News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

For This DACA Recipient, The Supreme Court Ruling Is Just A Beginning

Senaida Navar
Senaida Navar is one of more than 10,000 DACA recipients in Texas. "We can't wait for every new administration to change their minds regarding DACA. ...We need to get on the forefront and start fighting for more permanent solutions."

Senaida Navar had just arrived to work at an immigration law office on the morning of June 18, when a colleague came running over.

"I was about to refresh my browser looking for DACA news, and she just rushed through the door yelling my name," Navar said.

That's how she learned the Supreme Court had issued its ruling: for now at least, the Trump administration cannot end the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

Navar was stunned. Like many DACA recipients, the 27-year-old had been bracing for the worst.

"I don't think any of us were actually expecting the Supreme Court to go against the Trump administration," she said. "I was definitely more mentally prepared for bad news than I was for good news."

Navar is one of more than 10,000 DACA recipients in Texas. The program allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to live and work in the country.

Navar's family left Mexico when she was two years old and settled down in El Paso. Growing up in this border community was a "Catch-22 situation," she said.

"It was a very welcoming, very warm community filled with immigrants, which made it very easy to feel at home," she said. "But at the same time, it is on the border, which means that if you don't have status, you can' really leave the city because you're trapped by all of these [Border Patrol] checkpoints."

That included leaving for school. She felt fortunate that El Paso has a large university — the University of Texas at El Paso — where she could pursue higher education. "I was able to plan a future, in terms of going to the local university, that I know many other border immigrants don't have," she said.

The Obama administration created DACA through an executive order in 2012. Navar was a senior in college when she received the protections. She's now an English lecturer at UTEP, in addition to her work with the immigration law firm.

"I think my own experiences have made me a very critical thinker about the systems that are in place and so I try to get my students to also think about those systems, think about how they inform their own lives and their own choices," she said.

Trump's attempt to rescind DACA, in 2017, brought insecurity and anxiety, as Navar and some 650,000 other DACA recipients waited in limbo. The Supreme Court decision alleviates much of that stress, Navar said.

"But it also highlights that we can't go on like this," she added. 

"We need to get on the forefront and start fighting for more permanent solutions, because this anxiety is not sustainable and it's not very healthy, either."

In the 5-4 decision, the court called the Trump administration's decision to end DACA "arbitrary and capricious," but left the door open for the president to bring another challenge. On that Friday, Trump announced he would do just that.

"We will be submitting enhanced papers shortly in order to properly fulfill the Supreme Court's ruling & request of yesterday," he tweeted.

Navar hopes to use her privilege to push for those permanent solution, not only for DACA recipients but for all undocumented immigrants. She noted that because of her current status, she is able to travel to DC and meet with lawmakers and plans to continue advocating for immigrants' rights.

She also hopes to shift the narrative around DACA recipients.

"It's very easy to get lost in the accomplishments," she said. "In the degrees and the careers and to try to attach value to our lives based on what we can actually contribute financially to society. But I think that in all of that really flowery language what gets lost is our own humanity and that of other immigrants. I really would encourage the general public to start seeing immigrants as people first...Think of everything that makes us human."

Navar said she would take a day to soak in the Supreme Court decision, "just do some introspection and really reflect on what I need to do next."

Then, she planned to hold a double celebration. Her sister is also a DACA recipient, whose birthday happened to fall on the day after the ruling. They would dedicate Friday to celebrating both their futures, in light of the decision.

Mallory Falk covers El Paso and the border for KERA as part of The Texas Newsroom, a regional news hub linking stations across the state. She is part of the national Report for America program, which places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues.