Supreme Court case is personal for UT immigrants and advocates

Cassandra Jaramillo

Chemistry senior Andrea Soto was 10 years old when she came to the United States for the first time.

Growing violence in Mexico and a lack of academic opportunities drew the Soto family to the American dream. Since she was little, Soto had dreams of pursuing a medical profession. Meanwhile, Soto’s mother was also trying to care for her grandmother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s at the time in the U.S..

“Our parents do anything and everything for their own kids,” Soto said. “They will sacrifice and give up things for their children to move forward to reach their goals.” 

Soto is one of the estimated 300 to 350 members of the undocumented UT student population, according to numbers according to the UT International Office. Through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, Soto became eligible to work in the U.S. while she attends college and is relieved from deportation. 

She now advocates for other undocumented students and their famlies along with other UT students.

Earlier this week, Soto participated in a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court, along with UT immigrant students and allies, as the justices heard oral arguments challenging the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents. Similar to DACA, the policy helps grant deportation relief to undocumented parents with U.S. citizen and legal resident children.

During the week, the group advocated for the policies it says help fix a broken immigration system negatively affecting families. 

“We aren’t going to back down, and we are going to keep fighting,” Soto said. “They deserve to be fought for.” 

States, including Texas, challenging the the executive order said the president overstepped his constitutional authority when he announced DAPA and an extension of the existing DACA policy in November 2014.

Texas sued shortly after the executive order announcement and an injunction has stopped its implementation.

According to the lawsuit, “This case is about an unprecedented, sweeping assertion of executive power.”

Radio-television-film senior Sheridan Aguirre traveled to Washington to advocate for DAPA, which would allow his mother, father and stepfather to get deportation relief. 

Aguirre is president of University Leadership Initiative, a student group that organizes programs and advocates for legislation that benefits the undocumented community. Even though a Supreme Court vote could put the policy in gridlock, he said the community would continue. 

“I see it as a mobilizing moment,” Aguirre said. “Our momentum can’t stop. In fact, I think it will fire people up more. We can’t let a loss like that hurt our community.”

According to the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan organization that provides evaluations of migration policies, the DAPA and expanded DACA programs would benefit millions of people in the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrant population.

Teri Albrecht, director of international student and scholar services, said she created the Longhorn DREAMers Project after the passing of House Bill 1403 in 2001, which allows certain immigrants who are long-term residents of Texas to receive in-state tuition if they meet certain requirements. 

The Project seeks to strengthen support services on campus for undocumented students. Albrecht said in her experience since the implementation of H.B. 1403, which also known as the Texas Dream Act, Texas lawmakers have challenged the law every two years. 

Now that benefits under the DACA expansion and DAPA programs are at risk of being lost at the federal level, she said it adds more stress to these students.

“It adds to the uncertainty, which is prevalent in these students’ lives,” Albrecht said.