DACA ruling devastates young immigrants about to receive protections

Posted at 6:13 PM, Jul 19, 2021

"We live in with such fear and such uncertainty that it's just really difficult to continue."

Leidy León was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was only 2. Today, the 19-year-old college student has high ambitions for herself. 

"After college and getting my B.A. in ethnic studies, and hopefully double majoring in political science,  probably go back to school, to law school. That would be super cool," León said.

But her undocumented status could get in the way of her career, even though she technically qualifies for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protection, known as DACA.   

The Obama-era program temporarily shields from deportation over 600,000 immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age. 

“I had submitted my application and everything. I had already gotten my fingerprints. I was actually really excited. I did get my hopes up,” León said. 

On Friday night, her life was turned upside down once again. 

A federal judge in Texas ruled the DACA program was illegal and blocked it for León and tens of thousands of immigrants who were about to receive it for the first time. 

"Obviously, I was kind of, like, in shock. I didn't really believe it."

León has had her fair share of bad luck.  

She turned 15 — the minimum age to qualify for DACA — right when then-President Donald Trump suspended the program in 2017 and missed out on the protection for years as a result.  

The program reopened in full last December following a Supreme Court decision, and León applied right away. 

But the Biden administration didn’t process her case on time, and her fears of getting deported remain. 

"This administration hasn't really taken enough action. And we're over here in a state of uncertainty again," León said.

Now, pressure is mounting on the White House and Congress to give so-called Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants permanent protections.

"So we know the clock is ticking now, right?" said Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, a DACA recipient and advocacy manager at United We Dream, an immigrant rights organization.  

Friday's ruling allows Macedo do Nascimento and other current DACA recipients to maintain and renew their two-year deportation protections and work permits.  

But that could soon change as the case makes its way through the court system. 

“We know that it's not going to stay that way for much longer,” said Macedo do Nascimento.

She and León urge Democrats to include a pathway to citizenship in a sweeping budget deal they’re hoping to pass later this year.  

“We just want to make sure that the pressure is used in a good way to make sure that the package is as inclusive, as big, as generous as possible to include as many people as possible,” said Macedo do Nascimento.  

This story originally reported by Ben Schamisso on