Today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, came as a relief to the more than 600 Wyomingites who have benefitted from the program since it was created in 2012. DACA protects some immigrants, who were brought to the United States as children, from deportation and allows them to obtain driver licenses and work legally.
Wyoming Public Radio's Savannah Maher spoke with two Wyoming DACA recipients, Jose Rivas of Jackson and Ana Castro of Laramie, about how the program has impacted their lives and what today's ruling means for them.
Ana Castro: A couple of days ago I talked to my fiance, we were like, 'we're going to make a whole day of it because this could either be really good or really bad.' And we could either have a great day planned to celebrate or just to like, cope.
Jose Rivas: This morning I knew that we had a decision coming really close. I went for a bike ride. I woke up and I said you know, I'm going to go for a long ride. I know that this will help my anxiety. I know this will help me stay calm.
AC: We have been waiting for it for so long now, so we have been waiting for it very nervously.
JR: Towards the beginning of my ride, I glanced up toward the sky and it just seemed like it was a perfect moment to take a picture of the sun coming through the clouds, it's been raining around here lately. And I knew then that something good was coming.
JR: I've been in the U.S. now for 24 years.
AC: I was originally born in Mexico City, Mexico, and we came to the United States undocumented when I was six years old.
JR: You can say that most of my life has been here in the United States, specifically Gillette, Wyoming where I grew up.
AC: And we ended up in Jackson, Wyoming. I don't think, being that young- I didn't realize it was a different country. I just thought, we're in a place where it snows and it's cold now. I don't know what's happening.
JR: In middle school is when I started to realize what being undocumented meant. I realized that you needed insurance to play sports. And I could not get insurance because at the time I didn't have a social security number.
AC: For us, it was always really apparent because my mom kind of drilled it in our heads at a very young age. Like I was never allowed to go to a house party or go to a sleepover or anywhere where there might be a bad influence, where the law might be involved. Because my mom would always say, you are undocumented. We don't have rights here.
JR: By that point, I understood that I wouldn't be able to attend college due to my immigration status.
AC: My older sister got a full ride scholarship to a school of her choice, and I remember being like wow, she's really made it. My mom won't have to worry about paying for school. And then a couple of days after that she was told by her school counselor that she wasn't eligible for it because she didn't have a social security number.
JR: I had an oilfield accident where I was bedridden for a few months, and I remember I was taking care of my nephews at the time and I couldn't work. I was just sitting at home helping babysit. And I was watching TV and it was interrupted for President Obama to announce something big,
AC: I just remember I was sitting on that couch on my laptop waiting for it, waiting for the news.
JR: And sure enough it was the announcement of DACA, and I remember I cried, I started calling people and saying 'You know what, this is our opportunity.'
AC: I just remember crying, and I called my sister and my mom and we were crying. And my mom, she said 'I can die in peace now because now I know you're taken care of.
AC: Today just feels like that first day in 2012 if I'm being honest. I cried so much this morning. I'm overwhelmed, but at the same time this isn't a permanent solution to our broken immigration system. We have such a long way to go.
JR: I grew up in Wyoming, and I was undocumented and I got a bachelor's from UW, and now I have a master's. And I [know] DACA recipients in Wyoming that have degrees in nursing. We have DACA recipients who are teachers. I, myself, am a school counselor. So to try and get rid of a program that houses over 20,000 educators and over 20,000 health care providers didn't make any sense to me, especially in the middle of a pandemic.
AC: What I would really love to see is for Wyoming to open their doors to their immigrant communities. There are undocumented families, there are immigrants here, regardless of their status. And that's not what defines them. A piece of paper, a social security number, that's not what defines them. They are still human beings. They still want their children to grow in a space where they are loved and accepted. And I think it's a hard pill to swallow, but our communities need to work harder to make this a safe space and a welcoming environment for them.
Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Savannah Maher, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Savannah is a Report For America corps member.