Last Friday, a federal judge ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program must be fully restored.
DACA, a policy created in 2012 that protects undocumented young people from deportation, was originally set to be rescinded by President Donald Trump’s administration in September 2017.
According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, around 800,000 people have been approved for DACA since its creation. In a report from March, it was recorded that there are almost 700,000 active recipients and more than 26,000 pending renewals.
UF Director of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and associate professor Paul Ortiz has worked with many DACA recipients during his career. He explained that they’re the hardest working students he’s had the honor of teaching.
“The program has really been a godsend both to the students and their families, but also to society,” Ortiz said. “These are individuals in the program who, you know, bring skills and insights and experiences that we desperately need to renew our country both in terms of how we position ourselves and global reality that we live in.”
Ortiz explained that he was initially shocked, appalled and saddened when the Trump administration decided to take away DACA last year. But he was cautiously optimistic when he heard the recent news of the program being brought back.
“This is more than just a court decision,” Ortiz said. “This is something that impacts whether or not some of my students will see their parents in the next five, 10, 15, 20 years.”
UF Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs Diana Moreno, who was also an immigrant and first-generation college student, explained that she isn’t celebrating the ruling, which she said isn’t the end of the battle for DACA students.
She referred to the Texas ruling by Judge Andrew Hanen that took place Wednesday. The federal judge said the ruling would be held off in regards to the constitutionality of DACA as of Wednesday night, and he would only consider the request of immediately stopping it.
“As an educator and as someone who’s part of the UF community, I have seen firsthand the way that this program has improved the lives of students,” Moreno said. “It has allowed our institution to have access to these students’ talent, to these students’ amazing capacities for the academic and professional potential.”
In the future, Ortiz hopes people will take the time to understand different cultures and talk to immigrants, perhaps realizing shared commonalities of human interest with them.
“What I’m working for in my life as a teacher and citizen is where we relate to each other as human beings, where we don’t ask first ‘what’s your immigration status?’” Ortiz said.
Moreno said the students need the backing of the community now more than ever.
“To any student, faculty or staff at the University of Florida, this is our time as fellow members of the UF community to support these students as much as we can,” Moreno said.