Nebraska DACA recipients and advocates say that the recent Supreme Court ruling enables young undocumented students and workers to live their lives without fear of deportation.
“There’s definitely a lot of work to get done still, but at least I can go to sleep knowing I’m still safe for the time being,” said Jorge Marroquín, a DACA recipient and University of Nebraska-Lincoln fifth-year economics student.
The Supreme Court ruled on June 18 against President Donald Trump’s attempt to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which shields nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.
DACA recipients, or “Dreamers,” were brought by their parents to the United States without documentation when they were children. Most hail from Latin American countries such as Mexico or El Salvador, but other countries of origin include Korea, India or the Philippines. They are called “Dreamers” based on never-passed proposals in Congress including the DREAM Act.
Marroquín’s family came to Lincoln from Chiapas, Mexico, when he was 3 years old. Under DACA, Marroquín is able to attend school, work a job and obtain a driver’s license. Marroquín felt fearful and unsure of his future up until the Supreme Court decision on June 18.
“It’s scary to know they could come down and say your time’s up and go back to a place I don’t really consider home and I don’t have memories of,” he said. “When the spring semester ended, I didn’t sign up for classes yet because I didn’t even know if I was gonna still have the ability to go to school.”
The lives of people who were brought to the United States illegally as children have been in flux since Trump announced in 2017 that he wanted to “begin an orderly transition and wind-down of DACA.” Nebraska was one of several states that joined in a lawsuit to end DACA in 2018.
In response to the June 18 ruling, Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson issued a statement saying, “Nebraska is not a party to this case,” because it addressed a different issue.
Rep. Don Bacon, who represents Nebraska’s second district, released a statement urging Congress to seek compromise, while also demanding “stronger immigration and border security policies so this doesn’t keep happening in the future.”
Similarly, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse said he believes DACA-related issues should be corrected through legislation rather than in the courts.
“We need a law that gives us both border security and common sense immigration policy — and legislation comes from Congress, not the Court,” Sasse said.
The 5-4 Supreme Court decision allows “Dreamers” to lawfully remain in the U.S. While the decision does not rule out future attempts to terminate DACA, it leaves a short window for the administration to retry the issue before the upcoming election and takes the immediate pressure off of DACA recipients.
Frida Aguilera de la Torre, a DACA recipient and UNL junior studying ethnic studies and sociology, said while she is proud of her Mexican heritage, she feels rooted in Lincoln. Not only has she made friendships here, she also aspires to become an immigration lawyer.
“I still have my dreams and life to continue,” she said. “My home is here.”
Aguilera de la Torre is also the co-president of Define American at UNL, an organization that utilizes the power of storytelling to shift the narrative around immigrants. The UNL chapter was founded in 2015 by Valeria Rodriguez, a UNL graduate and national campus coordinator for Define American.
“In order for our communities to better understand who our immigrants are, they first need to hear their stories,” said Rodriguez, who lives in Gering.
Rodriguez and her family were undocumented for eight years while living in the U.S. until they received green cards. While she is no longer undocumented herself, she understands the worries of DACA recipients.
“This decision was a relief, and it’s great news for our students,” Rodriguez said. “They will be able to continue to thrive in their communities and it means security as well.”