'I Know My Path:' After DACA Ruling Teen's Future Looks Bright Safe
When she woke up last Thursday morning, 17-year-old Arlette Morales pulled on a "Home is Here" t-shirt. She didn't know how prophetic it was.
Hours later, Morales, who was two years old when her parents brought her to the United States from Mexico, learned he Supreme Court salvaged an Obama-era program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of young, unauthorized immigrants - just like her - known as "Dreamers" to remain in the country without immediate fear of deportation.
"I was like, 'Hold up. This is something that affects me," she told me last week. "I had my 'Home is Here,' t-shirt on. It was the first one that I grabbed. It was a coincidence. But I see a vision for my life. I feel so much relief."
The court's 5-4 decision was a massive win for compassion and commonsense.
In it, Chief Justice John Roberts, joining with the court's liberal members, ruled that the Trump White House broke the law in 2017 when it ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
The court held that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's decision to end the program was "arbitrary and capricious" and therefore in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
In other words, the court said that if President Donald Trump and his band of xenophobes wants to find a way to deport hundreds of thousands of young people, it was going to have to come up with a legally defensible way to do it on its own. The court wasn't going to do Trump's dirty work for him.
The decision, on top of an earlier ruling upholding workplace protections for LGBTQ Americans, came as a blow for the Trump base, who'd hoped that, by packing the court with right-wing jurists, that they'd be able remake America in their own image: Notably whiter and straighter, and wholly more discriminatory.
But a funny thing happens when presidential appointees spend some time on the court. Their adherence to constitutional principles and the law, not to mention the pressing concern for chief justices such as Roberts of how the court will be viewed by history, takes precedence.
The decision to rescind DACA, for instance, failed to take into account the practical impacts of that action, and the "court would not allow DHS to eliminate DACA without adequately dealing with those complications," he wrote.
In a statement, Sergio Gonzales, deputy director of the advocacy group, the Immigration Hub, made those complications quite clear.
"As the country faces a pandemic, approximately 202,500 Dreamers are working on the frontlines to save lives and keep our essential industries running," Gonzales said. "Every day, Dreamers remind us they are part of what we aspire to be as a nation."
Gonzales also noted that, despite the high court's reprieve, the program is still in danger. Trump, and his heartless immigration adviser Stephen Miller, could find another way to end it.
Trump, predictably, made the decision all about him, taking to Twitter to muse, "Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?"
Of course, the DACA ruling has zero to do with how Roberts and his fellow justices feel about the Twitter Troll-in-Chief. But it does have everything to do with Arlette Morales and her future.
Tragically, Morales just missed eligibility for the program when the White House put the brakes on it two years ago.
And with the program's end, Morales, a rising senior at Logos Academy, a Christian school in York, Pa., had to put off all the decisions that young people at her age start to consider as their high school careers wind down.
While her classmates wondered where to apply to college, Morales wondered whether she'd still be in the United States by the time graduation rolled around.
Now that she's again eligible for DACA, she can start thinking about that again.
"The day it got shut down was really heartbreaking, not just for me, but thousands of families around the country," she said. "Especially going into my junior year, where you start planning for the future. I never knew if things would work out. I know the path I want to take, and now I can say that confidently."
That's the real American Dream.
Copyright 2020 John L. Micek, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.