At fifteen, Ana Ramirez became the first member of her family legally able to work and drive a car. She spent afternoons in high school working at Panera to support her family while earning grades that got her into Duke a year later.
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was the government’s promise to Ramirez that she could freely pursue her studies and work without the fear of deportation.
“It opened so many doors for me,” Ramirez says. “It’s a form of protection.”
On Tuesday, Ramirez will rally alongside other DACA recipients and allies on the steps of the Supreme Court in D.C. as justices begin hearings on the decision to abruptly cancel DACA.
President Trump announced the decision to end DACA, which allows 800,000 undocumented residents who crossed the border as children to remain in the country, work and attend school, in September 2017, claiming that while he does “not favor punishing children…the program is unlawful and unconstitutional and cannot be successfully defended in court.”
DACA was created by President Obama in 2012 via executive order, which Trump believes is an abuse of executive power and reason enough to end it.
The Supreme Court will decide if Trump had the authority to do that. Since the plan to end DACA was announced, several lower federal courts ruled that Trump violated the Administrative Procedure Act by canceling the program in a manner that was “arbitrary and capricious.”
Trump argued DACA led to an influx of undocumented minors who commit crimes through organizations like the Salvadoran-American gang, MS-13.
But DACA recipients are already not allowed to have any criminal record. If an individual commits a crime while benefitting from DACA, they can be stripped of their status and deported.
The Trump administration stopped taking new applicants for DACA in 2017 and Tuesday’s hearing will determine what will happen to over 24,000 North Carolinians who have become eligible since or just missed the cutoff. For many, this country is the only home they can remember.
There weren’t many undocumented students at Duke when Ramirez arrived on campus as a freshman in 2016, but that changed the following year when the university began admitting DACA students as national students, rather than international, qualifying them for financial aid. That year, Ramirez partnered with Axel Herrera Ramos to co-found the Duke chapter of Define American, a student-led initiative to foster a greater sense of community among DACA students on campus. Since its inception, Define American has not only helped DACA students feel supported, but it also educates allies on how to interact with undocumented students on campus.
Ramirez will join five other members of Duke’s Define American chapter on the steps of the Supreme Court to tell the nation that their home is here in Durham.
“People forget that there are faces to all the policies we talk about. It’s important to humanize these issues,” says Ramirez.