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Texas DREAMers Celebrate Supreme Court Ruling On DACA

NOEL KING, HOST:

The Supreme Court ruled that hundreds of thousands of immigrants may keep their legal status. The court yesterday rejected the Trump administration's attempt to end DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It was a program started under President Obama for people who were brought to this country when they were kids. DACA recipients across the country celebrated the ruling. Just over 100,000 of them are in the state of Texas. KERA's Stella Chavez talked to some of them after the decision came down.

STELLA CHAVEZ, BYLINE: For weeks, Emma Shala Baron (ph) had been riddled with anxiety, wondering how the Supreme Court would rule. The 23-year-old DACA recipient came to the U.S. from Durango, Mexico, when she was 7 years old. Today, she works with an immigration advocacy group in Dallas and plans to attend law school in the fall. She says she was heartened to see it was conservative Chief Justice John Roberts who wrote the majority opinion.

EMMA SHALA BARON: I'm here at home right now with my mom and my sister. And we were just crying, I mean, like, taking it in and just realizing, like, the magnitude of this moment.

KING: For Julio Ramos (ph), who's from the Rio Grande Valley and is now in his fourth year of medical school in New York, waiting for a decision felt like treading water. He says he wasn't sure if any residency programs would accept him if the court had sided with the Trump administration to end DACA. This decision, he says, means his advocacy work and that of others wasn't done in vain.

JULIO RAMOS: It demonstrates the power of activism because various activist groups demanded this from the government. It wasn't something that was handed to our community. It made us realize again that a lot of work has to be done to help America realize that this is our home, too.

CHAVEZ: Ramos is joining a growing number of DACA recipients in health care. Not everyone was pleased with the court's ruling. Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas sharply criticized it, calling DACA amnesty and a program that defies federal law.

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TED CRUZ: Today's decision from the U.S. Supreme Court is disgraceful.

CHAVEZ: Fellow Texan and Republican colleague Senator John Cornyn was more amenable.

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JOHN CORNYN: This is just a temporary measure. DACA recipients must have a permanent legislative solution. They deserve nothing less. These young men and women have done nothing wrong.

CHAVEZ: And in a statement, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the court didn't answer the question of whether former President Obama exceeded his authority when he implemented the program in 2012. While many DACA recipients are overjoyed, they're also worried about what will happen next. Auda Espinosa (ph) lives in Houston and has DACA status.

AUDA ESPINOSA: There's always that uncertainty of what the future awaits for us. There's always that anxiety knowing that we could get taken this away, and then we'll be back to being on the shadows.

CHAVEZ: Representative Sylvia Garcia of Houston represents a district where 1 in 3 people are immigrants. The Democratic congresswoman cautioned her community.

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SYLVIA GARCIA: The fight is far from over. The decision still leaves the door open for this administration or any future administration to put an end to the program if done the right way according to the law.

CHAVEZ: Others say they hope this decision opens the door to a possible permanent solution for all undocumented immigrants. Here's medical student Julio Ramos again.

RAMOS: Not just students or the youth but also the people that made all of these contributions to society possible, which is the generation that came before us, the people that - our parents. Their livelihood is also at stake whenever we talk about DREAMers.

CHAVEZ: Like Ramos, other immigrant advocates say their work isn't done. I'm Stella Chavez in Dallas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.