As SCOTUS reviews DACA program, Alaskan recipients face uncertain future

Published: Nov. 12, 2019 at 9:34 PM AKST
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For those who benefit from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the future is more uncertain than ever, as the nation’s highest court considers the legality of the Obama-era order.

While SCOTUS heard oral arguments, thousands of protestors could be heard loud and clear in Washington, D.C., expressing support for the executive action that the Trump Administration has thus far sought to rescind, maintaining that it is unlawful.

“This really highlights the need to have a legislative fix,” said Dan Rodgers, Staff Attorney, Alaska Institute for Justice, “because DACA really isn't the answer.

“Whatever happens, if the court says it's lawful or not, it's not a long-term solution,” he said.

The validity of the program has largely held up in lower courts across America, but its longevity is yet to be determined. That’s contributed to leaving local groups, such as the Alaska Institute for Justice, working especially hard to help secure some type of certainty for people affected by the status of the DACA program.

“Not knowing your future, not knowing certainty in your life, what's going to happen to you,” said a woman who was identified as H.J. for confidentiality purposes, “it’s hard.”

The average age of DACA recipients, Rodgers said, is between 6 and 7 years old upon their arrival to the United States.

“It wasn't their choice to come here,” he said.

About 800,000 DACA recipients are scattered across the United States. H.J., who is of Asian descent, and other individuals from around the world who benefit from the program - which was designed to protect law-abiding undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as kids - are left fighting both near and far from the nations capitol, for their futures.

“I work full time, I try my best to be here, I don't have any criminal records,” H.J. said. "Someone once said, 'When we fight, we win.' It's the right thing to do. I mean, I'm trying to be here, to just live my life, and be just a person. Not some kind of object."

For her, it's a fight for the future of her family as well.

"People, they say, 'take your bastard child with you,'" she said. "This is my home."

She had a message for Alaskan leaders, too: "You should do what is best for your people," she said. "If they want to be the voice for Alaskans, hear my story."

Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan shared their thoughts on the status of DACA on Tuesday. Sen. Murkowski posted on Facebook that she "want[s] the Dreamers in Alaska and across our country to know I stand with them... I strongly believe that we simply should not punish children for the actions of their parents... I for one, stand ready to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to provide a legal, certain path forward for the Dreamers."

Mike Anderson, a spokesperson for Sen. Sullivan's office, said Tuesday evening that Sullivan "supports finding a solution for DACA recipients -- but prefers that Congress create the solution rather than through executive action or judicial review.

Only qualified Dreamers who have not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more other misdemeanors can even be considered for DACA status, according the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

As for a timeline for the future, legal analysts we spoke with said the Supreme Court's ruling will likely not come down until spring of 2020.

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