DACA recipients won the battle; it’s up to us to win the war

Andria Bibiloni sits on a park bench in Norris Square Park on June 2, 2020. (Photo by Erin Blewett)

Editor’s note: This opinion piece was written by Norris Square resident Andria Bibiloni, who is a Law and Public Policy Scholar at Temple University’s Beasley School of Law and an intern at Ceiba, a coalition of Latinx community-based organizations located on the southwest corner of Norris Square.

The Supreme Court’s ruling protecting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was an amazing and unexpected victory for many people, especially  for the 700,000 DACA recipients and their families. The fight, however, is not over.  

The June 18 Supreme Court decision stated that the government violated the Administrative Procedure Act when it failed to provide an adequate justification for ending DACA in 2017. Although DACA must remain in place for now, the Trump administration can try to rescind the program again by showing a more thorough consideration of the impact of DACA’s termination and explaining the policy reasons behind its decision. Thankfully, that process could take several months, which is not likely to happen before the November 2020 presidential election. 

This is where we, the people, come in. It was the people who pushed the Obama administration to create the DACA program in 2012 as a temporary stopgap measure to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children. DACA allows accepted applicants to remain in the United States and to apply for work authorization and other benefits without threat of deportation for two years, subject to renewal. 

Brave, young, undocumented students had to come out of the shadows and work together in organized coalitions, such as United We Dream, to advocate for the creation of DACA while permanent legislation kept getting stalled in Congress. When the Trump administration took over in 2017 and ended the DACA program, undocumented students once again had to tell their stories in lawsuits filed against the government — leading all the way up to the Supreme Court.  

The stories of DACA recipients — law students, healthcare workers, and public advocates whose lives have been thrown into turmoil following the termination of the program — ultimately persuaded the court that the government had violated the Administrative Procedure Act by ending DACA without fully considering its widespread impact. Those stories made it clear that abruptly ending DACA not only hurt the recipients, but also their employers, teachers, clients, communities, and the economy.

The Supreme Court’s decision demonstrates that our country’s system of checks and balances, which gives the Supreme Court the authority to judge when the executive branch violates the law, still works. Like the recent social uprisings advocating for racial equality, this DACA decision also shows us that our voices and stories are what make our democracy work — and there is a lot of work to be done. 

Here’s what you can do. Whether you are an immigrant or a U.S. citizen who cares about protecting your community members, staying informed is essential. Online resources like dacadecision.com and informedimmigrant.com provide up-to-date information on DACA, immigrant rights, and where to find local legal assistance.

We still need Congress to pass immigration laws that will provide pathways to citizenship for DACA recipients, protect parents from deportation, and prevent families from being separated and put into detention centers at the border. The American Dream and Promise Act is a bill that, if passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, would provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrants with temporary legal status. Although the House passed the bill in June 2019, the Senate never brought it up for a vote. We must call on our senators to pass the bill, and remind them that if they won’t, we can elect senators that will.

If you are eligible to vote, the most important thing that you can do to protect immigrants’ rights is to exercise your privilege and participate in elections — not just the presidential election, but elections for Congress and state and local officials. As a stateside Puerto Rican, I will vote in the next presidential election knowing that my family and friends on the island cannot, and knowing that DACA recipients in my community can’t either. To fulfill the promise of liberty and justice for all, we need all eligible voices — including yours — to be heard.


Editoras: Claire Wolters, Siani Colón, Zari Tarazona / Designer: Henry Savage / Translator: N/A

Send this to a friend