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Arizonans react to judge ruling the DACA the program illegal

Thousands in AZ can't apply for DACA.

By Alexis Dominguez

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - More than a decade after DACA protections for undocumented youth were signed into law, it’s still facing legal challenges. This week, a judge again ruled the program “illegal,” and it’s likely heading for the Supreme Court.

More than 23,000 DACA recipients in Arizona, brought into the states as kids, are still facing that legal limbo for their future. However, for now, things will stay mostly unchanged. The most affected will be the more than 12,000 immigrants in Arizona who qualify for the program but can’t apply due to the decision. “It’s almost like your entire life comes in a picture in that moment,” said Abril Gallardo, a DACA recipient who also works for the organization Living United for Change in Arizona, also known as LUCHA.

For years DACA recipients and those who are eligible for the program have followed the news closely. “The DACA program has been in litigation since 2017, so it’s been years of a constant back and forth,” said Reyna Montoya, a DACA recipient and the Founder and CEO of Aliento.

Wednesday, a judge refrained from ordering officials to terminate deportation protections and work permits, but he shut the door on thousands of immigrants in Arizona who qualify for the program. “We are having to tell parents, I’m sorry you can’t apply anymore; the program is rescinded. And unfortunately also for those renewing their process, we have to tell them do it as fast you can because you never know what can happen to it,” Gallardo said.

Both LUCHA and Aliento are organizations in the Valley that help students and young people apply for protection from the immigration policy. “It’s really hard because many of them had that hope that the program could actually re-open, and some of them have just become numb because I know nothing is going to happen,” Montoya said.

Advocates say people are living in fear without any coverage, especially in a state where the undocumented population can’t get a driver’s license. “I remember stopping on stop lights and counting like 5 Mississippi’s out loud so they wouldn’t stop me for non-full stop,” Montoya said.

With a looming presidential election, they feel the uncertainty will only continue. “More than ever, it is clear that we need an actually permanent solution,” Gallardo said. “As we can all see, it can be chipped away, and it’s been chipped away.” Montoya echoed those sentiments, adding the stress of being in limbo has many feeling there is no end in sight. “It’s exhausting to constantly know that you can be planning for your future and everything can be taken away in the blink of an eye.”

The Biden administration is expected to appeal this latest federal court ruling, meaning the case is likely to reach the Supreme Court.

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