The fate of young undocumented immigrants throughout the state remains uncertain after the Supreme Court last week stymied — at least for now — the Trump administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Lawyers and DACA recipients across the state are speculating about the future of the program in the wake of the Supreme Court’s rejection of a Trump administration appeal last week. The administration had asked the court to review injunctions issued by lower courts that required the government to maintain the Obama-era program, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country. On Feb. 26, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
“What does it do?” said Renee Redman, an immigration attorney in New Haven. “It basically means that the district court’s order is still in effect, and that’s the one that allows people to still re-apply. Yes, they are still hanging there, but by a thread. It certainly doesn’t give anybody the security they deserve.”
The standing injunctions, which were issued by federal judges in New York and California, allow people with pre-existing legal status under the DACA program to apply and renew their work permits, which are valid for two years under the executive action. The Trump administration is not accepting new applications under the program.
The administration’s move — bypassing a federal appeals court to directly petition the Supreme Court — has rarely been done before. The Trump administration’s case will now return to the normal federal appeals process, providing short-term relief for DACA recipients.
Alicia Kinsman, managing attorney at the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, referred to the Supreme Court’s decision last week as a “small sigh of relief.”
“It is the right decision. All of these young people who are currently protected by DACA or had been in the past, really had the rug swept out underneath them,” Kinsman said. “Our feeling is that that deadline has been pushed out a bit, but [DACA recipients] are still in limbo.”
Last fall, the Trump administration gave Congress a March 5 deadline to pass legislation that would protect beneficiaries of the DACA program. Congress has yet to act on such legislation, but it remains unclear what steps the administration will take given the current set of judicial orders.
Kinsman emphasized the chaos and arbitrariness of the process. The Trump administration’s moves to end the program, she said, felt “unnecessary and wrong.” According to Kinsman, the future is uncertain and unpredictable — for both the program and its beneficiaries.
A federal court in Maryland ruled in favor of the administration on Monday, denying a case that challenged the administration’s legal authority to end DACA. But the injunction imposed by courts in New York and California still stands, pending the decision of an appeals court.
Carolina Bortolleto, organizer and co-founder of CT Students for a Dream, said the federal government’s actions have created quandaries for DACA beneficiaries. Since the review process takes many months, those who applied for renewals after the recent court injunction have yet to hear whether their applications were accepted, said Bortolleto, who is a beneficiary of the program. Other recipients who have obtained permits through the program that are still valid are also debating whether to apply now — while the court injunctions still stand — or risk applying in the future when the program may no longer exist.
People who may have been eligible for DACA, but did not originally apply, whether for financial or legal reasons, can also no longer apply. As a result, Bortolleto said, the Trump administration’s announcement last fall disrupted the plans of people who may have intended to apply and seek a life in the United States.
“The effect that this has is that you can’t really plan for your future because you don’t really know what is going to happen,” Bortolleto said. “We in the immigrant community have been moving one deadline after another. That causes a lot of fear and anxiety in the community. That’s no way to live because you feel like your future is hanging by a thread. And it’s a different thread every month.”
Bortolleto emphasized the need for a permanent solution such as the previously proposed DREAM Act. According to the American Immigration Council, roughly one out of every four Connecticut immigrants is undocumented. Of those 120,000 undocumented immigrants living in the state, fewer than 4,000 are DACA recipients.
Half of the more than 11,000 people eligible for DACA have applied to be covered by the program.
Keshav Raghavan | firstname.lastname@example.org