In early July, the Supreme Court ruled that President Donald Trump was not allowed to revoke the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program put in place by his predecessor, President Barack Obama. The program grants temporary legal status to people who were brought to this country as children, provided they graduate from high school or are dishonorably discharged from the military and pass a background check.
Members of Santa Clara University’s (SCU) DACA community say things were very tense ahead of the Supreme Court decision.
“In the weeks leading up to the DACA decision, I know that for myself and for the couple of students that I was talking to, the stress level was at a height that I hadn’t seen it before because it’s so uncertain and it’s so out of your hands,” said Karla De La Torre, the Director of Student Life at SCU’s law school. De La Torre graduated from SCU in 2009 and SCU’s law school in 2014. She is also DACA.
Diana, a DACA recipient who recently graduated from SCU and is working towards her Masters in Education, says she was preparing for the worst.
“I was getting ready to say goodbye. I was telling everybody, ‘This isn’t going to happen. I’m only going to be here for one more year.’ Kind of prepare myself mentally to do that,” said Diana. “When the Supreme Court said that DACA could stay alive and other people could apply, I felt really relieved. I was really happy because it meant that at least for another three years — if and when my application for renewal is approved — I get to finish my Masters and continue my education and continue doing what I love, which is teaching and education.”
While both women are thankful for the positive decision, they know more work needs to be done.
“I just hope that people don’t rest on the laurels of this…they’re not all encompassing,” said De La Torre. “I just hope that people continue to fight and continue to advocate for the changes that need to happen. By that, I mean comprehensive immigration reform.”
Erin Kimura Walsh, who works in SCU’s DACA and undocumented students, says even with the Supreme Court ruling there is still a high level of concern amongst students.
“I think all of our students are incredibly concerned and I think all of us who support them are concerned as well,” said Walsh “The Supreme Court case is just one little piece…of this bigger puzzle.”
SCU offers scholarships and support to DACA and undocumented students including resource days to try and help them remedy their status.
Walsh points out that many of the current SCU students aren’t DACA, they’re undocumented. That’s because they were too young to apply to the DACA program when it was halted in 2017 or they were simply too scared. She says, even today, many are too scared to reveal their status to even their closest friends.
“Increasingly, I feel like more of our students are much more hesitant to share; much more fearful,” said Walsh. “I think some share with very close friends. I have a student who said not even his closest friends know, but the only group of students that know that he’s undocumented are the other undocumented students in this Santa Clara community.”
Walsh points out that DACA is not a path to citizenship. Diana says it’s that uncertainty that makes things very hard.
“I do recognize that [the Supreme Court ruling is] a small win and that I’m privileged to even have it at least for another year, or another two years, but I think that stress never goes away or that uneasiness,” said Diana. “I’m always aware I can’t make plans in the future because I might not be here to carry those out.”