This is our home, and it will continue to be our home. Today the Supreme Court rightfully sided today with the over 800,000 immigrant youth with DACA status.
“This is a momentous day for fairness and justice. The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roberts, made clear what we in Latinx and immigrant communities have known all along: this administration’s sudden, ill-considered, and cruel decision to rescind DACA was ‘arbitrary and capricious,’” said Conexión Américas Board President and Vanderbilt University Professor of Law, Terry Maroney. “They chose to traumatize hundreds of thousands of hard-working young people by throwing their entire futures into doubt, without having taken the most basic steps required under federal law. However, the fight is not over. It is now up to Congress to take permanent action to protect our Dreamers, and to allow them to continue to build lives of meaning and purpose in this country, their home.”
Never has the presence of Dreamers in our country been so necessary. Over 200,000 DACA recipients nationwide have been on the frontlines battling COVID-19, working in the healthcare, education, and food industries.
When USCIS first began accepting DACA applications in 2012, Conexión Américas stepped up to quickly organize clinics in order to provide undocumented youth with access to this new pathway to self-sufficiency. Conexión Américas worked with Tennessee Justice for Our Neighbors, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, law students, and pro bono lawyers to host clinics at Casa Azafrán and across Middle Tennessee. The application process was strenuous, as youth had to provide detailed records of their presence in the United States, as well as of their educational achievements.
There was always an inherent risk in applying for DACA—undocumented and mixed status families gave all of their information to the federal government, not knowing if the next presidential administration would scrap the executive order and use the information to deport them. But, families chose hope over fear. Families chose the opportunity to legally find better jobs, purchase homes and cars, go to college and graduate school, and start small businesses.
“DACA has allowed me to accomplish my family’s dream (and mine) of obtaining a college education. It has given me great opportunities, and It has made me feel safe in this country,” said Berenice Oliva, recent Trevecca Nazarene University graduate and long-time participant in Conexión Américas education programs. “However, that safety was threatened and I constantly wondered what the outcome would be—always imagined the worst. Today, I feel hopeful. I feel safe again, I can plan for my future. Today, I don’t have to go sleep wondering if I will be here in a month or not. Today I have cried so many tears of joy. Today, this decision has recharged my emotional battery to continue this fight.”
“The U. S. Supreme Court ruling made me feel human despite President Trump’s trying his hardest to dehumanize us immigrants and using us as bargaining chip for political gain,” said César Virto, a proud DACA recipient, Nashvillian, and winner of Conexión Américas’ Orgullo Hispano award in 2019. “I’m not a building. I’m a human and I have feelings. DACA has given me the opportunity to feel like an American. I am debt free, I have a college degree, I am a homeowner, an Airbnb host in Nashville, an investor and was recently an employee at Lyft before covid19. The vote was 5-4 with Chief Justice John Roberts casting the decisive fifth vote— a reminder we have a lot of work ahead of us for people to see us as humans instead of a problem. Christians should not see any human as a problem but rather as an opportunity to evangelize. I will continue to prove and show that I belong here. I’m here to stay.”
This is just the beginning. DACA was only meant to be a temporary solution shielding undocumented immigrant youth from deportation and separation from their families.
Now is the time for Congress to pass legislation to permanently protect immigrant youth from the threat of deportation, and allowing them to continue to work legally and support their families and communities. At a time when our country is yet again uniting to demand racial justice for all, we must also demand justice for our country’s immigrant community.
Conexión Américas is a Nashville-based nonprofit organization established in 2002. Its mission is to build a welcoming community and create opportunities where Latino families can belong, contribute and succeed. Every year, Conexión Américas assists more than 9,000 individuals and their families in their desire to start businesses, buy homes, improve their English, help their children succeed in school and go to college, and become an integral part of Tennessee’s social, cultural and economic vitality. Conexión Américas is the lead partner of Casa Azafrán, a nonprofit collaborative at the gateway to Nashville’s International District that is home to Conexión Américas and nine partners. To learn more, visit www.conexionamericas.org.