A 5-4 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday keeps the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place and protects thousands of educators, students and families from deportation — for now.
The majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, found the Trump administration's termination of DACA to be "arbitrary and capricious" and lacking adequate reasoning or consideration for issues resulting from it. Among the concerns: hardships that would be incurred to DACA recipients.
The decision also leaves open the possibility of future challenges to the Obama-era policy, as Roberts wrote that the court was not ruling on whether DACA or its elimination are sound policy, and that the appropriate action would be for the Department of Homeland Security to "reconsider the problem anew."
"There are still many of my students who are undocumented who are not protected by DACA and who don’t have these protections," said Angélica Reyes, a teacher and DACA holder from Los Angeles, California. "It's really a Band-Aid."
Educators' livelihoods, tax revenues at stake
Education is one of the most common professions in which DACA recipients work. As of two years ago, approximately 9,000 DACA recipients were employed as teachers or in similar education careers. In a statement, National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García put the number of educators impacted at 15,000.
According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, nearly 50% of DACA recipients are concentrated in two states: California and Texas.
State and local tax revenues also benefit significantly from DACA recipients' contributions, as they contribute more than $1 million annually in 41 states and the District of Columbia, according to CAP. In 12 states, that number is more than $50 million.
And in California and Texas, those contributions total $1 billion and $417.7 million respectively.
With the country in a recession, schools navigating how to reopen during the pandemic, and districts already seeing a shortage of staff and funds, a hit to DACA could put school districts in a greater bind.
"Our two states have the two biggest economies in the country and the healthiest economies," said San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez in regard to California and Texas. "Our DACA students are tax-paying individuals, are contributing to our community, and I’m happy that we have this victory. But I’m very concerned that there’s no comprehensive solution."
Education organizations like Educators for Excellence and the National Education Association are calling on Congress to provide alternative solutions or pathways to citizenship for "Dreamers," who they say contribute to the "nation’s social fabric and economic engine."
Need for district awareness, policy change
In the years leading up this week's decision, educators have also discussed at length how districts, educators, students and their families have been affected by anti-immigrant policies.
"Just the way immigrants have been spoken about creates so much fear for our families," Martinez said.
Providing "know your rights" seminars, resources in various languages, and trainings for counselors and teachers are all ways Martinez plans to continue support.
With the possibility of a future challenge, Reyes said her students have also expressed anxieties the court's decision might quell.
"They say, ‘What's the point? What's the point of doing everything right and fighting so hard if I can’t do anything I want to do?'" Reyes said. "I think it’s powerful for them to see that we advocate. We can win."
But she said districts could still "educate those who work with our children," adding many of her colleagues have asked, "Well, why don't you just apply for citizenship?"
Reyes said policies that allow districts to act as safe havens and to protect the immigration status of students, families and staff would also be helpful.
She said it would be "powerful" for students not to have to fear "that if they slip up, their teacher or classmate is going to report them to immigration."