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Young Arizonans pay close attention to Supreme Court DACA case

People lined up outside the U.S. Supreme Court for more than a day, hoping to go inside to the hear the arguments before the justices over the DACA program. Among them was Reyna Montoya, a DACA recipient from Gilbert. (Photo courtesy of Reyna Montoya)

PHOENIX — Thousands of young undocumented immigrants in Arizona are paying close attention to the U.S. Supreme Court, as it hears oral arguments Tuesday over a federal deportation-relief program.

At issue is whether President Donald Trump had the legal authority to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers deportation protection and work permits to young undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

“I’m filled with a lot of mixed emotions knowing that nine people will pretty much hold the faith of thousands of us,” said Reyna Montoya, a DACA recipient from Gilbert, referring to the nine Supreme Court justices.

Montoya is among the 24,700 DACA recipients in Arizona. She traveled to Washington, D.C., to be inside the high court for the oral arguments.

Her name is listed in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court in support of DACA by 165 public and private universities and colleges from across the country.

Arizona State University signed the amicus brief and mentions Montoya, an ASU graduate, as an exemplar DACA recipient. She founded an organization called Aliento, which teaches advocacy and leadership skills to immigrant youth.

The Trump administration argues it acted legally when it announced the end of the DACA program on Sept. 15, 2017, setting off a series of legal challenges. The program still exists but only for those who were already enrolled when Trump ended it.

Since then, several bills have been introduced in Congress to replace the DACA program.

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., introduced the Securing America’s Future Act in January 2018. The bill offered to provide $38 billion for border security and legal status for DACA recipients.

“I’ve been working on this for a very long time,” McSally told reporters Monday when asked about the DACA program going before the Supreme Court. “I do believe there is a bipartisan way that we can work together to secure the border and find a legal path forward for DACA.”

Jose Patiño, a DACA recipient from Gilbert, said he would be paying close attention to the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

He said ending the program could lead to DACA recipients losing their ability to work.

“Also, people like myself who own a home would probably not be able to make payments for the mortgage, and you could see several foreclosures coming up,” he said.

Patiño added it’s not “a very smart economical decision to end the DACA program without anything permanent in place.”

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