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OU students celebrate, express relief about U.S. Supreme Court's decision on DACA program

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Home Is Here

Students march down the South Oval during the Home Is Here march for DACA and TPS Nov. 8, 2019.

Several OU students said they were relieved after the Supreme Court of the United States rejected President Donald Trump’s plan to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — a decision some said was long overdue. 

The Supreme Court’s decision to reject the Trump administration's plans to cancel the program was made on June 18. Justices ruled the government did not give adequate justifications to end the program. 

According to a statement released by The Department of Homeland Security, DACA has protected nearly 700,000 young people who were brought into the U.S. as children — known as “dreamers” — under a two-year forbearance of removal, which means they can live and work legally in the U.S. without fear of deportation. 

Sara Juarez, an early childhood education junior, shared her feelings after learning the decision made by the Supreme Court. 

“I was really anxious (since) DACA was taken away in 2017,” Juarez said. “When I finally (saw) that Tweet from the Supreme Court, I just kind of (fell over) like (a) leaf. (It was) a relief for me (and) for everybody else that is part of the program.” 

Kevin Palomino, a broadcast journalism sophomore, said the decision was very long overdue. 

“I definitely think the decision should have been made sooner, simply because it felt like gambling (with) our future,” Palomino said. “It was a very anxiety-filled experience to be a DACA recipient (these) past six months.” 

OU’s Office of Diversity Enrichment Programs said in a statement, “The University of Oklahoma welcomes all undergraduate and graduate applicants regardless of citizenship status. Undocumented students, with or without Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, should follow the same application procedure for all other OU applicants.” 

According to the email, the Office of Diversity Enrichment Programs “will continue to help DACA and Undocumented students through the admission process and apply for any aid possible.” 

For Juarez, the process of admission at OU was “kind of easy,” thanks to the help of people from the Office of Diversity Enrichment Programs. 

“People are there to help you, especially the (Office of Diversity Enrichment Programs),” Juarez said. “... (They are) always willing to help and give advice to students about how the admission process works.”

However, Palomino said one of his main challenges is looking for financial aid. 

“(OU) offers some resources for counseling, but they don’t offer support, in my opinion, when it comes to financial aid,” Palomino said. “There are other resources out there that provide that support for documented or undocumented students. So, in all honesty, they lack support when it comes to that."

Juarez highlighted the importance of local scholarships for DACA recipients and undocumented students. 

“(We) aren’t able to get financial aid, so I had to look for local scholarships,” Juarez said. “There (are) a lot of organizations in Oklahoma that help DACA and undocumented students in Oklahoma, such as Aspiring Americans and the Acuña Family Fund (For the Future).” 

Juarez said those groups provide mentorships instead of just scholarships. 

Over the last months, Palomino and Juarez said fear of deportation was especially high among DACA recipients and undocumented students. 

“For example, I would attend the Black Lives Matter protest, but I (was) held back because of my status — because I (didn’t) want it to get taken away,” Juarez said.

After the Supreme Court’s DACA decision was announced, Palomino said he expects more advocacy for DACA and undocumented students on campus. 

“If we want to see a change in something, the students are going to have to work for it,” Palomino said. “This is just a call for more advocates, for more allies to keep fighting. I don't think it's the end — I think that's just the beginning. So I expect a lot more protests (and) more advocacy.”

Juarez said she hopes for awareness to increase on campus by creating more opportunities. 

“We have amazing faculty,” Juarez said. “There's a lot of people (who) will fight for us, but I think this does need to be seen on a higher spectrum. I just hope this brings more awareness. I hope that they do also create more opportunities, (either by) scholarships or some sort of an organization that helps us.”

Palomino and Juarez highlighted the importance of finding the Hispanic community at OU as a source of help.

“I picked the right place, I felt like I was at home,” Juarez said. “The (Hispanic) community is very supportive when it comes to immigration issues because it's something that affects us directly,” Palomino said.

For Palomino and Juarez, the DACA decision is one to celebrate — but there is a long way to go in order to get a more permanent solution to the pathway of citizenship.

“I think (today) we're celebrating our efforts more than anything,” Palomino said. “That just shows us exactly why raising our voices to advocate for social issues is so important. It's reassurance. It's getting somewhere our voices will be heard and hopefully, we'll be able to make an impact in our government as well.” 

Marien López-Medina is an international student and United World Colleges alumna from Nicaragua. She is majoring in journalism with a minor in public and nonprofit administration and works as a news reporter for The Daily.

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