Antonia Alvarez, pictured here in 2016, welcomed news of the DACA ruling. Credit: Evan Frost | MPR News

Gloria Castillo has been under federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status ever since President Obama established the immigration policy eight years ago. 

Before then, she had never had legal status since coming to the U.S. from Mexico 17 years ago at age 12. 

So when the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Trump administration’s order to end the program, Castillo said she felt a sense of relief. 

“I feel like, with all the issues that we are living through right now—we have an epidemic going on, we have a social justice movement going on—[the] DACA [ruling] gives just a little bit of hope for the rest of the year,” Castillo said. “But it’s not over.” 

Trump announced he would be ending the “dreamer” program in 2017, arguing that its establishment by executive order exceeded presidential authority. Since then, DACA has been stalled in the courts, making its way to the Supreme Court last year. 

But the 5-4 High Court ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s four liberal justices, rejects the Trump administration’s reasoning for ending the program. It also leaves the door open for Trump to challenge DACA with new arguments. Even if the Trump administration continues to challenge DACA, the issue will likely not be resolved before this fall’s election. 

Minnesota immigrant rights organizations quickly praised the ruling. Veena Iyer, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, said in a statement that she was “overjoyed.”

“Ending DACA would have been devastating,” Iyer said. “DACA recipients grew up in the United States. Their home is here. They have deep roots here in Minnesota and in communities across the country. Uprooting their lives would hurt not only them, but millions of their loved ones, neighbors, employers, and community members.”

About 700,000 people across the country are covered by the program. About 5,000 of them are in Minnesota, according to the American Immigration Council, a Washington, D.C.-based immigration advocacy group. 

Antonia Alvarez, who is Castillo’s mother, said that while the ruling is good news, “it’s not 100 percent what we wanted.” Obama originally established DACA as a stand-in policy during his effort to push Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that would include a citizenship pathway for undocumented immigrants in good standing with the law. 

DACA status does not provide a pathway to citizenship and must be renewed every two years. To be eligible, applicants must have come to the U.S. before turning 16, lived here continuously since 2007 and not have been convicted of serious crimes.

DACA doesn’t apply to older people like Alvarez, who is undocumented and has lived in the U.S. for 18 years. She said a pathway to citizenship that includes both people like her daughter and herself is also needed. 

“I’m undocumented, but I’m not a criminal,” said Alvarez, who owns a cleaning service and is active in the local Latino community. “I pay taxes, I have my business—I live in this country, too.” 

While Castillo has been under DACA status for several years, she’s had trouble during the frequent renewal process. In 2018, she applied to renew her DACA status four months before it expired. Still, she said the status took an extra month and a half after it expired to complete its process. In the meantime, she temporarily lost her driver’s license and work permit, which meant she couldn’t work her job at a fast-food restaurant. 

The bureaucratic process, she said, can be very stressful. Trump’s moves to end the program made the situation even more stressful.

“It’s hard to not know if you are going to be here in your home next year,” Castillo said. “Or not know if some other day they’re going to decide to take DACA away.”

Castillo said her current DACA status, which was recently renewed again, will last through October of next year. She hopes to stay in Minnesota, where she has lived most of her life.

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. He has been a journalist for 15 years. Before joining Sahan Journal, he worked for close to a decade in New Mexico, where his reporting prompted the resignation...