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Ohio 'Dreamers' Share Concerns As Supreme Court Considers Future of DACA Protections

a photo of a save DACA sign
A sign that reads "Save DACA" in front of the White House.

Phasing out the program that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to temporarily stay is a major piece of President Donald Trump's immigration policy. The plan to do that goes to the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, and it could decide the future of hundreds of thousands of people living in the country. Some are telling their stories to convey why they think the program should be saved. 

OSU student's future remains uncertain
Harjyot Singh is a senior at Ohio State University studying psychology. "I've always been intrigued by the brain," she says.

Singh was born in New Delhi, India, but she's lived in central Ohio for 19 years, nearly her whole life, graduating from high school in Dublin, a suburb of Columbus. Now she wants to turn her passion for psychology into something that can help people.

"I love the interactions we have as a species," Singh says. "I think there's more to that, and I'd like to study that on a cellular level." But Singh says she faces an uncertain future because she's part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, better known as DACA, which is about to be challenged in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Early in his term, President Donald Trump tried to phase-out the program created under President Barack Obama's executive order. Every lower court has ruled against Trump's move so far.

As a DACA recipient, Singh was able to get a work permit, which opened the door to finding a job and going to college. With the Supreme Court taking up the case, Singh is left with many questions.

"For me that means, my goodness, am I going to be able to work again?" she says. "Am I going to be able to attend college again? Am I going to be able to drive again? Because of the work permit I have through the DACA program, I am able to get my ID, I am able to drive. So there are many things that are in line for me if that DACA program were to end."

Singh is among several immigration advocates who are not only calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold DACA, but for Congress to pass immigration reform that would be more comprehensive.

Another OSU student fears 'expiration date,' calls for DACA reform
Zakaria Farah, who was born in Somalia, has also spent the majority of his life in central Ohio, graduating from Canal Winchester.

"I remember when I hit that halfway mark like, 'Oh, I've lived in the U.S. half my life,' and then you hit that tipping point," he says.

As Farah explains, DACA is an important and helpful program, but even that only patches a two-year window, which he says comes down to living life in 20-month increments.

"That clock starts ticking no matter when," Farrah says. "My DACA is set to expire Sept. 25, 2020. I bet if you walk up to any DACA recipient and ask them when their DACA expires, they know it off the back of their heads. Cause we have an expiration date."

Farah is an environmental engineering major at OSU and says he's got lots of plans, not only for his degree but to continue his work advocating for immigration reform.

"It's like a band-aid for a bigger issue, and I constantly want to reiterate that we should be fighting for comprehensive immigration reform to take the place of DACA and not to keep some form of DACA," Farrah says. "I mean, obviously DACA is good, I like it, it helps me in a lot of ways in my life, but we should be replacing it with something better."

Supreme Court will hear arguments 
Supporters say about 700,000 people across the country are DACA recipients. About 4,500 are in Ohio. Polls show the DACA program has broad support from Democrats and Republicans.

In 2017, Trump said the future of DACA was a difficult subject for him because he has a "great love" for DACA recipients. However, he argued that Obama did not have the right to create DACA by executive order. And Trump has said if the Supreme Court sides with the White House, Congress will reach a bipartisan deal to reform immigration that could end up protecting DACA recipients, who are also dubbed "Dreamers."

A spokesperson for U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) said the senator believes the country's immigration system is broken and wants to pass a law that codifies DACA while also implementing border security measures.

Other state and congressional Republican leaders could not be reached for comment on Veterans Day.  

The U.S. Supreme Court would likely have a decision on the DACA case later in 2020 in the middle of what's expected to be a heated presidential race.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.