SCOTUS ruling brings relief to Vermont 'Dreamers'

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students gather in front of the Supreme Court on...
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students gather in front of the Supreme Court on Thursday, June 18, 2020, in Washington. The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump’s effort to end legal protections for 650,000 young immigrants, a stunning rebuke to the president in the midst of his reelection campaign. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (WCAX)
Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 5:58 PM EDT
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Vermont "Dreamers" were among those around the country Thursday celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling against the Trump administration's efforts to throw out the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals program.

"I was shocked, and I was happy," said Juan Conde, who come to the U.S. from Mexico with his parents when he was nine. He's now attending medical school at the University of Vermont, studying to fight cancer. "It was a huge worry and I kind of now feel a little reassured. I can keep training and become an oncologist."

Over the past few years, Conde says President Trump's threats to end the program, which allow him and others to stay in Vermont, created an underlying anxiety. "When all of us DACA students heard about this, we were kind of like, 'Oh no.' We were trying to figure out what to do," he said.

Conde is one of some 40 "Dreamers" who live in Vermont. President Obama rolled out the program in 2012 to protect people like Conde from deportation. They are commonly referred to as "Dreamers," based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act, that would have provided protections for the young immigrants. To be eligible, DACA recipients have to have arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday. They are granted two-year work permits but not permanent legal status.

"Today's ruling is monumentally important," said Lia Ernst with the ACLU of Vermont. She says the ruling gives "Dreamers" a sense of reassurance that they can live and work in their communities. "When an agency wants to end a program that people have come to rely upon, it must provide a justification that supports its decision, even though people have come to rely upon it. And the court today said it failed to do that."

Ernst says the ruling came as a surprise to many considering the high court's 5 to 4 conservative majority and two justices selected by President Trump. But Ernst says the decision doesn't provide permanent protections and that the administration could still eliminate DACA if it provides a valid justification for it.

"Legislation has long been pending and has been introduced and reintroduced time and again that would codify DACA in statute as well as provide comprehensive immigration reform," Ernst said.

That bill passed the U.S. House but stalled in the Senate. In the meantime, Conde says he is excited to continue his career in Vermont.

The ACLU also says Thursday's decision means people who were found ineligible or hadn't applied can now apply, and the number of