The fight for DACA is not over

Take it from a former DACA recipient, the US Supreme Court’s verdict is just the beginning.

(DACA) students celebrate in front of the Supreme Court a
Students celebrate in front of the Supreme Court after it rejected President Donald Trump's effort to end legal protections for young immigrants in Washington on June 18, 2020 [AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta]

On June 19, DACA recipients across the country erupted in celebration. The United States Supreme Court struck down the Trump administration’s attempt to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme, which grants undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children deferral on deportation and eligibility for work permits.

Five out of the court’s nine judges voted against the administration’s actions, calling them “arbitrary and capricious”.

To the immigrant community that has suffered relentless dehumanising attacks and scapegoating under Donald Trump’s presidency, the court’s ruling represents a critical victory. Together with the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients across the country who have been waiting on the Supreme Court to rule on this case for months, I share the deep sense of relief that comes with this victory.

When I was just 11 years old, my family immigrated from Morocco, like so many families in search of education and opportunities for a better life. I did not know that I was undocumented until I was in high school and began filling out college applications.

I asked my mother for my social security number, and discovered that I did not have one. Not only that, I did not have any kind of residency or the papers needed to protect my ability to stay in this country.

After the 9/11 attacks in the US, Muslim men were ordered to register their presence in this country under the guise of “national security”. It was then, as a college student, that I learned just how precarious our situation was.

Others saw me and men who looked like me as potential terrorist threats simply because of where we were born and how we worshipped. Deportation orders were initiated for my family. That is when I decided to become a lawyer and fight for the rights of immigrants.

In 2012, when the Obama administration established DACA, I took the risk of relying on the government’s promises of protection against deportation under the programme. I felt an overwhelming sense of stability that I had never experienced in my time in the US.

From my father’s first attempt to renew our family’s visa after we arrived in the US to the gruelling process I went through to attend law school as a Muslim in a post-9/11 world, DACA gave me a chance to succeed in, and contribute to, the country I grew up in, and to get a taste of what it feels like to be seen as a human being who belongs.

Just a few months later, I joined the staff at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), a nonprofit organisation which advocates for the rights of low-income immigrants, and led its DACA implementation efforts.

Today, I serve as NILC’s deputy director and am proud of our work representing courageous young DACA plaintiffs who pushed this administration all the way to the Supreme Court and prevailed.

Together with them, I feel at once elated and apprehensive.

While the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold DACA is a momentous victory, President Trump wasted no time in stating that his work to dismantle the programme will continue with renewed vigour. In fact, in a recent media interview, he indicated that he is planning to make new changes to immigration policy by issuing an executive order, and stated that DACA might be included in some way.

For immigrants and DACA recipients, for our families and the communities we love, the fight must continue, much as it has throughout our lives in this country.

The stakes in November are clear: DACA is on the ballot. We need a president who will honour the human dignity of all who call this country home – no matter what you look like or where you were born. We need a president who will appoint Supreme Court justices committed to inclusion, equity, and justice.

Trump’s narrative of exclusion based on race, birthplace, and religion is detrimental to our country. His use of law enforcement and state violence time and time again to tear apart families, terrorise communities of colour, and trample over our constitution is dangerous and divisive. Americans of good conscience must come together to ensure he is replaced in November by someone who will work to bring this country together and fight for all people, Black or white, rich or poor, immigrant or native-born.

Immigrants are people. We are people when we arrive in this country, and we are people when we become citizens and every day in between. And just because someone is legal now does not mean they are better than they were when they were undocumented.

I was granted US citizenship just last year. This November, I will have the opportunity to vote in my first presidential election. For DACA recipients everywhere, for my family, for the sake of the future of our country, I will be casting my vote on behalf of, and in support of millions of immigrants who are still struggling to be recognised and welcomed in America, which they have chosen as their home.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.