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Meet Dulce Garcia: DREAMer & Immigration Lawyer Who Is Suing Trump for Ending DACA

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On Monday, six recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program sued the Trump administration in a San Francisco federal court over its plans to rescind the program. The lawsuit argues the Trump administration failed to follow proper administrative procedures in rescinding DACA and that revoking the program violates due process laws. DACA was instituted by the Obama administration in 2012 after years of sustained grassroots organizing by young undocumented students. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have also sued the Trump administration over its plans to end DACA. We speak with one of the six plaintiffs, Dulce Garcia, an immigration lawyer who regularly defends other immigrants in court in California. She’s been living in the United States since her family immigrated from Mexico when she was four years old.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We’re continuing to look at the struggle over DACA. That’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which gives nearly 800,000 young people legal permission to live and work in the United States. On Monday, six DACA recipients sued the Trump administration in a San Francisco federal court over its plans to rescind the program. The lawsuit argues the Trump administration failed to follow proper administrative procedures in rescinding DACA and that revoking the program violates due process laws. DACA was instituted by President Obama in 2012 after years of sustained grassroots organizing by young undocumented students. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have also sued the Trump administration over its plans to end DACA.

AMY GOODMAN: Among the six plaintiffs is Jirayut Latthivongskorn, a fourth-year medical student who’s been living in the United States since he and his parents moved from Thailand when he was just nine years old. Two other plaintiffs are middle school teachers. Another plaintiff is Dulce Garcia, an immigration lawyer who regularly defends other immigrants in court in California. She’s been living in the United States since her family immigrated from Mexico when she was four years old. So we’re going to San Diego, California, to speak with her.

Dulce Garcia, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you lay out what this lawsuit is all about and who you’re representing, not to mention yourself?

DULCE GARCIA: Hi. Thank you so much for having me. On a personal level, what this lawsuit is to me, it’s a way to speak, to tell our stories, to tell who we are, to tell the stories of our parents and their sacrifices, as well, because although the dialogue has been centered around us as DREAMers, it’s clear and evident from the lawsuit itself that there was support from our parents all the way through to make sure that our dreams came true. So, for me, this lawsuit means a voice for us. We’re speaking on our own behalf. And we’re filing the lawsuit on behalf of 800,000 DACA recipients. So, it’s a very personal lawsuit. Being a lawyer, I trust our judicial system, and I am placing full faith on them to do what is right for us.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, tell us your own story and how it came to be, one, that you ended up as a lawyer and benefited from DACA yourself. Talk about your family’s journey.

DULCE GARCIA: Yeah. Well, actually, the last memory that I have of my home country was when we were robbed at the border in Tijuana, in Tijuana, Mexico. That’s the very last memory that I have of my home country. I’ve been here for over 30 years now. And it’s been a difficult upbringing. We arrived in San Diego, which is a beautiful city. We settled there, loved it, but we struggled. We struggled at times with homelessness. Growing up, we had so much fear of our local police. We had fear of not just immigration officers, but also just in general authority. We would never step into a government’s office to ask for help for anything. So, my family, we would find ourselves, our siblings and I, sleeping under a table, because my parents, at that time, couldn’t afford a home for us, so we would rent out areas of a home. So, we had a difficult upbringing, to say the least. We definitely lacked healthcare.

But we knew that with hard work that we would—we would be able to accomplish our dreams. And my dream, from very small, was to become a lawyer. In my mind—not realizing that I was not a U.S. citizen, in my mind, I was going to become a lawyer, a criminal defense lawyer, and work for the federal government as an FBI agent. And this is based on the books that I was reading, the TV that I was watching, and just looking around my neighborhood at the abuse by police at that time. It just inspired me to go into a field in criminal defense. I didn’t realize that I was undocumented and my dreams would be deferred for a very long time. And it’s still a struggle, 'til today, to keep going and accomplish those dreams. And they've changed somewhat. Now my area of focus is immigration, simply because I find that I have to understand my parents’ situation, my own situation and those of—in my community. But yeah, growing up, I didn’t realize that I was undocumented, and I thought everything that we were going through had to do with just being poor. I didn’t realize that a lot of what we went through, a lot of our experiences were precisely because we were undocumented.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, to explore that further, can you talk about the condition that your family was in? Your father was a welder. And could you talk about what your mother did? And also, you’ve spoken about the impact in terms of healthcare to your family, the lack of—the fact that you didn’t have health insurance, largely because your family was undocumented.

DULCE GARCIA: Right. I didn’t step into a dentist’s office until I was an adult.

Yeah, my dad is a welder. He did work unlawfully for another person. And at one point, he injured his arm. He shattered his arm and his wrist in several places. And we didn’t have health insurance, so for over a week he just worked through the pain, and not realizing that it was exponentially getting worse. He just toughened it up. And when, finally, we realized that his arm was getting infected, we went to a doctor. And he told us that had he waited any longer, he might have had his hand amputated, because it had gotten so bad. But we were just so terrified of seeking help, because of all the rhetoric going around us that it wasn’t safe to go out of our home.

I didn’t get to experience everything that San Diego had to offer. I had a very sheltered life. I didn’t go to the park, see the beaches. I didn’t go to Disneyland, even though I could hear—I kept hearing all kinds of things from classmates about Disneyland. And it wasn’t until an adult that I actually was able to do that on my own, without depending on school field trips to go out, aside from—out of my home. So, it was a tough upbringing, because we felt terrified all the time. We felt scared all the time to step outside of our house, even to go to the movies or something like that.

We wouldn’t do anything, really, that would be compromising our stay here, because we had a goal. My parents had a vision for us, and they didn’t want to compromise that. So they made sure that we would be very sheltered. And because of that, I also didn’t quite understand the reasons for it. I just, growing up, thought my parents were a little tough on me, and they were—I just assumed that a lot of the things that we were limited to doing was because we were poor.

But as far as the healthcare, whenever any of us would get sick, we would toughen it up as much as possible. We didn’t have the regular checkups. And luckily enough, we were pretty healthy, considering the malnutrition that we suffered through—

AMY GOODMAN: Dulce Garcia—

DULCE GARCIA: —for quite a bit of time.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask—

DULCE GARCIA: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re not the first to sue. I mean, 15 states have sued around President Trump rescinding DACA. But you’re the first DACA recipient, representing other DACA recipients, to sue. Can you talk about the significance of this and your fellow DACA recipients, like the Thai medical student that you’re representing?

DULCE GARCIA: Yes. I want to emphasize that the people that are named plaintiffs in this lawsuit, this is just a very small sample of the 800,000 DACA recipients. We’re not the best of the best. We’re not the brightest. We’re not the most accomplished. This is just a very small sample of what the 800,000 DACA recipients are doing in our community. They are just so amazing, and so many of them are doing such great work in our communities. But the named plaintiffs are very incredible people. So, I feel very privileged to be working with them and working with the team behind this lawsuit.

But I want to emphasize that, you know, the 800,000 DACA recipients, we’re in our communities. We’re teachers, doctors, lawyers and mothers and hard-working parents, hard-working fathers, wanting to provide for their families. And a lot of them are in incredible schools and doing incredible work for our communities. And, to me, the fact that we are, in a way, providing a voice for the 800,000 DACA recipients, I am more than honored to be.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we wrap up, can you tell us the grounds on which you’re suing?

DULCE GARCIA: Yes. It’s several grounds. One of them is the promise that we relied on. We relied on the government telling us, “Come out of the shadows, give us your information, and you won’t be deported. You’ll renew your DACA permit for two years.” And I very much depended on that. I have a practice, and I just opened a second law firm this year. And I signed a five-year lease this year in May, thinking that I would be able to renew this DACA work permit. And so a lot of us depended on this promise of the government saying, “If you step out of the shadows, you do the right thing, you follow the rules, and we’re going to protect you.” And I went out into the community as a lawyer asking people to sign up for DACA: “Come out of the shadows. You’re going to be saved. It’ll be a life changer for you. There’s so many benefits to being able to walk around without the fear of being deported.” And now I am scared and terrified—

AMY GOODMAN: Oh, it looks like we have just lost our satellite feed with Dulce Garcia. Dulce Garcia, an immigration and criminal defense lawyer in San Diego. She’s one of six DREAMERs who have sued the Trump administration—she’s one of six DREAMers who have sued the Trump administration over its plans to rescind DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She’s been in the country since she was four years old.

When we come back, President Trump’s childhood home in Queens is now, well, renting out as an Airbnb. So some refugees stayed overnight and talked about their dreams. Stay with us.

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