By Jessica Perez
On Wednesday, September 13th a U.S. Federal Judge deemed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program illegal once again. Texas District Judge Andrew Hanen’s decision has not ended the DACA program but rather brought it back to the spotlight. Currently, the DACA Renewal process is still in full effect. Yet, initial DACA Applicants have been caught at a standstill as U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has been unable to process new applications since 2021.
District Judge Hanen’s most recent ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S Supreme Court, making it the third time the DACA program will be reviewed. This leaves potential and current DACA recipients to fear for their future as the Supreme Court currently holds a conservative majority. Frankly, the possibility of the end of the DACA program has become more real than ever before.
As of 2023 Arizona is home to 21,890 DACA Recipients. Under the program, eligible immigrants who were brought to the country as children are protected from deportation and are provided with work authorization for a two-year period, subject to renewal. If the program were to come to an end, a large portion of qualified individuals would be forced to leave Arizona’s workforce. This would not only impact recipients but would also affect Arizona’s economy. 15,000 Arizona workers were a part of the DACA program and were estimated to pay $92.3 million in state and local taxes each year. Despite their contributions those who have benefited from the DACA program may now have their future safety at risk.
In addition to current DACA recipients, it is estimated that 44,000 young immigrants are eligible for the program in Arizona alone. Many “Dreamers” continue to prepare themselves for the workforce as it is estimated that 10,000 undocumented youths are in higher education institutions in Arizona. Proposition 308 has made it more feasible for youth to continue their education providing in-state tuition to those who meet qualifications but may not have the proper legal status. Regardless of their achievements and readiness, USCIS is unable to process new DACA applications leaving eligible students under the threat of deportation. They are also unable to acquire work in their field after graduation as they lack the proper work authorization to do so. District Judge Hanen’s ruling once again reminds those in limbo that their future in the United States is unpromised.
While the fate of the DACA program remains uncertain. Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes continues to show support. She has acknowledged Dreamers’ talents and hard work as thousands of immigrants have made Arizona their home through DACA protections, she believes “our state is better because of it”. For many young immigrants, Arizona has become the only home they know as many made the journey to the United States before they could even talk. The Supreme Court once again discussing the validity of the DACA program has not been confirmed but is likely to occur due to past events. In the face of uncertainty, thousands of DACA Recipients and dreamers continue to agonize over the destiny of the DACA program and their future.