July 27, 2021 / Modified jul 28, 2021 10:39 a.m.

After Texas ruling on DACA, Arizona Dreamer says life on hold again

This month a federal judge in Texas ruled the Obama-era program was illegal, suspending new applications and renewals

Aliento DACA Daniela Chavira and other undocumented students and DACA recipients meet at the Arizona Capitol to speak with representatives.
Diego Lozano/Aliento

It's been more than a week since a federal judge in Texas handed down a ruling that blocked new applications to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The Obama-era policy gives some 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children protection from deportation and a work permit.

Daniela Chavira became eligible for DACA in 2017, just as the Trump administration moved to end the program and barred first-time applicants like her. But a new hope came this year, when U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting applications once again in January. Chavira submitted right away, entering a months-long processing lag the agency said was the result of capacity issues and pandemic backlogs.

When a friend texted to tell her about the Texas decision this month, she realized her application was one of tens of thousands on hold indefinitely.

"To have it rescinded when I was first eligible in 2017, to this again, once it was so close, it was just right there, have it ripped away from me, I was just, so sad," she said. "DACA feels like a subscription that just suddenly terminates."

The ruling comes as Congressional Democrats consider using the budget reconciliation process to forge an immigration package that could give farmworkers, so-called Dreamers like Chavira and others a pathway to citizenship.

It's the latest citizenship bill that aims to give Dreamers legal status. More than a dozen different versions have failed in Congress over the last two decades.

In a press call this week, mayors from a handful of cities across the U.S. called on the Biden administration and Congress to speed up reform. Tucson Mayor Regina Romero says a package like the one in Congress now would benefit essential workers, like those working in agriculture in farming hubs like Yuma.

"It’s a failure of our government, not to move forward in passing comprehensive immigration reform," she said.

Romero was one of more than 80 mayors nationwide who signed a letter to President Joe Biden and Congressional Leaders asking for support on the package. She was the only one from Arizona.

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