That was when I felt relief. That was when I felt like, ‘OK, there’s some safety.’”
When asked about the recent DACA ruling, she said, “I think it reminds us, all of us, that this is, and has always been, a temporary program, and it’s not the permanency that we seek. It’s hard to remain hopeful. It’s really, really hard.”
McRae also sat down with Dr. Cecilia Menjívar, professor of sociology at UCLA, to discuss the impact that the waiting game has on the program’s 600,000 recipients.
“The effect that it has on DACA recipients and their families is the added stress of not knowing what is going to happen,” Menjívar said. “It creates what we call a legal limbo where we don’t know if the person is going to have protection, if the person is going to be able to plan for a future.”
Also on this week’s show to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month is Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. The caucus is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
“We have been transforming our Latino communities for five decades now, so this is a big moment for us, for nearly 16 million Latinos in the state of California,” Cervantes said. “At the end of the day, Latinos are essential to California’s success. And when we succeed, California succeeds.”