Austin braces for 2020 Supreme Court DACA decision


Austin American-Statesman: Austin braces for 2020 Supreme Court DACA decision

By : Nancy Flores

Armando Sánchez hopes his Plan B never happens. When the 20-year-old talks about it with his parents, he begins to tremble.

Sánchez, who is among more than 100,000 Texas-based Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients, has had the difficult conversation with his parents about what would happen to him if the protection that shields him from deportation ends.

After the U.S. Supreme Court heard DACA arguments last week that could decide his fate, Sánchez, a sophomore studying political science at Austin Community College, began asking his government professors their take on what the future may hold.

“I’m very scared,” he said. Aside from losing his right to live and work in the United States, not having DACA status also means separating from his family.

The Plan B, he said, involves him moving to Canada, his parents returning to Mexico, and it’s still unclear to his family what would happen to his brother, who is a U.S. citizen.

The Trump administration has called the DACA program “unlawful.” This summer, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton led a multi-state coalition in an amicus brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the administration’s decision to rescind DACA.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision could come as early as January 2020. Central Texas immigrant advocacy groups, nonprofit legal organizations and their community partners have begun to brace for an uncertain future by boosting outreach efforts, encouraging DACA recipients to submit renewal applications and to seek legal and mental health assistance.

In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court hearing, the nonprofit legal service provider American Gateways on Thursday partnered with the ACC Eastview Campus for a DACA information session. Since 2017, when the Trump administration rescinded DACA, sessions like these have become a tool for immigrant advocates to combat misinformation and navigate quickly changing policies.

Sánchez has watched closely as the DACA program has undergone political and legal twists and turns. His future has been in limbo for years. Since 2017, several federal courts have allowed DACA renewals to continue, but no new applications have been accepted.

At Thursday’s session, students worried about how to best prepare for the court’s pending decision.

“It’s important not to let fear consume you,” Hiram Garcia, volunteer and outreach coordinator for American Gateways, told participants. “Uncertainty shouldn’t translate to fear because there’s a lot of support.” Remaining strong, he said, is vital.

Last week, hundreds of DACA proponents rallied in front of Paxton’s downtown Austin office while bigger crowds gathered outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington. Following the court hearing, media outlets reported the nation’s highest court appeared likely to allow the Trump administration to shut down DACA.

“It’s hard to know what the future holds,” said Cristina Cigarroa, a staff attorney at American Gateways. “It’s a challenge because there’s so much we don’t know and we can’t always predict the future, but there are steps we can take to prepare ourselves,” she told students.

Recommendations included staying up-to-date with the latest information and checking with legal service providers to see if DACA recipients are eligible for other immigration benefits.

At ACC, letting students know they are not alone and offering as much information about DACA as possible is a priority, said Megan Garcia, an outreach specialist for the college’s Ascender program, which focuses on supporting first-generation college students. In October, the ACC board of trustees approved signing on to an amicus curiae brief describing what DACA recipients meant to the campus for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider.

“We don’t want these students to give up hope,” Garcia said. Campus counselors are also available at the college to address the mental health of DACA students, she said. “We’re here to make them feel empowered and support them.”

According to the Equal Justice Center, DACA recipients who are able to renew their two-year certifications will probably be able to keep their DACA protections at least into the next presidential term, even if the court allows the Trump administration to end DACA.

For Sánchez, whose been accepted to Texas State University and dreams of running for political office one day, thinking of his Plan B terrifies him. While he awaits the court’s decision, he’s decided on a new strategy to keep him pushing forward.

“I’m using all these emotions I’m feeling,” he said, “as an energy source.”