The Oaxacan who has been in the U.S. for two decades under DACA is cautious to celebrate the ruling. This is what the Florida farmer — previously featured in our Voices of the Workers series — has to say.
FLORIDA — The Supreme Court’s decision to reject the Trump administration’s attempt to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program sent reverberations through the land and the lives of those affected.
One of those is Erwin Hernández, an independent farmer and businessman born in México, who has been in the United States for 20 years and received DACA status. Each year, Hernández plants and harvests vegetables and fruits in farms of Homestead (FL), investing more than $30,000 and hiring a dozen workers each season.
“Oh, wow,” Hernández responded after first hearing of the Supreme Court’s decision.
The ruling affects Hernández, now married to a U.S. citizen, and several members of Erwin’s family. He has five cousins in Mississippi with DACA status.
The Supreme Court decision blocked the Trump administration from permanently ending the benefit of deferred action for undocumented immigrants brought at a young age to the U.S., and thus maintained status for about 640,000 “Dreamers.” DACA, the deferred action program, allows Dreamers to obtain paperwork, like driver’s licenses and social security numbers, necessary to work and study.
The ruling —a 5-4 vote, whose majority opinion was penned by Chief Justice Roberts— caused celebrations among immigrants. Yet still most of its beneficiaries want to keep mostly quiet.
“Nobody wants to talk much about DACA,” says Hernández, following that with a Spanish equivalent for “mum’s the word”: “flies can’t enter a shut mouth.”
“I have to keep working,” Hernández says in reference to the pandemic. “We farmers didn’t have the luxury to shelter in ‘casita’ and stop work. We had to pick the food that goes to people’s tables.”
Moreover, Covid-19 has delayed the paperwork to extend Hernández’s DACA protection, which he says lapsed on May 28 and must be renewed every two years.
Dreamers still face exposure in the larger immigration debate. However, President Trump was concerned about being seen as the one responsible for deporting Dreamers, a group that has the sympathy of 74% of Americans, even Trump supporters.
Hernández has good reason to be cautious, as the DACA program is still vulnerable. The Trump administration could try another measure to rescind DACA, especially if Trump is reelected in November. The Court did not rule on whether President Obama exceeded his authority when the program was implemented in 2012.
When questioned about the assertion by Florida governor Ron DeSantis that soar in Covid-19 cases in the state is due to “immigrant farmworkers,” Hernández replied with scorn.
“I don’t understand why the governor is so full of ignorance,” he says. “He shouldn’t point fingers. He should solve problems. DACA gave me a chance. DACA gave us the ladder, the bridge to go forward. Without any proper paperwork, we were vulnerable to all kinds of abuses.”