Santa Clara County leaders on Thursday applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to block the Trump administration’s attempt to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act (known as DACA).
“Because of this decision, today I get to go back and serve my community,” said Kevin Gaytan, a 26-year-old DACA recipient and essential worker in the county’s Office of Cultural Competency. “Because of today’s decision, as a DACA recipient, I get to go back and do the essential work to keep our community safe and fight to in efforts in flattening the curve and keeping our communities safe. As a DACA recipient, I serve my community whole-heartedly and invested because America has given me an opportunity—an opportunity which I feel I must give back.”
He added: “Today I stand before you proud, undocumented, and unafraid.”
Gaytan on Thursday shared his plans to continue pursuing a master’s degree at San Jose State University and continue contributing to society as a county worker. “DACA recipients are tethered to the fabric of this nation,” he told reporters. “We are essential and we are a part of this nation.”
Four other DACA recipients, all of whom hold positions in the county’s many departments, shared the microphone with Gaytan Thursday, along with other officials at the County Government Center in San Jose. “This is a great time of celebration and gives us a glimpse of hope for what is to come for DACA recipients,” said Luis Fernando Suarez, 20, who works for the county Office of LGBTQ Affairs. “We have won one battle in this long war, but it’s not over. If we present a united front, we’ll be able to achieve what we want for everybody, what we all seek—the American dream.”
Daniela M. Lopez, 19, who works in in the county Emergency Operations Center assembled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, said she was one among countless others afraid that the decision would come down against immigrants and undocumented workers. “I’m very glad that we were lucky to have won this case, but I believe that this is not over,” she said. “The reason that we won is because the Trump administration did not follow procedures correctly.”
And because of that, she urged everyone who can vote this year to do so.
Two other undocumented DACA recipients—known as Dreamers—who spoke Thursday were 23-year-old Lizeth Venegas Mata, another spokeswoman for the county’s Emergency Operations Center, and Eva Martinez, 26, a fellow in the New American Fellowship, a county program that pays DACA recipients a $10,000 stipend.
County officials thanked the young Dreamers before them and condemned the federal leaders whose policies undermined their security. “Today really is a celebration for the DACA recipients, and it is one part of a much longer fight that we’re in,” county Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez said. “And I’m just so proud of these young people. It’s sometimes unbelievable what our country has been doing to children in our society, and it includes the Trump administration willingly separating children from their parents and targeting young people and making them political pawns.”
She commended the five DACA recipients in the room for coming “out of the shadows when it was a scary time to do it.”
“And they not only stood for their own right to petition the government, but they stood up for their families, they stood up for other young people, they stood up for our nation and they inspired us,” Chavez said.
The struggles they face speak to the struggles of many others in this country, she added. “When you look at these young people and many, many more, it gives me great hope for the future,” Chavez told reporters.
County Counsel James Williams vowed to continue defending immigrants going forward. “This is a victory for all Americans, but there is much more to do,” he said.
Williams also called on Congress to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and said the county will do what it can to fight on behalf of them until that happens. “We will continue to push against this administration in case after case when the Trump administration seeks to do things that violate our constitution or that violate our statutes,” he promised. “We will stand up for the rights of our community, we will stand up for the rights of our county.”
Other legislators throughout California pronounced their support today of undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients, a population that makes up millions in nation’s most populated state.
“The president’s attempt to terminate DACA threw the lives of hundreds of thousands into limbo,” U.S. Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Jerry Nadler said in a joint statement. “As the court recognized, the administration offered weak, pre-textual reasons for doing so and failed to adhere to the careful procedures required by law. In short, this was a crisis of the Trump administration’s own making. These individuals, who are American in every way except on paper, are still in need of a permanent solution. We call upon the Senate and Majority Leader [Mitch] McConnell to immediately take up and pass H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, which puts Dreamers and long-term beneficiaries of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) on a pathway to citizenship. The time to act is now.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom echoed the call for change.
“Today’s decision is an important victory, for now, for the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers—including over 200,000 Californians—who contribute deeply to their communities each day,” he said. “They are our neighbors, our coworkers and our friends, and in California, we will continue to have their backs. We need a permanent solution for undocumented Californians and acknowledge that a pathway to citizenship is not enough. This moment reminds us we are confronting the systemic injustice and racism that exists within our nation and institutions. We will fight for everyone to be treated with dignity and respect.”