'Celebrate Today, Fight Tomorrow': DACA Case Plaintiff On Supreme Court's Decision
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
The people who are brought to the U.S. illegally as children wear uncertainty like a second skin. As kids, they wonder if their parents will be deported and what will become of them if that happens. And as high school winds to a close, will they be able to attend college without papers? Will they be able to work?
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
And even after President Obama created a program to protect them, the uncertainty persisted because in the U.S., presidential elections happen every four years.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I will immediately terminate President Obama's illegal executive order on immigration - immediately.
KELLY: That is then-candidate Trump in the very speech where he announced he would run for president. He followed through on that promise. In 2017, he rescinded the DACA order.
CHANG: But today, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that President Trump did not have a good enough reason to wipe away the Obama-era policy. I spoke with one of the plaintiffs in the case earlier today, a DACA recipient named Antonio Alarcon, just a few hours after he had learned of the decision. And I asked him to take me back to that moment when he learned which way the court had landed.
ANTONIO ALARCON: (Laughter) So I think my routine every Monday and Thursday has become, like, opening my computer and just refreshing the website for SCOTUS and...
CHANG: To see if the Supreme Court had ruled?
ALARCON: Yeah. And today, actually, it wasn't, like, refreshing. I was like, what's going on? And then certainly (ph) one of my closest friends, she's like - oh, my God. It's up. It's up. And I was like, what's up? And then she kind of break the news for me. And I was like oh, my God.
So it was great. It was great to see. Right away, we FaceTimed each other. And, you know, we cried together because we'd been fighting for this for a couple of years now. And seeing that, you know, actually the Supreme Court realized the contributions of us DREAMers and our parents, I think, it's just a great moment to celebrate.
CHANG: Can you just describe for me, like, what is going through your mind at this moment? I know you're still processing the decision. But tell me where your mind has gone just in the last several hours.
ALARCON: Well, I think it's just like, what is next? Right? Like, we won, but we know that President Trump is super upset. He thinks that the world is against him. But I think for us it's like, OK, we won. We will celebrate today, but tomorrow we will fight for a better solution, right? And I think for us right now, it's, like, help those people who will actually be able to qualify for DACA - for the DACA program who didn't qualify before. Now that the Supreme Court actually is telling Trump and DHS - right? - like, you need to reopen those applications and let other people apply, I think for us, it's going to be work. And I think the view is it's going to be able to help those students or those DREAMers who will actually change their lives.
CHANG: Yeah. Well, I want to go back to the beginning of your story. Your family is from Mexico. Can you tell me, when did you come to the U.S.?
ALARCON: Yes. I came to the U.S. when I was 10 years old. As many other DREAMers, I migrated with my parents. As many others as well, like, crossed the border, you know, walking for three days and three nights. And then eventually I went through the school system in here. Since then, I've been living here in New York. I went to middle school. I went to high school and eventually college.
CHANG: Well, you know, to return to your school years, eventually you ended up becoming a top student at your high school in Queens. But then it was time to start thinking about college. Can you just tell us what that was like? What happened when you wanted to apply to college at first?
ALARCON: So I remember it was my junior year in high school. And as you mentioned, I was kind of like the top student in my school. And I remember, like, one day one of my guidance counselors reached out to me. And she was like, congratulations, you can actually apply - you got selected to apply for these private institutions. The only requirement that we need from you is your Social Security number. And at the time, DACA wasn't implemented yet, so I didn't have a Social. I just told her, like, I'm sorry; like, I don't have one. And she was like, OK. I'm sorry, but I - like, this is only for people who have a Social Security number.
Right away, you know, like, I knew that I was undocumented and this could happen. But I didn't realize how hard it was going to be until, like, that moment. And I think it's the moment for many other DREAMers when we realize that - how hard it's going to be to be undocumented after high school, right?
CHANG: Mmm hmm.
ALARCON: So for me, it was hard. But I knew that that was not the ending. And eventually, I was able to apply for college and graduate from it.
CHANG: Well, this was a big win for DACA recipients and all the advocates who work with DACA recipients. But, you know, DACA was an Obama-era order. Congress still has not passed a law. So what's next for you as you continue this fight?
ALARCON: We need - exactly as you mentioned before, this is not a law. This is something that could be taken away either by Trump, by any other president. And we know that - I think after today, we know that we can win anything. And we need to fight for our parents. Elections are coming up. And we need to ensure that people who are eligible to vote, they vote for someone who will understand the immigrant community, who will understand that the contributions of our parents are the same as anyone else. So our fight is to continue to fight for a path to citizenship. We won't stop until that day happens. And after that, we will still ensure that, you know, we get the respect and dignity that our parents and the community deserves because that's the ultimate goal.
CHANG: Is there anything you want to say to the thousands of other DACA recipients today? I mean, they've had a lot of their lives in limbo since President Trump rescinded DACA in 2017. What would you like to say to them today?
ALARCON: Yeah. Well, I think - don't get comfy, right? Today we celebrate. Today we acknowledge that this win or this victory as a movement, it was made by the movement. But tomorrow we need to continue to fight for those who don't have anything at the moment. And, you know, just because we won today doesn't mean that tomorrow our beloved ones will not get deported. So today we celebrate; tomorrow we fight.
CHANG: Antonio Alarcon is a DACA recipient and now a census coordinator at Make the Road New York.
Thank you very much for joining us today.
ALARCON: Thank you.
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