DACA ruling ‘a huge victory,’ but Dreamers at Berkeley see an uncertain future

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June 18, 2020

By Gretchen Kell and Edward Lempinen

Thousands of immigrant students and staff at the University of California, Berkeley, and across the UC system won continued protection from deportation today when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that President Donald Trump had improperly ended a program that allowed them to study and work in the United States.

The decision said the Trump administration had been “arbitrary and capricious” in ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2017. The decision provides at least temporary security for about 1,700 UC students — some 250 at Berkeley — whose parents brought them to the country as children without documentation.

Yongbin Chang, a Berkeley Law student and DACA recipient, says he’s pleased with the Supreme Court decision, but that much more work must be done to solve the plight of undocumented students.

“Part of me was bracing for negative news,” said Yongbin Chang, a Berkeley Law student who, at age three, came with his parents from South Korea to the United States. “But then when I saw the decision, I thought, ‘Wow! The next stepping stone!’ … There’s still a lot of work ahead. The question for me is: What’s the next step?”

Staff member Valeria Chavez-Ayala, a DACA recipient who is an academic counselor for Berkeley’s Undocumented Student Program, said she had been “very anxious,” about the decision and how it would impact her and the students she advises.

“I feel relief,” she said. “The decision is on our side, and it’s a small victory, but at the same time, I have mixed emotions. Some students and community members never qualified for DACA. …And I also think about immigrants and refugees sitting in detention centers right now — we need to do better as a society.”

While the future of the DACA program remains uncertain, UC leaders and students joined Chang and Chavez-Ayala in celebrating the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision for its legal and human impact on an estimated 700,000 DACA recipients, commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” in California and nationwide.

UC President Janet Napolitano helped create DACA when she served as secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama, and she led the university’s legal action against Trump’s 2017 decision to end DACA. She joined UC Board of Regents Chair John A. Pérez in calling the ruling “historic.”

“At every step in our case,” they wrote, “we were acutely aware of the tangible, harmful impacts of ending the DACA policy on the lives of these individuals and their families, and on the communities where they are valued contributors. Today’s decision is a hard-won victory for these DACA recipients, their families, and our whole community. It is a victory for justice and due process. And it is a victory for what is legal, and what is right.”

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