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‘I literally cannot catch a break’: Current DACA recipient reacts to DACA being ruled unconstitutional

Under Friday’s ruling from a federal judge in Texas, current recipients can keep their status but new applications cannot be granted.
Published: Jul. 18, 2021 at 10:33 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats are pushing for permanent immigration reform after a federal judge in Texas ruled DACA unconstitutional on Friday.

DACA—or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—is an Obama-era program that allows undocumented immigrants brought here as children to stay in the U.S. and get authorization to work legally.

Under US District Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling, current DACA recipients can keep their status, but any new applications cannot be granted. As of March 31, there are 616,030 active DACA recipients, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

“I literally cannot catch a break.” That was Madison resident Vivi Velasquez’ first reaction to hearing about the ruling on DACA.

“It seems like every time something is going well and then it’s like, your lives might be on pause,” Velasquez said.

Velasquez is a senior at Edgewood College and a current DACA recipient. She said because of the program, she’s been able to get a driver’s license, get a job and more easily apply for college.

“There’s some things that I just don’t think about anymore...like not having to be nervous when I see a police or something because I have a driver’s license,” she explained.

Meet Vivi Velasquez - she's now an incoming senior at Edgewood College, graduating in December. Vivi is also originally...

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Under the recent ruling, Velasquez can keep her DACA status, but she said she’s still feeling uncertain about the future, especially as she goes through the process of renewing her status. DACA recipients must renew every two years to maintain their status.

“I can’t imagine my life living somewhere else, but also, like I’m just finishing college, how am I supposed to use my degree if I’m not able to work here?” Velasquez questioned.

Voces de la Frontera, a nonprofit advocating for immigrant rights, has condemned the judge’s ruling. Executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz called it “cruel.”

“It’s an attack really against anyone who has this temporary status,” she said. “Their dreams about what can be are on hold.”

However, Neumann-Ortiz said DACA was never enough, and the end goal has always been a more permanent solution.

“When DACA was won in 2012, it was because we couldn’t win immigration reform in Congress,” she explained.

After Friday’s ruling, Neumann-Ortiz said a path to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants, including young people, is more important than ever.

“This ruling puts pressure on the Democrats...to make immigration reform a priority,” she said.

Neumann-Ortiz and Velasquez admitted it has been a long road, but both said they are hopeful change is possible.

“People here are willing to work, they are Americans, so it’s just, it just needs to come through,” Velasquez said.

Neumann-Ortiz added, “We’ve never been closer to winning immigration reform than 2021 and the urgency is there.”

President Biden said Saturday the U.S. Department of Justice plans to appeal Judge Hanen’s decision on DACA, and he called on Congress to act quickly. Congressional Democrats are trying to introduce immigration reform that can pass through budget reconciliation, a process that does not require Republican support.

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