The decision by the Trump administration to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—an Obama-era executive order that allowed undocumented immigrants brought here as children to legally apply for work permits—will directly affect hundreds of people in Santa Fe and scores more of their friends and families.
The US Department of Homeland Security justified its decision in a statement published Tuesday in which it claimed that the program faced a potential shut down by the judiciary should it head to a federal court. Guidelines set forth by the department will allow DACA recipients whose work permits expire within the next six months to renew their enrollment before Oct. 5.
Because renewals last for two years, this means that some DACA participants could remain enrolled in the program until 2019, about two years after DACA will officially be phased out. However, no new applications to enroll into the program will now be accepted.
The Oct. 5 deadline will keep the Santa Fe Dreamers Project busy over the next month, says Allegra Love, director of the project and an immigration attorney.
"I don't want to say it's good news, it was a devastating announcement, but we probably have  people here who fall into that window of being able to renew, and we have 200 pending cases as well," Love tells SFR. "So the good news is that that's still hundreds of kids who will have valid work permits for quite some time."
Terminating the DACA program, even with the six-month phase-out, is a highly controversial move.
For years, immigration advocates have held up DACA recipients (or "Dreamers," named after the DREAM Act that would provide a path for permanent residency for the DACA-eligible population) as model residents who are educated and employed in white-collar industries, often contrasting them with undocumented people who have criminal records. Former President Barack Obama on Facebook called the repeal of his executive order "cruel."
Not only has the federal government's decision punctured the idea that some immigrants are more deserving of protection than others, but through their participation in the program, DACA recipients may have also set themselves up to be more easily targeted by the Trump administration's deportation apparatus. That's because each time a person renews their DACA status, they have to submit tax forms and other materials listing their addresses. Many live with their parents, who are often undocumented as well.
In a press conference announcing the end of DACA Tuesday morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to answer a reporter's question whether the federal government would use such information to target DACA recipients for easier deportation.
"The young people essentially trusted the government with making a deal with them and that in return, they would be allowed to pursue their life as productive residents of this country," says Richard Ellenberg, the chairman of New Mexico's Democratic Party, in a telephonic press conference. "They are totally making themselves available for deportation, and yet having played by the rules and having done everything expected of people living in this country, they have exposed themselves to easy deportation. It's a great concern and it's immoral and it's wrong."
On Wednesday at noon, the New Mexico Dream Team helped lead a rally at the main entrance of Santa Fe Community College. Several speakers, including several DACA recipients and City Councilor Renee Villarreal, condemned the federal government's decision.
"We will continue fighting in any way we can to keep DACA, and those of you who are under that status, that we can continue to make sure you feel safe," Villarreal says to the crowd. "I just wanted to say we should not defend [DACA recipients] solely based on immigrants playing a valuable role in our economy, even though that is true, I do want say that it's not just about the economy."
About one hundred students who bussed to the college from Monte del Sol Charter School participated in the short rally. As the event wrapped up, high school student Michael Acosta, who has several family members enrolled in the DACA program, sat with two friends holding a sign proclaiming "every race is beautiful."
"A lot of family on my dad's side, we have a lot of people from Mexico who are not legal," Acosta says. "This morning I got really sad and I called my mom and I was crying. That's the first time I cried in a long time, [and] I wanted to come over here and show people this isn't alright. It's time to stop ignoring it."
Acosta's classmate, Brianna Archuleta, has a brother enrolled in the DACA program.
"You can't just take it away from people, people are going to suffer and it's going to be hard on them," she says. "It's really just gonna ruin lots of people's lives and we really don't want that. We want to have a happy life and not be worrying about stuff like this."
Deporting DACA recipients also presents their family members who are legal residents or citizens with the choice of whether or not to follow their loved ones out of the country if and when they leave.
"Family comes first. I would definitely go with him back to Mexico," says Debbie Gallegos, speaking about her brother, who is in the DACA program. "He does not stand alone. We're all one big family together."
Others say that they plan to stand up for their classmates.
"I think that our government should just stop thinking about itself and the big things and start focus on little things, like more schools and education, for us because we're the future of America," says Nefi Givar.
His friend, Allen Ruiz, chimes in.
"Stand up for what you believe in, stand up for DACA and stand up for everybody else," he says. "Defending your rights or someone else's right."
He pauses. Then Nefi reaches out and clasps Allen's shoulder.
"I got you, man," Nefi tells his friend.