On June 18, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the manner in which the Trump Administration ended the DACA program did not adhere to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), ruling that the Administration must reinstate DACA to its original 2012 form. This was a surprising ruling that my fellow immigration advocates and I did not expect. Thousands have waited for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to share when they will begin to accept new applications and advance parole applications, but they said nothing. Then on July 17, a federal judge in Maryland ordered the Trump Administration to begin accepting new DACA applications. Instead of doing so, the Administration took the first step to permanently ending the DACA program.
Last Tuesday, July 28, USCIS issued a memorandum on DACA. Acting Secretary Chad Wolf wrote, “…given my serious concerns about the policy, I have determined that some changes should immediately be made to the policy to limit its scope in the interim.” He announced that as of the 28th;
- no new DACA applications will be accepted and USCIS officials are directed to deny any new DACA applications submitted;
- advance parole will be given to DACA recipients only in exceptional circumstances; and
- DACA renewal and work permits will be issued for one year instead of two years.
This memorandum has been really hard for me to process. I’ve struggled to sleep. I’ve had nightmares. There have been moments when I’ve gotten so angry I’ve isolated myself.
In April, I received my DACA renewal, which is valid until 2022. My grandfather passed away in mid-March and my grandma’s spirit might leave her body soon, but because of COVID, I could not go say my goodbye to her even if I was legally able. This memorandum personally doesn’t affect me much. But in the last few days, I’ve received many calls from young undocumented youth wanting to get information about applying for DACA. The Monday before the memorandum was issued, a faculty member of a Jesuit high school shared that they were working with the school to help pay for their student to apply for DACA.
According to the Center for American Progress, 55,500 undocumented youth who aged into eligibility for DACA were stripped of the chance. 55,500. That is 55,500 stories, lives, and dreams—Americans who we are denying the chance to fully participate in our society. And for five of them, I had to tell them through a cell phone that they couldn’t apply anymore.
What angers me the most is that so many people seem to misunderstand that this is the beginning of Trump ending DACA. Instead of doing what the highest court in the land told them—and a federal judge in Maryland—they have started to strip the program. Many news sources, including Spanish news sources, used confusing headlines that made it seem that the Trump Administration will allow DACA to remain for another year. I understand that immigration policy, law, the entire system is confusing and has only become more so in the last few years. But every single pro-immigration advocate said over and over in the hours after the memorandum, “this is the first step in ending the program.”
The positive ruling from the Supreme Court was short-lived and has left me with a bitter taste. My undocumented community received a difficult hit. My undocumented community is hurting. I’m hurting. My undocumented community is exhausted from consistently living on the defensive because of this anti-immigrant and white supremacist agenda. I’m exhausted.
James Baldwin once wrote, “Hope is invented every day.”
I’ve spent more time with immigrants than with citizens. What I’ve learned from my immigrant siblings is that finding hope during the hopeless moments in life. We might feel exhausted but we are far from done. The fearlessness and relentlessness of my undocumented community is my new hope.
José Arnulfo Cabrera is the director of education and advocacy for migration for the Ignatian Solidarity Network. He is a 2018 graduate of Xavier University, a DACA recipient, and an immigration activist. He previously worked with the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he provided training on lobbying, organizing, and immigration policy, as well as shared his own immigration story, and as a government relations associate with NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice in Washington, D.C.