I was headed to my soccer practice when I first heard that President Obama had signed his Deferred Action for Childhood Deportations, or DACA, order.
At first, disillusioned by the failed DREAM Act, I thought my father misheard the news. I vividly remember his exhilaration that, after decades living undocumented in the United States, at least one of his children was going to be protected from deportation.
It wasn't until I saw my friends crying for joy in the soccer field that I realized this wasn't an illusion—it was real. DACA meant that at least a portion of our undocumented community could work, apply to college, and provide more economic stability for our families.
DACA changed my life. Not only was I now able to apply for protection, but it also gave me hope for the power of our people. I finally did not feel alone anymore.
Contrary to the common belief, DACA was not a result of Obama’s kindness—before DACA, the Obama administration broke all records for deporting immigrants. Instead, DACA was the result of courageous undocumented young people doing sit-ins in Congress, mobilizing masses of people, and doing direct actions pressing Obama to do the humane thing.
The sacrifice and passion that organizers put into this effort galvanized me and many others to keep organizing—and to aim for the collective liberation of our people.
The movement did not stop, and pushed for DACA to be expanded. This led to Obama’s DACA+ and DAPA executive orders, which would have protected millions more people. Those programs were later challenged by anti-immigrant politicians and halted by the courts, but we kept on organizing.
And then Trump got elected. The abuses multiplied.
Nearly four years after that soccer practice, I found myself in front of the White House, waiting to see whether Trump would terminate DACA. I was dehydrated, hungry, mad, and worried. What was I going to do? What were my friends going to do?
Then the blow came. Trump killed DACA, but hinted he would support reauthorizing it if Congress agreed to major new funding for border militarization. He was using undocumted youth as a bargain chip for his wall.
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Instead of allowing the fear to creep in into our communities, undocumented youth and allies stood up and began to organize. Major mobilizations were launched, including a mass action at the Capitol for a Clean DREAM Act, legislation that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for immigrant youth without any trade off to militarize the border. Regardless of the fact we were facing a racist administration, we were not going to throw anyone under the bus.
Even though a Clean DREAM Act never passed, it shaped the tone of the movement, providing a clear message that we were not going to accept anything less than the liberation of all our people, including abolishing ICE and dismantling its immigrant concentration camps.
With its recent 5-4 majority ruling, the Supreme Court found that the Trump administration’s termination of DACA was "arbitrary and capricious”—and unlawful. It was a victory for the community that no one saw coming.
But let me be clear. The ruling was on the basis of how Trump terminated DACA—not because eliminating DACA would be detrimental to the wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of individuals and their loved ones.
This means Trump will most likely continue to his racist and xenophobic work to keep undocumented families in danger. And he is not alone. After the decision was released, USCIS — the Department of Homeland Securities’ agency that administers the country's naturalization and immigration system—stated that the decision had “no basis in law and merely delays the president’s lawful ability to end the illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.”
The decision on DACA is a huge victory for our undocumented communities, but it’s also a reminder to the present administration, and future administrations, that we won’t stop mobilizing and organizing for people’s collective freedom to move—and stay—in unity and peace.
Of course, DACA is not the one and only solution to oppression in marginalized communities.
Immigrants continue to be persecuted and locked up by CBP and ICE. Black communities are being killed by the police. The poor and people of color are being poisoned by corporate pollution. And everywhere, freedom of movement is under attack. But we will rise above the white supremacists and out-organize them all the same, continuing the work our ancestors never stopped.
The Supreme Court’s decision came at an unprecedented time. Non-Black people are waking up in large numbers to the police brutality Black communities have been impacted by for hundreds of years. People are dismantling monuments of slave owners and colonizers responsible for mass genocide in the Americas, and a collective message of freedom is being echoed through the streets.
Our people have always been in joyful rebellion by just existing in this space. And with that same spirit, we will keep taking to the streets and organizing for a future where ICE, CBP, prisons, the police, borders, pollution, and all systems of oppression are dismantled and abolished. After all, we have nothing to lose but our chains.