PHOENIX - A decision made by a federal judge on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program could have huge implications for children of undocumented immigrants.
On Dec. 4, U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis said the government had to post a public notice within three days that new DACA applications were being accepted.
The ruling follows one from November where Garaufis said Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf was unlawfully in his position, which Garaufis said on Dec. 4 invalidated the memo Wolf had issued in July suspending DACA for new applications and reducing how long renewals were valid from two years down to one year.
Garaufis also ordered the government to put together a status report on the DACA program by Jan. 4.
DACA, started during the Obama administration, allows certain young immigrants who were brought to the country as children to legally work and shields them from deportation. About 650,000 people are currently enrolled in the program.
Valley DACA recipients speak out
It’s been a long road for Karina Ruiz, a former undocumented immigrant child turned DACA recipient.
"It had changed my life," said Ruiz. "I am able to get a driver’s license. I’m not in fear of being separated from my children."
After Trump administration put a stopper on program applications in 2017, Ruiz says she wasn’t able to travel out of the country for her grandmother’s funeral.
"I couldn’t go to bury her, so I know this has caused a lot of pain to delay the benefits of this program," said Ruiz.
It’s a similar story for Jose Patino. He hasn’t been able to visit his grandparents in Mexico during the past few years as well. Patino came to Phoenix when he was six years old. Since then, he graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, but he couldn’t put that degree to full use for a few years, since he could not get a work permit, until DACA came around.
"I was able to become a teacher and get my master’s from Grand Canyon University," said Patino.
Now, Patino works with Aliento in Phoenix, helping other young immigrants make a life for themselves here in the U.S., a process that much easier on them now that DACA is once again accepting applicants.
"Help them navigate through college and have a key for a permanent solution for students like them and students like me," said Patino.
While DACA is not a permanent solution, Patino says it is a big step in the right direction, and he will never stop dreaming.
"For me, my hope is we can find a common-sense solution to help people like myself become citizens," said Patino.