With DACA Hanging in the Balance, Immigrant Families Need Not Be Left Out (OPINION)

Apr 9, 2020
2:38 PM

In this Nov. 12, 2019, file photo people rally outside the Supreme Court as oral arguments are heard in the case of President Trump’s decision to end the Obama-era, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), at the Supreme Court in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

CHICAGO — The last few weeks have been a global whirlwind. As COVID-19 has threatened populations around the world, many countries have taken precautions to ensure that people are safe and healthy. In the United States, the policies that are currently being discussed do not go far enough, leaving out vulnerable populations. While the recent stimulus package will provide relief to many families, millions of undocumented families were left out.


We need economic relief in the form of cash payments and expanded unemployment Insurance, as well as free COVID-19 testing and care for everyone. Most importantly, policies and practices that further endanger immigrant communities, must stop, like the public charge rule and all enforcement practices. For those of us who depend on our daily income to survive, it has been nothing short of stressful. More nerve-wracking still, 700,000 of us in the United States are watching our days of lawful employment tick by. For the last six months, we have anxiously waited to find out the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals decision. On November 12, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in DHS v. Regents, a day that for many of us was yet another test of our fortitude.

As the months have gone by, many of us have scrambled to renew our DACA permits, hoping for a few more months of employment, a reprieve from deportation, and some peace of mind. This is a time of uncertainty for so many due to health concerns and the economic impact that comes with shutting down businesses and requesting that people stay home for weeks and potentially months to contain and reduce the spread of COVID-19.

However, for DACA recipients this is exacerbated, as these may be the last few weeks we are legally permitted to work, drive, attend school, and have health insurance through our employers and academic institutions.

If the Supreme Court were to rule in the next few weeks that our work permits were no longer valid, or that we were no longer able to renew them, it would be catastrophic for our community. Many of us are service industry workers. According to a survey by the Migration Policy Institute, “the most common industries of employment are hospitality, retail trade, construction, education, health and social services, and professional services.” Fifty-five percent of DACA recipients are employed and we are a force of 382,000 workers. At a time when our country is in need of service workers, especially healthcare workers, it is irresponsible to cut down any percentage of this incredibly necessary group of individuals. Furthermore, after the pandemic has subsided, those without work permits will no longer be able to reenter the workforce, leaving many DACA recipients with no choice but to recede back into the shadows of an undocumented life, one that many of us remember with pain, but no longer wish to live.

As a DACA recipient, I fear for my safety and health and that of my undocumented family and friends. At a time when healthcare and testing accessibility is critical, the undocumented community lacks both. My parents run a small business in Alabama and thus far, they have been able to continue operating using curbside service. I am a full time law-student and would be unable to support my family alone if the economy collapses and I lose my DACA status. My student loans, our car payments, and many other financial obligations would go unmet. If this is replicated 700,000 times across the country, it would create a significant burden to our economy.

Thus, an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling in the coming weeks is not simply a blow to the undocumented community—it is another blow to our already faltering national economy.

The Supreme Court must withhold a decision on DACA while the country —and the world— deals with the pandemic.


Fernanda Herrera Spieler is a second-year law student at Loyola University Chicago and a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.