In the days after the Supreme Court ruled that President Donald Trump cannot abolish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Monse Monroy-Florez began frantically searching for information.
The Charlottesville teen hoped the ruling meant that she could finally apply for the program that allows people like her — who were brought to the United States illegally as children — to receive renewable two-year permits protecting them from deportation.
Monse fits all the criteria to qualify.
She was 2 when her parents sneaked her across the Mexican border. She has lived here more than the required 13 years. She’s currently in high school and has not been convicted of any crimes.
“Once [President Barack] Obama passed DACA, I thought, this is so great,” Monse said. “I’ll be able to go to college. I’ll be able to have a life.”
The problem was Monse was only 9 in 2012, when Obama issued an executive order creating the DACA program. The program required applicants to be 15.
She was still waiting in September 2017, when the Trump administration announced it was terminating the program. No new applications would be accepted.
That was two months before Monse’s 15th birthday.
“My plans are ruined,” Monse said quietly.
Monse is not sure what the June 18 Supreme Court decision that stopped the Trump administration from ending DACA means to her. Like the estimated 800,000 other children and young adults who qualify for the program, she initially celebrated.
Then she learned more.
“What the Supreme Court said does not prevent that [Trump] administration from killing DACA,” said Edward Summers, an immigration attorney in Charlottesville. “The president can kill DACA at any time.”
The majority decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, said simply that the Trump administration did not follow its own procedures for abolishing the program. It announced it was ending the DACA program because the program itself was illegal — only Congress had the power to enact such a program.
“The dispute before the court is not whether [the Department of Homeland Security] may rescind DACA,” the Supreme Court decision read. “All parties agree that it may.”
However, doing so requires the agency to “provide a reasoned explanation for its actions,” according to the ruling. “Here the agency failed to consider the conspicuous issues of whether to retain forbearance and what if anything to do about the hardship to DACA recipients.”
The day after the Supreme Court published its decision, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — which manages the DACA program — released a statement saying the decision “has no basis in law and merely delays the President’s lawful ability to end the illegal [DACA] amnesty program.”
“The fact remains that under DACA, hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens continue to remain in our country in violation of the laws passed by Congress and to take jobs Americans need now more than ever,” USCIS Deputy Director for Policy Joseph Edlow said in a statement.
Though many assume the agency will eventually begin processing new DACA applications, it has yet to start. And since the ruling, Trump has said he will renew his efforts to end the program.
Doing so would leave hundreds of thousands of teens and young adults in the same situation that Monse faces today.
The Charlottesville teen will graduate from high school next year. Unless she is able to get DACA before then, she will enter adulthood with no work permit and no driver’s license.
What she can do now is attend a Virginia university.
A month before the Supreme Court ruling, Gov. Ralph Northam signed a law that grants in-state eligibility at all Virginia schools to anyone who has attended at least two years of Virginia high school and who has filed (or parents have filed) Virginia income tax returns — regardless of their immigration status.
Just two days before the Supreme Court ruling, the University of Virginia announced that this year it would for the first time begin enrolling and matriculating undocumented students.
However, undocumented students are not eligible for financial aid, said Caroline Campos, a junior at UVA and the vice president of the group UndocUVA. The student organization, which campaigned for years for the university to admit undocumented students, now wants to push that those students be extended aid, she said.
Without it, college is still out of reach for many undocumented people, Campos said.
That is true for Monse.
Monse’s family cannot afford to pay for her tuition. And without DACA or some other kind of work permit, Monse cannot legally earn money herself.
“I’ve always wanted to go to college,” Monse said. “I’m still looking. I’m still trying to find a way. I’ve had so many breakdowns over this, you have no idea. I just, I have no options right now. I have no status. I can’t drive. I can’t even work.”
Monse is now the only member of her family to lack legal status. Both her younger siblings were born here, making them American citizens. And her parents recently received work permits.
“If they get me, they can take me,” Monse said. “And it would just be me. I don’t remember Mexico. This is my country. I was raised here. I grew up with you. This is all I know.”