WASHINGTON, D.C. — Over the past few months, the immigrant community has been under an immense amount of pressure. They have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, are protesting in the streets against police brutality and now the Supreme Court will be making a decision on whether the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program can continue.
DREAMers in particular are experiencing heightened anxiety as they wait for the decision —more than 200,000 DACA recipients are working in essential fields such as healthcare, education and food-related jobs during the pandemic— and it’s possible that a DACA decision will become the third crisis they face in as many months very soon. The court is currently set to make a decision by the end of June.
This week, the Dallas Morning News editorial board called for the Supreme Court’s decision on DACA to be delayed because of the multiple crises that are happening in the country.
“We have argued before, and continue to believe, that people brought here as children should have the right to stay. But if the court were to wrongly decide they should be returned, this is not the time to do so,” the board wrote. “A final decision on DACA is inevitable, but right now we should focus on healing the wounds torn open by the pandemic and civil unrest.”
However, it’s very unlikely that the decision will be delayed even by a few weeks, according to Amy Howe, a Supreme Court expert who writes for Scotusblog.com and others. The court typically releases decisions for cases argued in a term by the end of that same term, which in this case is the end of this month.
It very rarely pushes a decision past that date unless it asks the lawyers to brief a new question.
“To push DACA back to next term without any new briefing would be very unusual and look very strange indeed,” Howe told Latino Rebels over email.
However, given how important the case is and how split the court may be on the issue, “it wouldn’t surprise me if we didn’t get a decision until the very end of the term even without the pandemic and the demonstrations and riots,” Howe added.
It has been nearly three years since President Trump announced his administration was rescinding the DACA program. Although injunctions in U.S. federal courts have allowed recipients to continue renewing their permits over the past few years, a permanent solution has not been agreed on.
“In a way, this whole COVID-19 situation has put the urgency of the moment even that much clearer,” said Carlos Guevara, associate director for immigration initiatives at UnidosUS. “This is a terrible cocktail of things going on at once.”
UnidosUS has worked to ensure that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can continue to greenlight DACA renewal applications during COVID-19. Guevara said that the organization has encouraged program recipients to keep sending their applications in and has ensured that old fingerprints will be accepted on applications since COVID-19 has made in-person fingerprint appointments unsafe.
They are also continuing to push for immigration reform in Congress.
“The only way this issue is going to get resolved in a long term and meaningful way is through legislation,” Guevara added.
Congress has been attempting to pass immigration reform for years, but the current crises may make that less of a priority in the immediate future.
“As a DACA recipient, having to live with these layers of stress has been a challenge,” said Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, the state and local policy manager at United We Dream. Macedo do Nascimento said the COVID-19 crisis and the protests against police brutality, combined with her anxiety about the upcoming DACA decision, have been overwhelming.
“But that hasn’t stopped me,” Macedo do Nascimento explained. “A lot of us at United We Dream are DACA recipients and we know how important it is to keep the fight going. We’re all under a lot of stress but we all recognize that this has been our lives for a long time. We were undocumented before DACA. We lived with that kind of stress on a day to day basis. We were here before DACA and we know that we’ll be here after.”
Ana Lucía Murillo is a journalist based in Washington, D.C. and the 2020 summer correspondent for Latino Rebels. She tweets from @analuciamur.