Undocumented & Unafraid: Supreme Court's DACA Decision

Students explore the Supreme Court's ruling protecting DACA, discuss the youth-led movement fighting to advance immigrants' rights, and consider what comes next. 

The Supreme Court’s June 2020 decision to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was celebrated as a victory by young immigrant rights activists across the country. 

The court’s 5-4 decision was limited in scope, but it delivered a blow to the Trump administration’s effort to roll back the program. DACA, which was introduced in 2012 by the Obama administration, protects nearly 700,000 young immigrants (often called "Dreamers") without citizenship or residency status from deportation.

The ruling is an opportunity to engage students in discussion about DACA, its impact on undocumented youth, and the youth-led movement to defend and expand immigrants’ rights and promote justice and dignity for all immigrants.
This topic is a critical one for communities across the country, and often a sensitive one as well. In discussing it, we as educators must be empathetic and aware of the students in our physical and virtual classroom spaces that may be directly impacted by DACA. Consider reviewing these guidelines for discussing difficult issues in the classroom. 

This lesson includes:

  • Opening: Share with students images of the DACA protests. Invite students to write down and then share what messages they receive from the pictures, and what emotions come up for them in viewing the images. 
  • Backgrounder: Ask students what they know about DACA and provide them with background information on current news and the larger issues.
  • Activity: Share a brief video about one Dreamer and invite students to respond to the prompts in popcorn style.
  • What’s Next? Share information on what youth activists are now doing to address this issue and invite students’ thoughts.
  • Closing: Students view the video “Home is Here” and reflect on today's discussion.


Photo by Susan Ruggles.


Before entering into a full discussion, share with students these images of recent peaceful protests in Washington, D.C., against the termination of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Draw their attention to the first page images, or pre-select images you would like students to focus on. 

While scrolling through the images, pause and allow students time to look and reflect. Continue scrolling and pausing until you have reached the bottom of the first page. 

Leave some of the images up on the screen, and provide students with two minutes to answer the prompts on paper:

  • What messages do you see in the images?
  • What emotions are captured in the images?

After the two minutes are up, inform students that you will do one go-round, where every student has the opportunity to share one of their responses to the prompt. (If you are conducting a virtual gathering, write all the students’ names in the chat box, and ask students to speak in that order for go-rounds.) 

In the first round, invite students to share what messages they saw in the images. Students may share that the signs included words such as: Undocumented & Unafraid; HOME-is-HERE; Without Dreamers, There’s No American Dream; We are all Immigrants; Keep Families Together; and Unidos Soñamos, which translates as Together We Dream.

In the next round, invite students to share what emotions are captured in the images. Responses might include anger, joy, fear, excitement, or urgency.

After all students have shared, ask if anyone knows exactly what DACA is.

Backgrounder: What's DACA – and Why is It in the News? 

After students generate responses on what they already know about  DACA, share some or all of the background information below.

  • The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program protects nearly 700,000 young immigrants without citizenship or residency status from being deported. It was created in 2012, under the Obama administration.
  • These young immigrants, often called “Dreamers,” were brought to the U.S. as children. To be eligible for DACA, they had to have arrived in the U.S. before age 16, they must have lived here since 2007, and they must have been under 30 when the policy was enacted. Recipients are required to renew their protections every two years. 
  • DACA does not provide Dreamers with a path to citizenship or permanent residency in the U.S., which is the only country many Dreamers can remember. However, it does protect them from sudden deportation, and it allows them to work legally, get a driver’s license, and go to school. 
  • Public support for DACA is extremely high: In fact, about three-quarters of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, support granting permanent legal status to immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. 
  • However, President Trump announced in September 2017 that he would wind down the program, arguing that creating or maintaining the program was beyond the legal power of any president. (DACA was created through an executive order by President Obama.)
  • Young people and adults across the country have organized a powerful mass movement to defend DACA – and to demand justice and dignity for all immigrants. 
  • The issue came before the Supreme Court, and on June 18, 2020, the court ruled by a 5-4 majority to protect the law. 
  • The decision, which was written by Chief Justice John Roberts, found that the Trump administration’s justification for rolling back the law was “arbitrary and capricious.” However, the court ruled that the Trump administration could try to challenge the program again if they could provide adequate reasons for ending it. 
  • This Supreme Court decision was a small yet significant win for the many young adults and youth who have been protected under DACA. 
  • But under the current presidential administration there still is a lingering threat that DACA will be terminated altogether, leaving thousands of undocumented youth and young adults in fear. 
  • The Supreme Court decision provided temporary relief, but the fight is not over yet. Thousands of youth, many of whom are undocumented themselves, continue to organize to protect DACA. 

Activity: Video & Discussion

After providing students with background information, play this 3-minute video about one Dreamer.  

Tell students that “Jazmin’s Story” was created by United We Dream, the largest youth-led immigrant organization in the United States, with over 400,000 members across 28 states. The video is about Yazmin Irazoqui Ruiz, an aspiring surgeon who was born in Mexico and has lived in the U.S. since she was three years old. 

After playing the video, invite students to respond to the questions below. Ask student to first write down their responses to these prompts. Then, encourage students to share their responses with the group popcorn-style (not in any particular order).


  • What does it mean to be an undocumented youth in this country?
  • How does Jazmin’s story connect to all young people in this country, regardless of immigration status? 
  • What can happen to Jazmin and her dreams if DACA is terminated?

Encourage students to see more stories like Jazmin’s here.

So… What's Next?

Young people across the country are pressing for a law that would provide a permanent pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. One such piece of legislation, called the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, would grant Dreamers an opportunity to acquire permanent lawful status if they meet certain requirements. This legislation was passed last year by the House of Representatives, but has not come up for a vote in the Senate. 

But many immigration activists are also fighting for broader rights for immigrants. The organization United We Dream has four goals: to win protections for immigrants (like the Dream Act), to defend against deportations, to ensure equal access to education for immigrants, and to demand justice for LGBTQ immigrants. 

People across the county are also working to protect the thousands of undocumented youth and their families in detention centers, where conditions are inhumane, and the Coronavirus is spreading. 

The challenges immigrant organizers face are great, but support for their cause is strong. 


Conclude the lesson by playing the video “Home is Here Month of Action”:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2wpxNGYu8A#action=share

Prompt: After playing the video invite each student to share one thing they learned today.


Extension Activities

In a follow-up lesson, invite students to research action steps that can be taken to promote immigration reform, such as DACA, the Dream Act, and changes to Department of Homeland Security policies and laws.


Background Sources: