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DACA Protections For 660,000 Immigrants On The Line At Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court's conservative majority seems prepared to allow the Trump administration to end a program that allows some immigrants to work legally in the United States and protects them from deportation.

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Speaker 1: 00:00 The U S Supreme court heard arguments today about the fate of the DACA program. The Trump administration is attempting to end the deferred action program for childhood arrivals. DACA has allowed nearly 800,000 young people to get jobs and go to school by offering a temporary reprieve from the threat of deportation duel C Garcia is a San Diego immigration attorney and a DACA recipient whose own status is in legal limbo. She is suing to keep the DACA program alive and she was at the U S Supreme court hearing this morning, sitting next to California attorney general Javier Bissera. We spoke to her ahead of today's hearing. You'll say you're in Washington for this Supreme court argument. You filed your own lawsuit against the Trump administration after it ended the program, which has been consolidated into the case before the court today. What argument did you make that the DACA program should continue?

Speaker 2: 00:58 We made several arguments. One of them is that this administration rescinded the DACA program in an arbitrarily and propitious manner. We believe the program is always legal and the way that the administration went about resending the program was unlawful.

Speaker 1: 01:13 Now you were brought to the U S from Mexico when you were four. What kind of doors did DACA open up for you?

Speaker 2: 01:19 Yes. Oh my goodness. I lived in the shadows for many decades. I didn't want anyone to know about my status. I was always overlooking my shoulder. I lived in constant fear of being caught and deported. So having DACA gave me the peace of mind to be able to go into any office and apply for a job or, um, create my own law firm. Um, it gave me the security and peace of mind that I can sign contracts and walk into a government office to ask for the permits required to open my business and to employ people. It, uh, opened a, a lot of opportunities. Even the ability to get on a plane and fly to DC will not be made possible if an, if it wasn't for DACA.

Speaker 1: 02:05 You know, when president Obama announced the DACA program, he said it was just quote, a temporary stop gap measure. Why not end it as president and Trump has suggested in order to force Congress to come up with something more permanent,

Speaker 2: 02:21 Congress should come up with something more permanent. We have been demanding for it for decades now. This isn't something that we have been asking for in the last two years. We definitely need a path to citizenship, and that's the end goal. But in the meantime, so many lives are going to be disrupted without our DACA status. We are talking about families, uh, having the possibility of being separated. Children afraid that their parents are going to be deported. Without DACA. We were talking about disrupting the economy over a 700,000 jobs. Some of us job creators. So this impacts not, not only the, the economy, but also our day to day. I, it impacts and children that go to school that, uh, are, who are being taught by Docker recipients. Um, so it's the disruption that causes it in American lives, uh, that we believe is unfair. Um, the path to citizenship is something that we have been fighting for so long. Um, but in the meantime, we need our DACA status. Uh, not only for peace of mind, but so that we don't have the, the disruption that we're seeing and the chaos that we saw come about. Uh, in September 5th, 2017 when the president rescinded DACA.

Speaker 1: 03:33 And do you see any movement in Congress at the, they're moving toward coming up with something more permanent, something like a path to citizenship?

Speaker 2: 03:40 Unfortunately, this president has stopped any negotiations as far as a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. The house of representatives passed the bill, the dream act and promise act, and it is just waiting for Mitch McConnell to be put on the floor. If that bill goes to the floor, we are certain it would pass. The overwhelming majority of Americans see us DACA recipients as Americans and they want to keep us here in the country. Uh, we've seen polls that show that over 80% of of the people want to maintain DACA recipients here in the U S this is our home. This is where we belong. And it's unfortunate that this president is using our allies as political bargaining chips to obtain other things like the wall and cut legal migration in half. Um, but if it wasn't for this administration, I believe he would've had already a path to citizenship.

Speaker 1: 04:35 You outlined a lot of things that you think would, would result if the Supreme court decides it's time to end DACA, would you still be able to practice law?

Speaker 2: 04:47 I would have fear of being able to keep my practice open. I would not be able to step into an immigration court knowing that my opponent, the the U S government sitting right next to me also wanting to deport me. Uh, I practice immigration and immigration courts and I will not be able to do so if I don't have DACA.

Speaker 1: 05:10 Now the Supreme court is expected to make a decision in this case next summer. What are you telling DACA recipients today? Should they continue to renew their applications?

Speaker 2: 05:21 Yes. We don't know what will happen with the decision at the Supreme court, but we are telling folks to renew their DACA if it expires within the next year, to consult with an attorney immediately to see if it's something that, uh, they need to do right away. Uh, but no one knows really what to expect from this decision. We are confident that we're going to win. But in the meantime, for those folks that haven't renewed their DACA and it's expiring within the next year, uh, please, uh, consult with an immigration attorney, consult with one of the various nonprofits around town that are, uh, able to provide these legal. Why was it important for you to be in Washington while these arguments were going on? Wow. This is, I, I feel like I need to be part of this very historical moment. Uh, it took us so long to get here.

Speaker 2: 06:13 DACA was won by other folks before me that were, uh, fighting for a path to citizenship and we didn't win DACA overnight. It was something that took a long time to get. And for, for, for now that DACA is threatened. Um, I feel it's important that we were present for this very historical moment to let the nation know that, that this is our home. This is where we belong, uh, that we should remain here. Uh, I'm just really privileged to be able to travel to D C and be in front of the Supreme court and hear the legal arguments and be present in the preparation that is taking place. Uh, just today we were all day, uh, in moot hearings and, um, having conversations with the various legal, the legal teams that are involved in this litigation, um, as, as a, as a way to ensure that we're as strong as we can be. I've been speaking with San Diego attorney. They'll say Garcia, they'll say, thank you so much. Thank you.

Speaker 3: 07:28 [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.