'I'm just as American as they are': Activists, DACA recipients gather as Supreme Court hears case

Rebecca Morin, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – “Si se puede” rang out across the crowd of hundreds of activists, supporters and “DREAMers” who are recipients of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. Drizzle fell as the crowd spilled onto First Street in front of the Supreme Court, all awaiting some sense of how things had gone inside the court.

The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in an appeal about the Trump administration’s decision to end the DACA program, which has provided a reprieve for some undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

The ruling on the program is expected next spring in the midst of the 2020 presidential race.

About 660,000 will be affected by the court’s decision. The American Civil Liberties Union, activists from the University of California, and CASA, or the National Court-Appointed Special Advocate Association, were among those gathered outside the high court.

More: Supreme Court leans toward Trump plan to end DACA program for nearly 700K undocumented immigrants

Several dozen began standing outside the Supreme Court late Monday and early Tuesday morning, in hopes to get a coveted seat inside the nation's highest courtroom during oral arguments.

Nori Gomez, 22, was among the few that were queued up for a line that allows visitors to briefly view the Supreme Court's oral arguments for just three minutes before being ushered out of the courtroom. Gomez is a DACA recipient who traveled from Utah to Washington on a 5-hour flight, arriving early Tuesday morning. Gomez, who is leaving in just a couple of hours, said she came out because her rights are endangered.

“I’m just as American as they are, as their children are,” she said of politicians on Capitol Hill and the Supreme Court justices.

Gomez came to the U.S. from Venezuela when she was just 4 years old. She said she has never been back and doesn’t want to go especially now with the political climate there.

”I just want the nation that I call home to see me as one of their own,” she said.

DACA: Undocumented lawyers await Supreme Court's ruling

Andrea Ortiz, a 28-year-old DACA recipient, said that she came out Tuesday because the court’s decision not only impacts her but future generations. 

Ortiz, who is from San Bernardino County in California, said “over the last few years I’ve felt very tugged from feeling safe to feeling unsure.” She added that, in the end, she isn’t afraid whether DACA ends.

“DACA is a Band-Aid, it’s not really a permanent solution,” Ortiz said. “I don’t fear the end of DACA because I know DACA is not permanent.”

José Gonzalez, 27, said that as a DACA recipient and former middle school teacher in Los Angeles, where he taught hundreds of children, many from immigrant families, he wanted to represent them at the Supreme Court.

Gonzalez, who traveled from Arizona, said he came to the U.S. from Mexico just before his second birthday. He said that the courts decision doesn’t just affect DACA recipients, but their families too.

“This is impacting the entire country, not just the 700,000, 800,000 DACA recipients themselves,” Gonzalez said. “We want to make sure we’re living in a country we all deserve.”

DACA: American dreams at stake for nearly 700,000 immigrants

Activists rallied outside the Supreme Court for nearly four hours Tuesday in 40-degree weather, as a number of DACA recipients shared their stories for the crowd.

Bambadjan Bamba, who starred in Marvel's Black Panther, made headlines in late 2017 after opening up about being a DACA recipient. Bamba was present Tuesday morning outside the court, where he shared his own story as an undocumented American.

When he was just 10 years old in 1992, Bamba said he and his family immigrated to the United States from the Ivory Coast and applied for political asylum. Their application wasn't approved until 2014 when he was already over 21 and married, which disqualified him from receiving a green card, thereby leaving him undocumented.

"When people say 'hey, do it legally, stand in line,' just say 'we have,'" Bamba said to cheers.

DACA recipient and actor Bambadjan Bamba, best known for his roles in The Good Place and the blockbuster movie Black Panther, after speaking to a gathered crowd outside of the U.S. Supreme Court as the court hears arguments on whether the 2017 Trump administration decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) is lawful.

He also noted that there are hundreds of thousands of undocumented black people in the United States and that immigration is not just a "Latino issue."

"It is also an African issue, a Korean issue, an Asian issue, and Indian issue," he said, "An American issue."

Waves of marchers also made their way down First Street throughout the morning, each chanting their own rallying cry.

"Up, up with liberation, down down with deportation," a crowd of young students chanted while marching towards the Supreme Court.

After the oral arguments, DACA recipients filed out of the court and stood on the steps, holding hands as cheers broke out. As they made their way into the crowd, tears were visible from some of them as well as many in the crowd.

Theodore Olson, a legendary Supreme Court litigator and one of the lawyers who argued in defense of DACA, praised the crowd for demonstrating, saying "it is so important for you to be here in front of the Supreme Court to send the message to the courts, to the judges, to the people all over the country."

"This is your country," Olson said. "You belong here. This is important for you to understand that. And for the American people to see your faces to see who you are, to see what you mean to all of the people around you and the rest of the people in this country."

As the rally came to an end, the activists and DACA recipients showed that they are hopeful about their path forward despite the need to win over at least one member of the high court's conservative majority.

"I believe that we will win," echoed across the crowd as their final rallying cry for the day.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday about whether the 2017 Trump administration decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) is lawful.

Contributing: Richard Wolf

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'i"m just as American as they are': DACA recipients at Supreme Court