OAK RIDGE, Tennessee — Thursday morning, a news alert gave Alexa Maqueo-Toledo a rush of adrenaline as she prepared for work at her job in Oak Ridge.
After months of waiting for the Supreme Court of the United States to rule on the DACA program, the justices voted the way she dreamed they would. Thursday the SCOTUS blocked the Trump administration's effort to end the program that allowed young "dreamers" brought to the U.S. as children by their undocumented immigrant parents to avoid deportation.
"I was mostly speechless and pretty shell-shocked. We were all preparing for the worst," said Maqueo-Toledo. "This came as a complete curveball and a huge win. I had goosebumps."
Life threw Maqueo-Toledo a curveball when she was a 15-year-old in Oak Ridge. As she started to get her driver's license, she learned she was undocumented. Her mother brought her on a visit to the United States from Mexico City as a toddler and they never went back.
"Finding out I was undocumented brought me a lot of fear and anxiety. I have never been to Mexico besides when I was born. So, I didn't really know what would happen to me. I would have to start over. I grew up here. This is my home. I'm an American," said Maqueo-Toledo.
When Maqueo-Toledo learned she was undocumented, it was one year after President Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. She applied and became a DACA recipient.
"I was able to get a social security number, a driver's license, get a job, and go to school," she said.
In November 2019, Maqueo-Toledo and other DACA recipients at Maryville College traveled to a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court as it heard arguments in the DACA case.
For now, the SCOTUS decision means she can continue her education and award-winning work for the non-profit Girls, Inc. Her ultimate dream is for DACA recipients to have a path to citizenship. Then the documentation could match this dreamer's lifelong reality.
"We're your neighbors, your students, your friends. We're American in every form of the word," said Maqueo-Toledo.