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'I Cried With My Mom': 'Dreamers' React To The Supreme Court's DACA Ruling


The Supreme Court's ruling on Thursday slapping down President Trump's attempt to cancel DACA was a moment of deliverance for hundreds of thousands of young people. DACA is the Obama-era program for unauthorized immigrants who are brought to this country as children, and it shields them from removal and allows them to work. For months, DACA recipients had been waiting nervously for this decision. Now they can exhale, but only temporarily because the administration vows to continue its fight to end DACA. NPR's John Burnett reports.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: The anticipation and stress have been nearly unbearable. Then came the long-awaited announcement yesterday morning - the court ruled 5 to 4 that DREAMers could stay. They would not be deported back to countries they scarcely remember, at least for the time being. Jose Martinez is 20 and enrolled in the journalism school at The University of Texas at Austin. He was brought here as an infant from El Salvador.

JOSE MARTINEZ: It's crazy, man. Like, I feel, honestly, relieved. But we should not be complacent because I don't know what Trump has planned. Hopefully nothing too crazy.

BURNETT: Well, Trump didn't take long to answer that question. He tweeted this morning that the Supreme Court decision wasn't a win or loss for the White House, and he now has a road map of how to end DACA by the book. He said he'll be submitting papers shortly. That would set off a new brawl in the federal courts. Immigrant advocates will sue again, and those lawsuits and appeals take time. If that happens, DACA recipients hope it drags on past the election and a Democratic president and perhaps a Democratic-controlled Congress finally legalize their existence in the U.S.

ELLIE PEREZ: For me, it is a moment of celebration. But I hear my mom's voice - you know, celebrate today, but you better get back to work tomorrow.

BURNETT: Ellie Perez is a 29-year-old DACA recipient and Democratic Party activist. Her parents brought her from Veracruz, Mexico, to Arizona when she was 4.

PEREZ: We still have to put on our organizing shoes and go out and talk to those voters and keep organizing because the work isn't done until comprehensive immigration reform happens, until we have a pathway to citizenship.

BURNETT: DACA recipients know just how precarious their legal status is under the Trump administration. Here's Matt Albence, the government's deportation chief, earlier this year.


MATTHEW ALBENCE: The individual, at the end of that process, if they get ordered removed and DACA is done away with by the Supreme Court, we could actually effectuate those removal orders.

BURNETT: Translation - if Trump revokes DACA again and that withstands the court's scrutiny, young people currently living under its protections are deportable. And they're keenly aware that the government knows where they live, often still under the same roof with undocumented parents. Juan Belman is a 27-year-old from Guanajuato, Mexico, who was brought here as a child and now works at Georgetown University.

JUAN BELMAN: When we submit our applications, we submit our names, our family's information, our addresses. So they have everything on us.

BURNETT: In a statement yesterday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had this to say about the beneficiaries of DACA that the agency is charged with helping. Quote, "Under DACA, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens continue to remain in our country in violation of the laws passed by Congress and taking jobs Americans need now more than ever."

While this is cause for consternation among DACA recipients, nothing diminishes the elation over the decision by the highest court in the land. Karen Reyes is a 30-year-old special ed teacher in Austin with a master's in deaf education. Her mother brought her here from Mexico when she was an infant and raised her by cleaning houses, which she still does at age 68.

KAREN REYES: For now, you know, we'll definitely take this. I'm extremely happy that the Supreme Court sided, you know, on the right side of history. It's just so much relief that, you know, I just - I cried. I cried with my mom. And yeah, it's been a whirlwind of emotions, for sure.

BURNETT: And it's not over yet.

John Burnett, NPR News, Austin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

As NPR's Southwest correspondent based in Austin, Texas, John Burnett covers immigration, border affairs, Texas news and other national assignments. In 2018, 2019 and again in 2020, he won national Edward R. Murrow Awards from the Radio-Television News Directors Association for continuing coverage of the immigration beat. In 2020, Burnett along with other NPR journalists, were finalists for a duPont-Columbia Award for their coverage of the Trump Administration's Remain in Mexico program. In December 2018, Burnett was invited to participate in a workshop on Refugees, Immigration and Border Security in Western Europe, sponsored by the RIAS Berlin Commission.
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