By Kristina Cooke and Mimi Dwyer
LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK, June 18 (Reuters) – Oregon elementary school teacher Nancy Flores-Sanchez, 34, was getting ready for her summertime work as a children’s camp counselor in Portland when she learned that the U.S. Supreme Court had preserved an immigration program that has protected her from deportation.
One of the so-called “Dreamers,” Flores-Sanchez had just put on one shoe when she read on Twitter about Thursday’s ruling, and froze.
“It was kind of an overwhelming, super-short rollercoaster,” said Flores-Sanchez, who during the school year is a first-grade teacher of Spanish immersion classes. “In the span of 10 minutes, I went into that panic mode that I usually go into of preparing myself, and then all of a sudden it was elation at knowing that I was going to be allowed to stay.”
Flores-Sanchez has lived in the United States since age 5.
The court blocked President Donald Trump’s 2017 effort to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which provides young immigrants like Flores-Sanchez who came to the country illegally as children protection from deportation and permission to work.
Reuters spoke to a dozen DACA recipients in eight states after the ruling. Many said their lives had been on pause for several years, putting off trips, applications to graduate school, and having difficulty planning for the future.
There are about 649,000 peopled enrolled in DACA, according to the most recent government data.
After DACA was implemented in 2012, many immigrants were able to get jobs and start families and businesses without fear of deportation. Trump’s 2017 move left their status uncertain.
‘SOME GOOD NEWS’
In Los Angeles, 29-year-old Javier Hernandez-Kistte, a visual-effects producer for film and TV, said he has been struggling with stress and depression since Trump took office and then sought to rescind DACA.
On Thursday, he woke up to a missed call from his aunt and immediately checked the news, before calling her back: “I told her I couldn’t believe it. With everything that’s going on in the country – the pandemic, the protests – some good news.”
Some DACA recipients, who came to the country as children, now have children of their own.
Brisa Rios, a 28-year-old DACA enrollee working as a social studies teacher in Oklahoma City, has a year-old son and is six months pregnant. Rios said she had been worried she would be deported to Mexico and that her son – an American citizen by virtue of being born in the United States – would need to come with her or be left behind in someone else’s care.
“Nobody’s going to care for him like I do,” Rios said.
Other DACA enrollees noted that the fix is still temporary because the program does not offer a path to U.S. citizenship, work permits must be renewed every two years and Trump could try again to end it.
“I feel content. I think the decision was what we deserved, but at the same time I am also thinking we still have to defend the program,” said Melody Klingenfuss, a 26-year-old DACA recipient and organizer with the California Dream Network.
Geordick Fernandez, 23, who came to the United States from Peru as a toddler, noted that DACA is still no permanent solution.
“When you’re three you have no say over where your parents want to take you,” Fernandez said. “I had no say in this. I was just brought here. And, boom, here I am.”
Martha Valenzuela, a 25-year-old in Chicago working as an account executive for a pharmaceuticals communications agency, said while the ruling was a relief, she is not ready to relax.
“A path to citizenship,” Valenzuela said, “that would be something to celebrate for me.”
(Reporting by Kristina Cooke in Los Angeles and Mimi Dwyer in New York; Additional reporting by Ted Hesson in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham and Mica Rosenberg)