June 18, 2020

SCOTUS DACA decision will help 5,800 New Mexico DACA recipients

Laura Paskus

The U.S. Supreme Court.

About 5,800 recipients of legal protections for some young immigrants in the state got surprising, but welcome, news Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against President Donald Trump in his lawsuit against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

The 5-4 ruling allows the program under the Department for Homeland Security to continue. Put in place under the Obama administration in 2012, it allows individuals who came to the U.S. as children to gain temporary legal status so they can apply to college and professional jobs. According to a 2019 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service report, 652,880 residents are enrolled in the program.

New Mexico was one of the states that sued the federal government.

“Today’s victory belongs to the thousands of New Mexican families and people who are leaders in our State and Country because of DACA,” Attorney General Balderas said in a statement. “While we’ve prevailed in this critical defense, our nation’s leaders must still fight to protect these valuable members of our community, and my office will continue to be front and center in that fight.”

Trump sought to end the program by questioning whether former President Barack Obama had overstepped his authority by creating the program through executive order. James Jimenez, executive director of New Mexico Voices for Children, called Trump’s efforts ironic.

“The irony is that the Trump administration never misses an opportunity to claim no limits to what the president can do,” Jimenez said.

Trump tweeted in response to the ruling that U.S. Supreme Court justices may not “like him,” and described the ruling as a “shotgun blast into the face,” both of which were heavily derided on Twitter.

He also tweeted that he would try again.

But for 28-year-old Yazmin Irazoqui-Ruiz, it is a relief to know that she won’t lose the job she trained for when she attended University of New Mexico Medical School. She graduated from there in May, she said.

A DACA recipient, Irazoqui-Ruiz started her general surgeon residency at a hospital in Albuquerque Thursday, the same day the ruling came down from the court.

“It was a lot of emotion,” Irazoqui-Ruiz told NM Political Report by phone. She said her twin sister texted her the news.

Irazoqui-Ruiz’s family emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when she was three years old. She has no memories of Mexico.

Like many immigrant families, Irazoqui-Ruiz’s family is mixed status but as the only DACA recipient in her family, she was the only one in danger of losing that status and thus, her ability to stay in the country.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal side of the court on most of the decision. The other conservative justices dissented.

This is the second time this week that the Supreme Court, which has grown more conservative since Trump took office, took a more left-leaning position on cases that came before it in recent years. The court ruled in a 6-3 landmark decision on Monday, also against Trump’s wishes, that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes protections for LGBTQ workers.

Related:  NM LGBTQ community have mixed reactions over actual impact of anti-discrimination ruling

Flaviano Graciano, communications director for nonprofit New Mexico Dream Team, said that in New Mexico, residents who lack citizenship status are able to apply for higher education but that’s “not a reality in other states.”

He said being a DACA recipient allows immigrants to work jobs that benefit a career and financially support a family and “fulfill the dreams their parents have for them.”

The DACA program isn’t without its critics. It is not a pathway to citizenship. Recipients must reapply every two years. The $495 application fee is sometimes hard for immigrant families to raise. Irazoqui-Ruiz said she had to wait years to apply because she didn’t have the application money and it was hard to pull together all the documentation required to show that she had entered the country at the age of three.

Jimenez said that 90 percent of DACA recipients work and 54 percent are in college. He said that trying to end the program is “a cynical attempt to try and rally political support.”

But, he said that targets against immigrants, despite the fact that the original group who formulated the U.S. government were not native, has been “seen throughout our history.”

“It’s pretty clear there’s been a campaign based on fear and xenophobia for quite some time,” Jimenez said.

Trump also tweeted, in reaction, that he is creating a new list of judges to consider for future Supreme Court appointments, apparently threatening to make future appointments more conservative than before. 

Several New Mexico elected officials weighed in on the announcement. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called the decision “right and just and long overdue.” Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both Democrats, urged Republicans in Congress to pass legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship.

Update: Added quote from AG Hector Balderas.