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For DACA recipients, a court ruling and an anniversary loom large

A federal judge in Texas is expected to make a ruling soon on a case that could end DACA. The Obama-era program has given hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as kids protection from deportation and a work permit.

The suit against DACA now has been back and fourth in court for more than five years. Texas and other GOP-led states behind it argue DACA was illegally created. An appeals court already sided with the states, the question before the court now is whether the Biden administration's version of DACA is also illegal. 

Blanca Collazo was 16 years old when she first applied for DAC in Phoenix. She's the oldest of her siblings and the only one who isn't a U.S. citizen. She and her mom both saved up money for the application cost.

"And it was really life changing, because I knew that I was undocumented, and that I didn’t have the same opportunities as my classmates, and my peers," she said. 

Those are things like getting a drivers’ license or applying for college in Arizona. But just after Collazo got her DACA, the Trump administration tried to rescind the program in 2017.

That was DACA first major hurdle, and it’s been in limbo ever since. Collazo says she's watched a lot of peers get blocked from getting the status amid the legal challenges of the last several years.

Collazo says it’s nerve-wracking, watching this case unfold in Texas now. But it’s nothing new. This month marks 11 years since the program began in June 2012. Collazo hopes the anniversary, and the court case, will show how important it is to get a solution from Congress.

"This is something that has been happening for years now," she said. 'You know, deep down, we know that DACA was never meant to be a permanent solution, we know that it's temporary ... we know that what we truly need a permanent solution for all undocumented community members, those that have DACA, and those that are left in the shadows."

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen heard oral arguments from both sides of the case on June 1 and said he's make a ruling soon.

Alisa Reznick is a senior field correspondent covering stories across southern Arizona and the borderlands for the Tucson bureau of KJZZ's Fronteras Desk.