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Here's what the DACA ruling means to immigrants in the Northwest

caption: Maya, center, a student at the Jose Marti Child Development Center holds a Save DACA sign during a community rally in support of DACA recipients on Tuesday, September 5, 2017, at El Centro De La Raza in Seattle.
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Maya, center, a student at the Jose Marti Child Development Center holds a Save DACA sign during a community rally in support of DACA recipients on Tuesday, September 5, 2017, at El Centro De La Raza in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the DACA program can remain for now, despite objections from the White House.

KUOW reporter Esmy Jimenez – herself a DACA recipient -- and Matt Adams, legal director with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, spoke separately with KUOW’s Angela King about the ruling, and what it means for some 800,000 undocumented immigrants who live and work in the United States.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Angela King: Esmy, I understand you were able to talk to two of the plaintiffs in the Supreme Court case, how are they reacting?

Esmy Jimenez: I talked to Miriam Gonzalez and Norma Ramirez. They've been involved with this case since it was filed back in 2017. Miriam is a teacher in Los Angeles, and she's 27. Norma is finishing up her Ph.D. in clinical psychology. She's 30. When I was talking to them yesterday over Zoom, they were both so tense. They kept saying, we don't know what's going to happen. And today as I was reaching out to them, they were both so excited and just saying that they were getting a lot of messages from people and overwhelmed with this decision.

Are there any concerns though, given the fact that this is not a sealed deal? Are they still worried that this may not hold up in future months and years?

Absolutely. One of the things that stuck out is that as we were talking, Miriam pointed out she wants to have more than two-year increments. She's been living like this for eight years, because the work permit only provides that amount of time. So for her, it felt like a Band-aid reaction, as opposed to something that would really give her the opportunity to follow through with what she wants to do in life.

What about other local reaction here in our state?

Well, here in Washington, there's an estimated 16,000 DACA recipients, most of them in King County. And for them, it also means they can renew their work permits and continue staying in the U.S. legally. I talked to one young DACA recipient here, her name is Karla. I'm only using her first name because of her immigration status. And she was talking about the tension and the waiting.

So I talked to Karla again this morning and she said she was scrolling through social media seeing all the responses that were coming in. She's getting texts from friends who were messaging her and congratulating her. And it's just this good feeling of knowing there's at least some kind of future for her.

Esmy, you're not only a reporter, you are also a DACA recipient. What does this news mean to you this morning?

I've been up since 5:30. I was looking at the SCOTUS blog, trying to make sure that I was updated as a reporter, but also personally, and as soon as the decision came out around 7:02 in the morning, I immediately called my mom, I let her know what was happening. She teared up, I teared up a little bit, and then you know, I wiped my face and I was like, 'OK, now we turn around and we go back into our work' because this is what I want to keep doing.

Conversation with Matt Adams, legal director with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

Angela King: Your reaction.

Matt Adams: I have to say I'm very excited and surprised. This has had a critical target on it from day one in this administration. And after so much opposition, to see it survived this Supreme Court is a delightful surprise. But it demonstrates even this administration, once a while, has to abide by the law.

And this was a 5-4 ruling the majority didn't feel the White House followed proper procedures as they tried to shut down the program. Can you flesh this out a bit more for us?

DACA of course, is targeted at those individuals who were brought to this country as children, and then later on, are either in high school or graduated from high school. And so given that the Trump administration had already successfully challenged and eliminated a subsequent program [aimed at their parents], it took aim at the DACA program. Given the conservative leanings of the Supreme Court, I think the general consensus was that of course, this program was also going to get shut down. But the Supreme Court found that the Trump administration had failed to follow the rules in withdrawing or terminating this program.

What we've seen time and time, again, with the Trump administration, is that they have eliminated rules they don't like. And what this decision is saying is that they do not have carte blanche to do what they want. In fact, one of the arguments the Trump administration has made all along is that the court did not even have the authority to review their decision. And this court resoundingly struck that down and said, 'of course, we do have authority to review this decision.' So it's going to have wide-ranging impact all across the country, not just in the immigration context, but in other federal matters.

So what do you think is going to happen to DACA now?

Well, this, as we said it's had a critical target on it from day one. But unlike some of the other political targets, the administration hesitated initially in terminating this program, and the reason they did so they were concerned about the political fallout for the elections. Now, here we are, with elections coming down the throat again in November. And so yeah, it's gonna be very interesting to see if they even attempt to take more action before these upcoming elections. My best guess is that there's not gonna be anything that happens before the fall elections. And then Trump again will say it's up to Congress to fix this mess. But even if they go the other route, even if they decide to do try to take action again, in order to throw his political base a bone before the elections, it's very unlikely that there would be any type of resolution before the end of the year, certainly there will be legal challenges again.

So your parting words for the thousands of people here in our state under the DACA program.

It's a very good day in the middle of all this craziness. We know that despite the political target that was placed on it, it survived. So all those individuals and those who have family members or loved ones who have DACA status, know they have a certain amount of stability now, as we move forward throughout the rest of this year.

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