- Martín Batalla Vidalrecipient of DACA and the lead plaintiff in the New York federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA. He is also an organizer with Make the Road New York, an immigration rights advocacy group.
- Trudy Rebertstaff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, which filed suit to block the Trump administration’s cancellation of DACA.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from three lawsuits demanding the Trump administration preserve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The Obama-era program has granted protection from deportation and a work permit to at least 700,000 undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children. The court’s conservative majority appeared poised to side with President Trump in ending the program, while some of the court’s liberal justices seemed skeptical of Trump’s efforts. In September 2017, the Trump administration announced it planned to terminate DACA, arguing the program was “illegal” and “unconstitutional,” but three lower courts disagreed and have kept the program alive, thanks to lawsuits filed by California, New York and D.C. Immigrant rights activists have been pushing the Supreme Court to save DACA, with dozens of immigrants with DACA recently taking part in a 16-day, 230-mile march from New York to the steps of the Supreme Court. We speak with Martín Batalla Vidal, the lead plaintiff in the New York federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attempt to terminate DACA, and Trudy Rebert, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, which also filed suit to block the Trump administration’s cancellation of DACA.
AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from three lawsuits demanding the Trump administration preserve Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The Obama-era program has granted temporary protection to at least 700,000 undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children. The court’s conservative majority appeared poised to side with President Trump in ending the program, while the court’s liberal justices seemed skeptical. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, quote, “This is not about the law; this is about our choice to destroy lives.”
In September 2017, the Trump administration announced it planned to terminate DACA, arguing the program was “illegal” and “unconstitutional.” But three lower courts disagreed and have kept the program alive, thanks to lawsuits filed in California, New York and Washington, D.C. Immigrant rights activists have been pushing the Supreme Court to save DACA. Dozens of immigrants with DACA recently took part in a 16-day, 230-mile march from New York to the steps of the Supreme Court. The campaign’s slogan was “Home Is Here.” The activists also used the march to highlight the immediate need for permanent immigration relief for the 11 million people living in the U.S. undocumented.
For more, we’re joined by two guests. Martín Batalla Vidal is the lead plaintiff in the New York federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attempt to terminate DACA. His case was in the Supreme Court. Trudy Rebert is a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, which also filed suit to block the Trump administration’s cancellation of DACA.
We thank you both for being with us. Martín, you’re the named person on the lawsuit. Were you in the Supreme Court Tuesday? And how did it feel?
MARTÍN BATALLA VIDAL: Thank you for inviting me and Trudy here. It means a lot to us. And honestly, for all of us, all the plaintiffs in the DACA case, it was surreal. Like, we couldn’t believe it until the day that we actually got to the Supreme Court. We couldn’t believe that undocumented were suing the government, for fighting for something that we think is right. And we know that this fight — like we always said from the beginning, this is just a fight that we’re going to keep fighting. And honestly, we’re part history, and I’m ready to keep fighting for more victories.
AMY GOODMAN: Martín, tell us your story.
MARTÍN BATALLA VIDAL: So, my name is Martín Batalla Vidal. I’m a DREAMer, I’m Mexican, and I’m also gay. So, DACA has opened opportunities that, as undocumented, I would have never thought that I would have. DACA has given me the possibility to go to school, get a job in the medical field, which I would have never thought I would be working in the medical field, because, unfortunately, I was undocumented. I graduated high school in 2008.
AMY GOODMAN: Where were you born?
MARTÍN BATALLA VIDAL: Oh, I was born in Mexico. So, originally I’m from Mexico, but —
AMY GOODMAN: When did you come here?
MARTÍN BATALLA VIDAL: At the age of 7. Yeah. So, basically, I was raised like every American kid, like I went to school, I learned the language. And ever since then, this is my home. I don’t know any other place than New York City, so I consider myself a New Yorker, even though I wasn’t born here. But I was raised here, and this is where I live. And I feel like a piece of paper should not define who we are. At the end of the day, this is our home, and we’re here to stay.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Trudy Rebert, would you explain these lawsuits? Start with Martín’s.
TRUDY REBERT: Yeah. So, Martín has a lawsuit in New York. He had been a leader in this area for a while, and so his lawsuit enabled us to challenge Trump’s termination of DACA within hours after that happened. There’s been a series of lawsuits filed out of California, New York, D.C. and Maryland, challenging the termination of DACA. And, you know, the lower courts along the way have agreed with us, that the termination of DACA, how this was done, was unreasoned and in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.
AMY GOODMAN: So, explain what you were most struck by on Tuesday.
TRUDY REBERT: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, why is the general assessment that the conservative majority will side with Trump?
TRUDY REBERT: I mean, I think that’s trying to read the tea leaves, and I just think the Supreme Court’s really hard to read. And so, you know, I think we’ll have to wait and see what the decision says when it comes out. I was really struck that I think the justices across the court really understood the human interests that are at stake here. And, you know, at one point, Justice Breyer listed out the hundreds and thousands of people that had submitted amicus support, just highlighting the huge human interests at stake here.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Sonia Sotomayor’s comments?
TRUDY REBERT: Yeah. Justice Sotomayor had a really powerful line of questioning to the government, really questioning what they had thought about and considered before deciding to terminate DACA and disrupt and, as she put it, to destroy the lives of close to 800,000 young people with DACA. She really highlighted the lack of reasoning and the lack of consideration for what this would mean.
AMY GOODMAN: Was Justice Ginsburg there?
TRUDY REBERT: She was, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And was she active in the questioning?
TRUDY REBERT: Yes. She, I believe, had the first question, starting of argument.
AMY GOODMAN: So, explain the origins of DACA and on what grounds the Trump administration is attempting to end this program, that protects people like Martín.
TRUDY REBERT: Yeah. So, the government, in 2017, came out with a memo terminating DACA and really provided almost no reasoning in it. What they did provide was basically, there’s this other lawsuit — or, sorry, a court decision about a completely different program, and, on that basis, our hands are tied, we must end the program. And I think what’s really at stake here is accountability. You know, will the government be able to hide behind this legal reasoning to say that their hands are tied, or are they going to be forced to take political accountability for what was a political decision to end this program?
AMY GOODMAN: On Tuesday, the day the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments around DACA, President Trump tweeted, “Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from 'angels.' Some are very tough, hardened criminals. President Obama said he had no legal right to sign order, but would anyway. If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!” Trudy?
TRUDY REBERT: I mean, I think this goes to show just how President Trump has been using DREAMers and DACA recipients as bargaining chips to try to force through a racist immigration policy. And, you know, I think — will he be allowed to do that? Will the Supreme Court sort of permit this unreasoned decision to go forward, or will they be held to account?
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to a clip of Eliana Fernández. She’s 31 years old. She’s a DACA recipient from Ecuador. Democracy Now! spoke to her at a DACA rally here in New York City last month as she and dozens of others prepared for that 16-day march to Washington, D.C., in anticipation of the oral arguments this past Tuesday.
ELIANA FERNÁNDEZ: For me as a parent, the main reason why I’m here marching and I’m part of the movement is because of my kids. My children are everything. They are my biggest inspiration. I will do anything for them, including marching hundreds of miles. And I want for them to one day look at this day and remember or like feel proud and be like, you know, 'That was my mommy helping the immigrant community and helping herself.' So, that, to me, is like critical. A lot of us come from mixed-status families, and I want to like, you know, highlight that, right?
AMY GOODMAN: So, Martín Batalla Vidal, how does it feel to have this case named after you?
MARTÍN BATALLA VIDAL: I mean, for me, it’s an honor to have, but it’s not only myself. It’s five other plaintiffs that are in the case, which, like we always say, you know, we, DREAMers, everybody is different in their own way. And as we join together in this lawsuit, we’re all fighting for the same thing. And at the end of the day, like we said it, like, we’re getting all the credit, we’re the DREAMers, but, like, from the beginning of this lawsuit, I said our parents are the DREAMers. We would not be here fighting for what we think is right, if it wasn’t for our parents. We would not have an education, if it wasn’t for our parents. So we owe everything to our parents, so they are the original DREAMers. And I’m doing this for my mom, you know, because my mom was a single parent, raised four kids by herself. And this is a way for me to be, like, “Thank you. Thank you for your hard work, thank you for supporting me, and thank you for being there,” because, at the end of the day, you know, my mother’s been here for so long, and she’s undocumented. So, this is the reason why I’m fighting. We’re fighting for DACA, TPS and the 11 million undocumented in this country.
AMY GOODMAN: You risked so much to not just try to ensure that you got to keep DACA, as all of the students and workers are called who have it — and we’re talking about over 700,000 people, the DACAmented. But you went public, and that puts a target on you. Why did you decide to pick your head up and not just keep it down?
MARTÍN BATALLA VIDAL: I mean, before DACA, I was scared to say that I was undocumented, I was scared to say that I was gay, because, you know, coming from a Hispanic culture, it’s like very taboo to talk about your sexuality and talk about being undocumented. But I felt like ending DACA, when DACA ended, somebody had to be the face. Somebody had to be brave enough to do this lawsuit. And I felt like my mom is my biggest inspiration. She had two jobs. And like I always say, from the beginning, she had two jobs to raise four kids, give us an education, pay rent, pay bills, by herself. So, with that being in mind, my mom was a strong woman, so I’m like, “If she did it, not knowing the language, being undocumented, so why can’t I, now that I have DACA?” So, she was the one that gave me, like, you know, “You have to do it for your community, and this is your time.”
AMY GOODMAN: Well, of course, we will continue to follow this case. Martín Batalla Vidal is the lead plaintiff in the New York federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s decision to rescind DACA. And Trudy Rebert is a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. Thanks both so much.
When we come back, we hear Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker at the first-ever Presidential Forum on Environmental Justice. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “Paisaje Japonés” by the Chilean artist Mon Laferte. At the Latin Grammys Thursday night, she uncovered her breasts as she walked onto the red carpet, revealing the words “In Chile, they torture, rape and kill” written across her chest in protest of ongoing state violence there.