DACA plaintiffs and attorneys exited the United States Supreme Court with arms held high and hands clasped in solidarity, while a crowd of supporters — including a busload of “Dreamers” from New Jersey — roared its support from the steps below at an emotional rally Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the high court heard legal arguments regarding the Trump administration’s rollback of DACA, which shields 700,000 young immigrants — including 16,500 in New Jersey — from deportation.
DACA recipient Deya Aldana was one of many New Jersey residents who attended Tuesday’s rally in Washington, D.C.
“Knowing that they heard — and they were there for maybe about an hour — and an hour was all it took for them to decide my future, you know?” said Aldana. “I have a lot of built-up emotion right now, after the rally I called my partner and I was like, ‘Hey, I need a good cry session later!'”
Another DACA recipient, plaintiff Eliana Fernández from Long Island, walked 230 miles with other DACA recipients to appear in court — and to make a point.
“My children deserve to stay with their mother in the place they call home,” said Fernández. “I hope that the justices can see our humanity, our worth and our contributions, that we make to this country as the good Americans we are.”
“If in fact you are going to rescind this program, you should take into account the fact that a significant number of individuals, who have filed over 300 briefs, have relied upon this program,” said Letitia James, Attorney General of New York.
The lawsuit hinges on whether the Trump administration properly followed federal rules when it moved to phase out DACA. The high court’s conservative majority seemed reluctant to second guess the administration’s tactics.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco argued its memo ” … leaves no doubt regarding the clear, consistent and transparent enforcement of the immigration laws against all classes and categories of aliens.”
But, the attorney for DACA recipients noted the administration’s memo offered no clear reasoning.
“We were asked during court, ‘Well, what difference does it make? It’ll be sent back, and they’ll make the same decision. They’ll explain the reasons.’ I don’t think so,” said Theodore Olson, attorney for DACA plaintiffs. “I don’t think they want to take responsibility for this decision. They don’t want to explain it to the American people. They don’t want to own this decision. And they won’t do it.”
Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted his support, noting “Our DREAMers are just as American as my four kids,” adding, “we’ll continue to ensure that New Jersey remains a welcoming place for those who come here seeking a better life.”
DACA recipients all came here as children and passed criminal background checks to qualify for the program, and while even conservative justices offered sympathy for DACA recipients and their families, the President Trump had other thoughts.
Tuesday morning, he tweeted: “Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals,” he wrote. “If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!”
At a press conference later in the day, Sen. Bob Menendez addressed the president’s comments.
“I sat in the White House, when President Trump says, ‘I want to treat these young people with love.’ Well, love like that we don’t need. Because at the end of the day, when you end the program, not the court, when you ended the program and when you started on a pathway that puts all of these young people at risk, then that’s not love.”
“I’m feeling really hopeful after today,” said Aldana. “I’m feeling really grateful and my heart is feeling really full.”
Sen. Menendez called on Congress to pass legislation protecting DACA and Dreamers. The Supreme Court’s DACA decision is expected to drop some time next June — smack in the middle of a presidential election.