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DACA Recipient Calls Supreme Court Decision A 'Bittersweet Victory'05:05
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Reyna Montoya, a DACA recipient and founder and CEO of Aliento, an immigrant aid group in Phoenix. (Courtesy)
Reyna Montoya, a DACA recipient and founder and CEO of Aliento, an immigrant aid group in Phoenix. (Courtesy)

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled 5-4 against the Trump administration's attempt to overturn the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four liberal justices and said the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to end the Obama-era program known as DACA was “arbitrary and capricious.” The decision means that DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers,” are safe from deportation — for now.

Some 650,000 people who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children are actively enrolled in DACA, which allows them to legally work in the U.S. and protects them from deportation. President Trump tried to end the program in 2017, but he was blocked by the lower courts and appealed to the Supreme Court, resulting in Thursday's divided decision.

Reyna Montoya is one of those Dreamers. The founder and CEO of Aliento, an immigrant aid group in Phoenix, says she is “overwhelmed” by the long-awaited decision.

“Definitely it's a very bittersweet victory knowing that, OK, for today I am fine,” she says, “but I don't know if I will continue to be fine tomorrow or whenever the Trump administration decides to do something differently.”

While the court decision likely means the Trump administration won’t move to start deportations immediately, Montoya says she fears that the president will launch another attempt to dismantle the program if he is reelected.

Montoya came to the U.S. with her family in 2003 after escaping violence in Mexico. Her father was kidnapped by police in Tijuana, where Montoya was born. After he was released, she and her family moved to Nogales, Arizona, but they still didn’t feel safe.

“Every time my dad would see a police officer, he was so worried about what that would mean, since he had received a lot of death threats, not only for him, but for my family,” Montoya says.

The family eventually moved to Mesa, Arizona, where Montoya’s father was able to buy a house. Montaya says she fears for her safety if she is ever deported back to Mexico.

“Going back to Mexico can potentially mean that I get kidnapped, that I get killed, and that definitely is something that keeps me up late at night,” she says.

Polls show broad support for DACA among Democrats, Republicans and independents. The program is so popular that Senate Republicans have worked with Democrats to protect Dreamers, but Trump has stifled those efforts.

Montoya is calling on Congress to pass a nonpartisan solution that will provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

“My plea to Congress is to stop playing politics,” she says. “We hope that they will legislate and finally give us a pathway to citizenship, so we don't have to continuously live in this uncertain legal limbo.”


Ashley Locke produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Kathleen McKenna. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on June 18, 2020.

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