Arisaid Gonzalez Porras, 20, is one of hundreds of young adults who will gather in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday to express her support for a program that she says has transformed her life — but the Trump administration is trying to put on the chopping block.
“With DACA, there was an immediate sense of relief, knowing that I’d be able to go to college and apply to scholarships,” Gonzalez Porras, a junior majoring in American Studies at Georgetown University, told NBC News. “I remember getting my first paycheck at Georgetown and not having to think twice about inserting a social security number, which was a major consideration before DACA.”
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, was established in 2012 by former President Barack Obama and allowed teens over 16 and adults younger than 30 who were brought to the United States when they were children to work and study without fear of deportation. Gonzalez Porras is one of more than 800,000 young immigrants who have enrolled.
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments Tuesday on a Trump administration challenge to lower court rulings that blocked the administration from ending the program, which President Donald Trump announced he would do in 2017.
Administration officials argue the program interferes with its immigration enforcement efforts and sanctions the violation of federal law, but they have been challenged in court by civil rights, legal and immigration groups.
“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals,” Trump tweeted hours prior the Supreme Court hearing on Tuesday. “If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!”
Actually, only young immigrant adults who had “not been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor, or three or more other misdemeanors” could be considered for DACA status, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
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A number of national groups will rally outside the Supreme Court as Democratic lawmakers, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will be holding a press conference and a prayer breakfast with national leaders in support of the program as the oral arguments begin inside the Supreme Court.
“I did everything I could”
Gonzalez Porras arrived in the U.S. from Mexico with her family when she was younger than two years old and grew up in Mesa, Arizona. When the confirmation of her DACA enrollment came in the mail, she recalls, her mother told her this was her chance at college and a better life.
A recent Harvard study found the program has provided long-term economic and educational benefits for young adults and their families; 76 percent of DACA recipients doubled their yearly salaries and have completed professional and educational programs, bolstering the nation’s workforce and contributing billions of dollars to the economy.
Lately, Gonzalez Porras has been preoccupied with thoughts of how she’d adjust to life post-DACA. If the Supreme Court allows Trump to end the program, her two-year DACA enrollment would end in March of 2021.
“What does my future look like? I’m trying to make a plan and think about opportunities I can take internationally, but it’s not just me that would be affected; it’s my whole family,” Gonzalez Porras said.
“DACA recipients shouldn’t be used as a way to extract more pain from immigrant communities,” said José Muñoz, national communications manager for United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led network, who said that immigrant communities have been targeted “again and again.”
The rally, according to Muñoz, is an opportunity for DACA recipients and allies to “make their voices heard.”
Muñoz said the Facebook event shows more than 800 people have responded that they will attend the rally. Many of them are DACA recipients, but some are members of a burgeoning group of teenage immigrants who were too young to qualify for status when it was first introduced and who “want to continue the fight,” according to Muñoz.
“There is unity in this community that has been routinely attacked under the current administration,” Munoz said.
Another group attending the rally is the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), which recently helped lead a 230-mile march to the Supreme Court from New York City in support of DACA, with Home is Here, a coalition of other immigrant advocacy organizations.
“There was rain; there were hecklers, but we were and are resilient and we wanted people to see the community we’ve been able to build for ourselves,” Sam Yu, communications coordinator of NAKASEC, said. “With the march and at the rally, we want to send the message that even though the fight doesn’t end with DACA, it should be preserved. And for the people who can’t be there with us, we want them to know: We are fighting for them.”
The rally follows a nationwide event Friday in which high school and college students of various immigration statuses walked out of class in support of preserving DACA.
“Even though no decision will be reached Tuesday, this is a historic moment,” Gonzalez Porras said. “When I talk to my kids or other people in the future about this, I want to be able to say that I did everything I could to make sure that we are seen not just as a number, but as the human beings we are.”
Nicole Acevedo contributed.