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Local students ecstatic, relieved over SCOTUS ruling on DACA

Posted at 5:25 PM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-18 21:31:59-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The U.S. Supreme Court decision to uphold the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has local students ecstatic and relieved.

In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court blocked the White House from ending the program first enacted by President Barack Obama. The program protected 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, also known as Dreamers, from being deported.

More than 7,000 people are protected under DACA in Tennessee, according to the Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition.

The Trump administration wanted to rescind it in 2017, and could revisit the same action in the future. The program avoided deportation for mostly young adults through renewable work permits.

“I’m blown away, I’m excited and honestly, I’m all over the place,” Zuriel Godinez, a Nashville DACA recipient, gleefully told NewsChannel 5. “I burst into tears and I don’t remember the last time I cried.”

Godinez is a Lipscomb University student pursuing a Master of Business Administration. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree last year despite tough odds of getting into a college at first.

He was brought in to the country from Mexico by his parents when he was 8 years old for better opportunities. Godinez admitted to feeling rejected and unwanted, especially when the future of DACA was in question.

Through a conversation with a complete stranger, Godinez connected with the Equal Chance for Education to receive a scholarship that would allow him to attend Lipscomb University. He called the moment “God’s cookie” because it all started when his mother went to buy a cookie.

Equal Chance for Education provides scholarships to DACA recipients. More than 700 people have gone through the scholarship program, and 77 are enrolled for Fall.

“We’ve really seen how dedicated they are in getting their degrees and giving back to their communities,” Executive Director Molly Haynes said. “If a more conservative-leaning Supreme Court can make this decision, then that shows it’s not a political issue, it’s an ethical one.”

Haynes said she's been fielding calls and text messages from other students excited over the decision.

Godinez says now that he can breathe a sigh of relief, he hopes to take his education and use it to help people in his position. He’s currently working for an energy company.

“My MBA degree is not just for my family, but also for my community. I’m trying to prove it’s possible to keep going and it’s possible to succeed in this country,” Godinez tearfully said.

Lipscomb University was one of 600 universities across the country to send a letter and urge Congress to come up with legislation to permanently protect DACA recipients.

In a statement, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander said:

“The Supreme Court’s decision will provide temporary relief to current DACA recipients, but it is clear to me that Congress must act to fix our broken immigration system. Congress should work together to achieve a permanent result both for DACA recipients and border security, and any other improvements to legal immigration that we can agree on—this means something the Senate and the House can pass and that the president will support.”