For Juan Prieto, a federal judge's order this week forcing the Trump administration to accept first-time applicants for a program that shields undocumented immigrants from deportation, offers a glimmer of hope for his family.
Prieto, who is 26, has lived in California since age 8. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allowed him to legally work while a student at UC Berkeley and to land a job after graduating. But two younger siblings didn't apply for DACA before President Trump rescinded the program last September, he said.
Now, Prieto is encouraged that his siblings might be able to reach for the two-year renewable work permit, protection from deportation and other benefits.
"It gives them a lot of hope to be able to try to restructure their lives around having access to things that they've been denied ... because they didn't have DACA," said Prieto, who works as an immigrant rights organizer in Oakland.
Prieto's brother and sister are among an estimated 180,000 people living in California who could benefit from U.S. District Judge John D. Bates' ruling Tuesday that the government reopen DACA to new applicants.
But the path for new DACA applicants is not guaranteed. The order does not go into effect for 90 days. Bates is giving the government that time to try again to justify its decision to phase out the program.
"DACA's rescission was arbitrary and capricious," wrote Bates, an appointee of President George W. Bush. The government "failed adequately to explain its conclusion that the program was unlawful."
Earlier rulings by federal judges in San Francisco and Brooklyn required the government to keep processing renewal applications as legal challenges to ending DACA make their way through the courts. But those judges stopped short of requiring the government to accept new applications.
The Obama-era program has benefited about 800,000 young immigrants. Bates' order could open the door to deportation protections and legal employment to over 630,000 more immigrants nationwide, with about a third of them living in California, according to a KQED analysis using estimates by the Migration Policy Institute and the latest government figures.
Prieto, who has had DACA since 2012, said his sister worries she won't be able to support herself financially as a college student, while his brother, a high school graduate, dreams of becoming an engineer, but took a job as a farmworker.
"My little brother ... struggles a lot with depression," Prieto said. "His realization of the difficulty of being undocumented in this country, when you have no access to any pathway towards what you want to accomplish."
The U.S. Department of Justice plans to keep fighting to phase out DACA because the program is unlawful, said spokesman Devin O'Malley in a statement.
The government "acted within its lawful authority in deciding to wind down DACA in an orderly manner," said O'Malley. "The Justice Department will continue to vigorously defend this position, and looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation.”
The issue is expected to head towards the highest court, according to legal experts.
"This is an important issue that the Supreme Court is likely going to want to weigh in on," said Kevin Johnson, dean of the UC Davis School of Law.
For Eli Oh in San Jose, the DACA work authorization has been life changing. He is able to work as a critical care nurse at Stanford Health Care. He said the latest ruling on DACA is a "good sign," but what he is really hoping for is a legislative solution to the plight of so-called "Dreamers" like him.
"We have been living with uncertainty long enough that we know that nothing is for certain until we get a permanent residence or a bill," said Oh, who is in the application process to renew DACA. "What we really want is a bill that passes that gives us a pathway to citizenship."
Before the program was discontinued, unauthorized immigrants could be eligible for DACA if they had come to the U.S. before age 16, lived here continuously since June 2007, and were younger than 31 when the program began in 2012. They were also required to be enrolled in high school or have graduated, among other requirements.