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DACA Advocate On Next Steps After Supreme Court Ruling

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What happens now for hundreds of thousands of people brought to the United States as children? Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that gives them legal status, remains in place today. The Supreme Court yesterday rejected the president's effort to end it. Cristina Jimenez, who leads the youth network United We Dream, is on the line. They work with a lot of DACA recipients. Good morning.

CRISTINA JIMENEZ: Good morning.

INSKEEP: I just want to note that the court upheld, for now, a temporary program that gives people temporary legal status. Is that enough for hundreds of thousands of younger people to go on with their lives?

JIMENEZ: For now, this is a huge victory for DACA recipients who have been living with the anxiety that the Supreme Court could side with the Trump administration on stripping away their protections with DACA, which include work permits and deportation. So yesterday's decision from the Supreme Court siding with DACA recipients and clearly stating that Trump's decision to terminate the program was arbitrary and capricious. It's a huge victory that for now protects people. But as long as this administration is in place, we will continue to be vulnerable, unfortunately.

INSKEEP: You know, it's interesting. Our correspondent John Burnett who covers these issues was telling us yesterday as the ruling came down that there had been DACA recipients who were preparing for the opposite, who were practically packing. They were getting ready to figure out what country they could go to or return to. Some were preparing to get married to U.S. citizens so they could stay. People were very seriously expecting another outcome.

JIMENEZ: We were prepared for the worst-case scenario looking at how this administration has attacked immigrant communities but by also looking at how the Supreme Court has been deciding with other cases. So to be honest with you, even for myself, it took me a little while to really let the news sink in because we had been so prepared for a really bad decision that has created so much uncertainty and fear in the community. But the work doesn't end here because we still need Congress to take action, and we still need to make sure that Donald Trump is not reelected in November.

INSKEEP: Well, let's talk about that because Ken Cuccinelli was on All Things Considered yesterday. He as, you know, oversees citizenship and immigration issues for the administration. And in the interview, he pointed out that the court did not with this ruling make the DACA program permanent in any way. It's an executive action. President Trump can end it. It's just that he failed to follow the proper process in doing so. Let's listen to Cuccinelli.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

KEN CUCCINELLI: They sidestepped the legality and relied on a process basis to delay, not to defeat, the president's action.

INSKEEP: So the first question is, do you think it is realistic to expect the administration to try again, to impose their point of view and to try to end this program, to do it within the rules?

JIMENEZ: I believe that with a president that is working with Stephen Miller and other people in the White House to drive an anti-immigrant and a white nationalist agenda that is very possible. And he tweeted about this yesterday to look for other ways that he could strip away the DACA program. So we've known that DACA is a temporary protection, and for now, even though it protects the 700,000 DACA recipients, we know that we still need Congress to take action to protect folks permanently. And that's why our advocacy efforts led by immigrants and DACA recipients will continue to push Congress for this. And we are prepared for attacks from the administration again. But I think it will be interesting to follow given that the election is just a few months away. And to restart the process to terminate a program through other means will take some time.

INSKEEP: Now, I should note for the record that when accused of being white nationalist or anti-immigrant, the administration pushes back and says they're not anti-immigrant. Although we also have to note that they've taken steps to limit legal immigration, as well as illegal immigration. All that said, do you want this to be a major election issue? In the last few seconds we have here, do you want this to be a thing that candidates are talking about and that people are voting on?

JIMENEZ: I think this is already a big issue in this election. Trump led his campaign on anti-immigrant rhetoric, led a campaign attacking immigrants. Absolutely there's no doubt that he would do that again for his reelection. And when you look at all of the polling, DACA is one of the most popular programs among Republicans, Democrats and independents with over 80% of support from the American public. You saw Vice President Joe Biden also commenting on DACA yesterday.

INSKEEP: Cristina Jimenez of United We Dream, thanks very much.

JIMENEZ: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.