A recent federal district court ruling declaring the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) illegal has raised uncertainty and concerns among undocumented students and their advocates.
The DACA program, established during the Obama administration to protect immigrants brought to the U.S. as children from deportation and grant them legal work status, has faced ongoing challenges.
The recent decision by Judge Andrew Hanen of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas further complicates the program’s future.
Judge’s recent DACA ruling adds uncertainty to the program’s future
While DACA recipients with protected status as of July 2021 can continue and apply for renewals, new applications are accepted but not processed.
DACA recipient Cezanne Hayden-Dilbert expressed her frustration, having lived with the anxiety of DACA’s uncertain status for years. The ruling adds to the uncertainty, leaving many DACA recipients wondering about their future.
The ruling marks the second time Judge Hanen has ruled against DACA, with the recent decision questioning the program’s “lack of temporal limits” and its provisions regarding international travel.
Undocumented students constitute a significant portion of the U.S. college population, with around 408,000 enrolled in 2021. Many have DACA status or are eligible for the program.
While the White House has expressed disappointment in the ruling, advocates believe the case will eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
Undocumented students have faced barriers to higher education, but colleges and universities have increasingly supported them through initiatives like private scholarships and dedicated support centers.
Advocates emphasize the need for a legislative solution to provide a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and undocumented students.
Higher education institutions have played a crucial role in supporting undocumented students, providing resources, legal assistance, and study opportunities. Advocates also stress the importance of mental health support for these students, given their unique challenges.
The DACA program offers life-changing benefits, including the ability to work legally, obtain a driver’s license, and travel without deportation fears. Colleges and universities have benefited from having DACA students on their campuses and are urged to do more to ensure access to higher education for all.