WASHINGTON — Karen Judith Briseno Ortiz mailed in her application for a program meant to protect undocumented children from deportation, one day after her twin sister’s application.
Her sister was accepted into the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, but Briseno Ortiz, who grew up in Dallas, was not. Now her application is in limbo due to an injunction placed by a Texas federal judge, who determined the Obama-era program was unlawful.
“That opportunity got taken from me,” she said of Texas District Judge Andrew Hanen’s decision, which prevented the government from accepting new applicants into the program, but allowed it to remain for current participants as it undergoes litigation.
Multiple immigration attorneys who spoke with States Newsroom said they expect a decision on the legality of DACA, when it eventually goes to the U.S. Supreme Court, to not be issued until 2024. Congress appears unlikely to take action, although immigration advocates have suggestions about policy initiatives the Biden administration could study for DACA recipients.
In the meantime, they must wait.
One legal to work, one not
Briseno Ortiz and her sister, now 20, live together and attend Texas A&M University.
One twin is allowed to work, because DACA gives her access to work permits and a Social Security number.
But Briseno Ortiz, a chemistry major, cannot get work permits and will likely have to leave her home state to attend medical school, since there is only one medical school in Texas that admits DACA students.
The program, which has protected more than 800,000 undocumented children from deportation since 2012, is at risk of being deemed unlawful, leaving recipients in limbo and uncertain if they will be protected from deportation.
Briseno Ortiz is the only one of her three siblings not in the program, despite being eligible for DACA. The Migration Policy Institute, a think tank that tracks migration, estimates that as of December 2021, there are 1.5 million undocumented people who are DACA-eligible but not enrolled.
“It’s frustrating because we’re just waiting,” Briseno Ortiz said of her application and others that are still pending due to the injunction.
DACA legal challenges
The Trump administration tried to rescind the program in 2017. That is the same year the twins turned 15, making them eligible for DACA. Read more