June 18, the Supreme Court successfully blocked the Trump Administration from terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act. DACA is an Obama-era plan to protect individuals who are brought to the United States without documentation as children, allowing them to live and work in the country.
This is a major effort by the Supreme Court to prevent the deportation of nearly 700,000 DACA recipients and preserve diversity within our society. After all, what kind of politician would blame children for political or social issues?
Professor Charles Kupchan, who teaches International Affairs at Georgetown University and is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, said “for Trump, making America great again means making it white again.”
The Trump administration argued that DACA cannot be created through the Executive Order, because an Executive Order bypasses congressional approval as a set of laws. Therefore, it centralizes more power to the Executive. According to Trump, DACA is unconstitutional.
This argument is unjustified. The power of issuing Executive Orders is vested within Article II of the Constitution, stating that “[the president] shall take care that laws be faithfully executed.”
The Obama Administration saw DACA as fit to faithfully execute the 14th Amendment under the equal protection clause, which applies to DACA recipients because they have the right to live and work in the U.S., making them naturalized citizens on both federal and state levels.
If the DACA Executive Order is unconstitutional, then Trump’s Executive Orders on the suspension of entry of nonimmigrants of certain students and researchers from China and suspensions of patients who present a risk to the U.S. Labor Market following the COVID-19 outbreak are also up for legal debate.
Both Executive Orders blocked legal immigration processes by restricting visas without Congressional approval or authorization. Wouldn’t this also be a unilateral effort on immigration that centralizes power to Trump? Trump’s argument to end DACA remains unjustified, ill-willed and most importantly, unconstitutional, as found by the Supreme Court.
On the state level, Wisconsin DACA recipients feel relieved after the Supreme Court’s ruling and vow to continue fighting for DACA programs and for immigrants’ rights.
After hearing the Supreme Court’s decision, Martín Batalla Vidal, a DACA recipient and activist who is a plaintiff in the case, said, “We are able to breathe a sigh of relief.”
There are around 6,600 active DACA recipients in Wisconsin. But, the future of the program still remains uncertain. For one, the Supreme Court defined the administration’s action as unconstitutional due to procedural issues, meaning that Trump will keep challenging the program with proper procedures. How can the public and the government protect DACA programs when it is challenged again?
DACA recipients must constantly renew their permits. While the permits allow them to legally live and work in the U.S., they could be denied opportunities at any given time.
“Because DACA recipients can be denied opportunities, they have the chance to be deported at any time, meaning that the protection offered by DACA is not absolute,”Assistant Professor Marla A. Ramirez, who was previously undocumented and is now teaching and researching immigration issues at the University of Wisconsin, said.
In the State of Wisconsin, permits do not have the same effects as legally distributed IDs like driver’s licenses, which would deny DACA recipients the right to exercise their political powers such as voting or holding offices. Why is this problematic? Because of this, policies regarding DACA and immigration made by the legislature lack proper representation.
This does not mean the undocumented community does not have a voice. But, according to Professor Ramirez, “the government responds to the voices poorly.” Therefore, the state legislature should pass laws to allow DACA recipients to apply for driver’s licenses or other legally distributed IDs.
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What can UW do to continue pushing for immigration reforms? For one, the Chancellor and the Board of Regents should pressure the state legislators and actively work with our Senators to allow DACA recipients to apply for Driver’s Licenses in Wisconsin. This would offer a better solution than renewing their permits frequently while facing possibilities of deportation when opportunities are denied.
Another thing the university should keep doing is establishing a safe space for all students where they feel welcome and respected. This is a multifold issue that the university needs to consider — financially, legally and mentally.
“The university should open up more organized funds so that students would have more sources to pay for their expenses,” Ramirez said. “The university also has the power to advocate for undocumented students to pay for state-level tuition, which would be a good first step — it would allow them to have equal opportunities to higher education.”
On the legal side of the issue, the university should offer students free legal consultation and actively request equal protection and due process under the 14th Amendment when DACA recipients are targeted by immigration enforcement. As Ramirez mentioned, DACA recipients constantly live with uncertainty and fear of deportation.
In order to achieve this, Anna Oltman, a PhD candidate in International Relations, believes that the university should protect students.
“[The university should] ensure that UW students are not targeted by immigration enforcement and that the university protects their sensitive personal information,” Oltman said.
Lastly, because DACA recipients live with uncertainty and in fear of deportation, the university should provide free mental health services. When students live under additional stress that is added to existing academic concerns, they are easily traumatized. This could lead to severe mental issues such as depression and anxiety.
According to Oltman, the university should also,“actively [foster] a community where people are safe and supported.” Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s recent statement addressing racial inequalities on campus was a great step in this direction.
“[The] court ruling is a positive step for the talented, passionate and motivated young people here at UW and around the country who want to continue to make meaningful contributions to our country,” Blank stated. “Individuals who are participants in DACA … are important members of our UW-Madison community.”
Ken Wang ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science.