DACA case ‘burden’ of uncertainty for VCU Dreamer

RICHMOND, Va. -- Nearing graduation, focusing on her political science courses is critical for VCU student Yanet Amado. Focusing on class Tuesday was difficult, she said, because Amado is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, and the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case that could decide its fate.

"It’s going to be a really busy day, so I won’t really be able to analyze the oral arguments," Amado said. "I think it’s hard to not think about it."

In 2017, the Trump administration announced it would end the DACA program, which was launched by executive action during the Obama administration. Trump administration officials argued the policy was executive overreach and unconstitutional.

States, advocacy groups, and major corporations are fighting to uphold DACA on the grounds that the Trump administration did not provide proper rationale for ending the program.

Nearly 700,000 children of immigrants have been granted DACA protections, and nearly 10,000 in Virginia, according to federal government data. The so-called "Dreamers" are granted deferred deportation and given education and employment waivers.

Amado, whose family moved from Mexico when she was eight years old, grew up in Henrico County.  She called the last two years of pending DACA litigation a "burden" of uncertainty.

"I kind of knew it was going to happen. I just didn’t realize how much of a burden it was going to be the last two years," Amado said. "I know I’m going to graduate, I know it’s going to be on time, I just don’t know what’s going to happen after."

Amado said DACA allowed her to drive, work, go to school, and pay in-state tuition, which followed a 2014 opinion by Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) that Dreamers can qualify for in-state tuition at Virginia universities and colleges.

If the Supreme Court rules against DACA, Amado said she "doesn't want to think about" what her future, let alone employment prospects, might hold.

"DACA is tied down to my educational aspirations," Amado said. "I think something I grew up hearing that education would set you free, but I don’t think that’s the reality for me because my education is tied down to my immigration status."

Some critics of the DACA program do not blame the recipients but argue the policy allows immigrant families to circumvent the law and promotes illegal immigration.

Amado said Virginia Dreamers are already contributing to Virginia's economy and want to continue.

Tuesday, President Trump tweeted that if the Justices ended DACA, he would cut a deal with Democrats so that Dreamers could stay in the U.S. Amado had not seen the tweet prior to speaking with CBS 6, but said she is highly skeptical that a polarized and partisan Congress could come to an agreement on a legislative framework that protects Dreamers.

The Supreme Court, which is divided along ideological lines 5-4 with conservative Justices in the majority, is expected to issue an opinion in the case next year.

"I don’t know what’s going to happen, and I don’t think anything is going to get resolved," Amado said.  "Honestly, I don’t know, and sometimes I don’t like to think about it."

Amado wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post asking states to codify Herring's in-state tuition policy for children of undocumented immigrants. 

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