COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — With the future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in jeopardy, immigration advocates and DACA recipients in South Carolina are asking Congress to take action.

The program was established back in 2012 through an executive order by then-President Barack Obama. DACA prevents the deportation of thousands of people brought to the US as children.

Officials estimate there are about 8,800 DACA recipients living in South Carolina. They also say close to 90% of recipients are employed in the state’s labor force.

Wednesday in Louisiana, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals listened to oral arguments for a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of the program.

In 2018, South Carolina joined the state of Texas in challenging the legality of DACA.

In a statement sent to WSPA Wednesday, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson wrote, “Even though I don’t think innocent children and teens should be deported, the problem is that the DACA expansion was done by an executive order by President Obama. According to our Constitution, it’s Congress that passes laws, not the president. I signed that letter urging the repeal of the DACA executive order so that Congress will take action to make it a law, which is the way the issue should be handled.”

If the program ends, DACA recipients who call South Carolina home like Tahera Attarwala and Shrey Patel said they are concerned about the impact on their lives and others if DACA was ended.

Attarwala and her family came from India to the US when she was one year old. She is currently getting her master’s degree in natural resources in Delaware. “As of right now, I am not worried about losing the work I am doing. But I will be in a position where I’m fearing deportation and uncertainty for the future,” she said.

Patel’s family has been in South Carolina for 17 years. He grew up in Orangeburg for most of his life he said. Patel is currently a cancer researcher in New York. Like Attarwala, he left South Carolina so he could pursue career and academic opportunities.

“The greatest lesson I have learned as a DACA recipient is how to be grateful that I’m in the United States and irregardless of the hardships I’ve had to face here – I have learned home is not defined by where you are born but by the connections you make,” Patel said.

Both Patel and Attarwala said they’ll be reaching out to members of Congress to establish a path for citizenship for Dreamers.

The Fifth Circuit’s decision is expected later this year.