Congress must act boldly on DACA, if the Supreme Court upholds termination

By Jose Garcia, Special to CalMatters

Eight years ago, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program known as DACA, that gave more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, like myself, a chance to pursue the American dream.  

The order gave me authorization to work, a social security number, and most importantly, the safety and reassurance of knowing that I wouldn’t be targeted for deportation from the country I call home.  

But three years ago, that sense of comfort was jeopardized by White House officials when they recklessly rescinded the program without proper recourse. Immediately, this rescission was challenged in federal court, placing the status of our lives in legal limbo. We are all anxious, as we await the U.S. Supreme Court to issue its ruling on the termination of the program, which is expected by June.

There are more than 200,000 DACA recipients who are serving on the frontlines of America’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They are confronting a deep fear that their country will turn its back on them, while they risk their lives as “essential” workers during the coronavirus crisis. From health care workers and grocery store attendants to cooks and teachers, we are helping save lives and helping save the economy. 

In my case, I am one of the 25,000 DACA recipients who work in the country’s nonprofit sector. We are setting up relief funds to help those most in need, providing food assistance to hungry families and advocating for workers rights during the global pandemic.

If the Supreme Court sides with the White House, how will these trusted institutions manage the growing needs of our communities with staff members who would no longer be legally authorized to work? 

Our country can ill afford to be silent about DACA. In the face of this pandemic, too much is at stake. 

Business leaders in particular must raise their voice to protect DACA recipients. DACA recipients living in California contribute nearly $3 billion in federal, state and local taxes, as well as represent $7.8 billion in spending power. Should we lose our protections, California’s economic recovery could move from manageable to difficult in the years to come.

Advocacy must also come from everyday individuals who know DACA recipients by their other titles: fellow students, neighbors, church members and more. We are the same people who have stood by your side and will continue to do so despite any ruling from the highest court. 

This is why Congress holds a unique position to settle this dilemma once and for all. Recently, the Latino Community Foundation and members of the National Latino Funds Alliance wrote a joint letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her to find permanent solutions in Congress should the Supreme Court fail to safeguard our protections.

As we slowly bend the curve and reopen our communities, we cannot afford to leave DACA recipients behind. We deserve, at minimum, a legal status that is not bound by a two-year time frame, and completely unbound by the political whims of the moment.

In this new era of COVID-19, let’s stand in solidarity with all DACA recipients who are your neighbors, your co-workers and your fellow Americans. It’s the right and just thing to do.


Jose Garcia, a DACA recipient, is a communications associate for the Latino Community Foundation based in San Francisco, [email protected]  

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