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The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program aims to help those brought to the U.S. as children.

PMG FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Christian Calzada, a student at Portland Community College, addresses advocates for Tigard declaring itself a sanctuary city in this 2017 photo

The Supreme Court on Thursday, June 18, rejected the Trump White House's effort to end legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants via the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

For now, those immigrants retain their protection from deportation and their authorization to work in the United States

Christian Calzada is a Forest Grove resident and member of Oregon DreamActivist group: "I was born in Mexico and came here at about a year old with family," Calzada said Thursday "We grew up hardworking … when DACA came out it was a huge opportunity for us."

He reacted with joy over the ruling: "Overwhelmingly happy and relieved. A lot of feelings. Relief I can keep my jobs, continue to work and go to school. As well as excitement. … In hard times, it's good to win one," he said. "But I acknowledge that there's still a lot of people who don't have this opportunity and though it's a great solution, we need something more permanent."

Calzada said the Supreme Court ruling is a step in the right direction.

"For me right now, (we can) take an opportunity to celebrate. But again, we have to move to something more permanent. … We need Congress to prepare a bill that takes care of our needs because we do great things. We're such a great help for economy; during coronavirus people continue to work day in and day out.

"The decision today is great but it does leave an opportunity that, if the administration wants to reword and say why they want to remove DACA, they can," Calzada warned. "DACA is not permanent by any means and we know this president has shown actively he is not for it and if possible he would remove it."

A family thing

For Petrona Dominguez Francisco and Eddie Bolaños, the ruling means they might be able to leave the United States temporarily to visit resting places of loved ones who recently died.

Dominguez Francisco is the advocacy and leadership program coordinator at Adelante Mujeres, a Forest Grove-based nonprofit serving the Latino community. Bolaños also works at Adelante Mujeres as the nonprofit's facilities, operations and IT manager.

Dominguez Francisco and Bolaños are both DACA recipients who have not been able to return to their birth countries to spend time with family after a grandparent recently died.

A program called "advance parole" allowed DACA recipients to leave the country temporarily for family emergencies.

"I needed this back in October when my grandpa passed away," Dominguez Francisco said. "Not having that, in that very crucial moment, the opportunity to go say 'bye' with my family members was very difficult. The sense of relief, just being able to open the doors for advance parole, will finally give me that need to go say 'hi' and 'bye' to my grandparents back home."

Even with the Supreme Court's ruling, Bolaños said, there's enough uncertainty around how the Trump administration will enforce it to make people wanting to take advantage of advance parole worry about trying to get back into the United States after leaving.

"I'm certainly going to be seeking advance parole," Bolaños said, hoping to be able to visit the grave of his grandmother, who died in Mexico in January.

Welcome news in Woodburn

Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN) Executive Director Reyna Lopez:

"We were very happy to see this win. Woodburn is home to hundreds of DACA recipients (including) many who came through the doors of the service center at PCUN for help with their applications."

Lopez said the lingering incertitude was stressful.

"The uncertainty of DACA from week to week was really taking its toll on Woodburn DACA recipients," she said. "Today's Supreme Court decision was monumental, and such a testament to the courageousness of DACA recipients and young immigrants in fighting to create and defend DACA, and to continue pushing for protections for all. 

"This win is also a testament to the thousands of individuals who have supported DACA, by sharing their stories, through organizing efforts, by participation in amicus briefs, and through a myriad of other ways. Si se pudo!"

CAPACES Leadership Institute Executive Director Jaime Arredondo echoed Lopez's enthusiasm, but he also cautioned that more work needs to be done.

"We are very happy about the SCOTUS decision, but this is an issue that is much bigger than DACA," Arredondo said. "Until we have fair immigration reform with a pathway towards citizenship for the 11 million undocumented essential workers, our work is far from done."

PMG FILE PHOTO - DACA recipient and PCC student Petrona Dominguez led an afternoon rally at the PCC Southeast campus in 2018.

Other voices

Throughout the Metro area, people began to react early Thursday to the news.

"Today's decision brings needed certainty to hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who had the rug pulled out from under them by a cruel administration," said state Rep. Mark Meek of Clackamas County. "I thank the Supreme Court for doing what is right and just. We celebrate today but know there is so much more work in front of us."

Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education, said the ruling impacts approximately 650,000 DACA recipients nationwide, including more than 11,000 in Oregon. "ODE will continue to support districts in redoubling Oregon's efforts to ensure schools and classrooms are safe, inclusive, welcoming and respectful for all educators, students and their families, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status or documentation status," Gill said Thursday.

"We are overjoyed by this decision," said Portland Community College President Mark Mitsui. "Portland Community College remains committed to every member of our community, and it stands with our (DACA recipient) students, and all immigrants regardless of immigration status."

In December 2016, the PCC Board of Directors resolved to make PCC a a "Sanctuary College" when concerns emerged about the impact of potential changes in federal immigration policy for undocumented and documented immigrant students. Concerns centered on potential changes to federal laws and policies that protect individuals from discrimination and harassment.

Oregon is a "sanctuary state" and many of the cities in the metro area are "sanctuary cities." The non-legal term means a city, county or state that will not hold a person solely for the sake of federal immigration officials.

Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway, who cast the deciding vote in favor of a sanctuary resolution three years ago and has been an outspoken supporter of DACA, tweeted his support Thursday morning. "Keep dreaming! Keep fighting for our #Dreamers so they can keep achieving their dreams."

U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, whose district includes Washington County, spoke out early Thursday. "I have spoken with many Dreamers in Northwest Oregon, and with every conversation I am inspired by the resiliency and hope of these young adults," she wrote. "DACA allowed them to dream about their future, and to build lives, families, and careers — until the Trump administration placed them in limbo. Now they can dream again. … Dreamers have grown up here, and they are an important part of our community and our economy."

"Although this is a good first step, we need to get to comprehensive immigration reform that recognizes the unique contributions of our DACA students," said state Sen. Rob Wagner, whose district includes portions of Southwest Portland and Clackamas and Washington counties. "I would hope a future president reaffirms this program."

Mayor Stan Pulliam of Sandy said the Supreme Court ruling was on a procedural error by the Trump administration, and not on the lawfulness of the DACA program. "I don't see it as an indictment of the administration or an affirmation of the program," Pulliam said. "I think everyone can agree our immigration system needs work, and paths to citizenship need to be more accessible. Transforming the DACA program into a path to citizenship for law-abiding young adults seems like a good first step."

Reporters Brittany Allen, Max Egener, Dana Haynes, Patrick Malee, Mark Miller and Justin Much contributed to this article.

Oregon Public Broadcasting contributed to this article. OPB is a news partner of Pamplin Media Group.

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