Washington, DC – Waving a large banner reading “here to stay” a dozen immigrants who arrived in the United States as children and their supporters celebrated outside of the Supreme Court on Thursday after the nation’s highest legal body dealt US President Donald Trump a major setback to his hardline immigration policies.
With a 5-4 vote, judges blocked the Trump administration’s bid to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a programme that shields hundreds of thousands of young immigrants from deportation.
“I feel elated because our community has scored a victory, the Trump administration has lost trying to end our protection,” said Luz, 22, who was born in Bolivia and arrived in the US when she was four years old.
“But this fight doesn’t stop at DACA, we’re gonna push for permanent protection for all undocumented immigrants in the US,” she said.
Former President Barack Obama introduced DACA in 2012 as part of executive action. Trump, who has made a tough stance on immigration one of his core policies moved to end the programme in 2017, arguing that it was an overreach of presidential power.
Trump’s move was challenged in the lower courts allowing people who already have the status to renew until the Supreme Court issued a final ruling.
Roberto, 20, who was born in El Salvador and arrived in the US aged four, says since obtaining DACA status four years ago, he has been able to go to university, work and live without fear.
“We’ve been preparing ourselves for this moment, for this decision, for months now and we feel grateful,” he said behind a white mask.
“I am happy to stand here in front of the Supreme Court to tell everyone that we’re here to stay,” he said.
With a 5-4 conservative majority in the Supreme Court, it had been unclear how the justices would rule. But conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals in finding that the administration’s actions were “arbitrary and capricious” under federal law.
The ruling marks the second time this week that Roberts ruled against Trump in a major case. On Monday, the court decided that gay and transgender workers are protected under federal employment law.
Trump has cracked down on immigrants, particularly those coming from Central America, a central part of his presidency and his 2020 re-election campaign. And he has pursued the construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border.
These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives. We need more Justices or we will lose our 2nd. Amendment & everything else. Vote Trump 2020!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2020
“These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” Trump wrote on Twitter after the ruling.
Government figures show that more than 95 percent of DACA recipients were born in Latin America, and some 80 percent in Mexico, followed by El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
DACA recipients say enrolling in the programme is not easy – they have to meet certain conditions to qualify such as proving that they have lived in the US for an extended period, have no past convictions or felonies, and must be enrolled in high school or have a high school diploma or equivalent.
When the programme was devised, Obama had argued that the young immigrants were raised and educated in the US, grew up as Americans and most know very little about their countries of origin.
“We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals,” Obama said in a tweet after the ruling.
Eight years ago this week, we protected young people who were raised as part of our American family from deportation. Today, I'm happy for them, their families, and all of us. We may look different and come from everywhere, but what makes us American are our shared ideals…
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 18, 2020
A poll conducted by POLITICO/Morning Consult, published on Wednesday, said 69 percent of those who voted for Trump in 2016 believe that Dreamers should be protected from deportation.
A poll conducted last year showed that 77 percent across the country are in favour of granting citizenship to Dreamers.
Outside the Supreme Court, a young man holding a loudspeaker led a chant: “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here.”
Sasia, who was among the dozen or so gathered, was born in El Salvador. She says she arrived in the US when she was six and is now studying psychology at university.
“These last few weeks have been draining, I considered moving to Canada,” she said. “But now I don’t have to consider that any more. I can plan my future here.”