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Colorado DACA recipient says federal court ruling is devastating

A Colorado immigration rights advocate called the ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court devastating.

DENVER — Marissa Molina came to Colorado from Mexico with her parents when she was 9 years old.

Eleven years later, her life changed when she became a beneficiary of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) program. Now she's the Colorado director for Forward, a national immigration group, and said she was devastated by a federal appeals court decision this week upholding an earlier ruling that DACA is illegal.

"For me, DACA was a transformational program," Molina said. "DACA gave me the opportunity to have work authorization, a Social Security number and protection from deportation."

Last year, Texas-based U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that DACA was illegal because it wasn't subjected to public notice and comment periods required under federal law. But he left the program temporarily intact for those already benefiting from it, pending the appeal.

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That appeals decision came on Wednesday. The New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hanen's initial finding, but it sent the case back to him for a look at revisions to the program issued by the Biden administration in late August.

"We do know that the chances that DACA will survive much longer are significantly worse than they were before this decision and that they have ever been," Molina said.

According to Forward, the immigration rights group, 14,000 Coloradans have been been DACA recipients since the program started 10 years ago. Sixty-one percent of them are now in the labor force, and 92% have a high school diploma.

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9News legal expert Whitney Traylor said that despite Wednesday's appeals court ruling, DACA will remain in effect while the lower federal court considers recent revisions to the program.

Those revisions, set to take effect Oct. 31, represent little substantive change from the 2012 memo that created DACA, but it was subject to public comments as part of a formal rule-making process intended to improve its chances of surviving legal muster.

According to Traylor, it now seems likely that the U.S. Supreme Court will eventually decide DACA's fate.

"Yes, for sure, and the reason I say that unequivocally is that there is so much at stake and, either side, whatever way the lower court rules, there will be an appeal," Traylor said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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