Columbia University graduate Santiago Tobar Potes told NPR’s Morning Edition that he was initially cautious about applying for Rhodes Scholarship—not because he was unqualified, but because of his status as a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient. He knew there was a chance the Supreme Court would allow the Trump administration to strike it down, putting his future here at risk. But then everything changed this past summer.
When the Supreme Court ruled this past June that Trump administration officials has unlawfully ended the program, Potes went for his chance, and applied in August. Last month, he found out he’d been selected, becoming the first Latino DACA recipient to become a Rhodes scholar. “I just couldn’t believe it,” he told NPR. “I just thought that they were going to call me, and say ‘Oh, we made a mistake. Sorry about that, we actually didn’t choose you.’”
Jin Park made history as the first DACA recipient to be awarded the Rhodes Scholarship, but revealed that the administration’s attacks on the Obama-era policy threatened his future. While lower courts had forced officials to partially reopen the program, a provision that allowed DACA recipients to apply for permission to study abroad was not. “If I leave,” Park said last year, “there’s a very real possibility that I won’t be able to come back.”
The administration defied the Supreme Court’s decision for months but this month finally fully reopened the program after yet another court’s order. Not only was the program reopened for new applications for the first time since last 2017, the the provision that allows international travel for some DACA recipients was also back.
“As one of the 2021 Rhodes Scholars, Potes will head to the University of Oxford in the UK this fall,” NPR reported, where he plans to study for a Master’s degree in international relations. “I wanna be a national security expert working at the Department of State or working as a counselor to a senator,” he told NPR. “I want to use my academic research to help the United States, ultimately.”