“The right side of history.” Fresno-area Dreamers celebrate Supreme Court’s ruling.

Fresno Bee
“The right side of history.” Fresno-area Dreamers celebrate Supreme Court’s ruling.

June 18, 2020

Fresno’s Rodolfo Gonzalez learned from a text message that the U.S. Supreme Court stopped the Trump administration from immediately ending the DACA program.

“I was excited and kind of speechless at the same time,” the 24-year-old college student said. “I’m just very excited, not only for my future but for the future of many others.”

The Supreme Court ruled the Trump administration can not immediately undo the Obama-era program that protects some 700,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) is a program that allows young adults, brought to the country illegally by their parents as children, to remain in the country without fear of deportation.

The program, approved through executive action by former President Barack Obama, also grants young immigrants two-year working permits. But the administration of President Donald Trump had been seeking to end the program.

There are about 5,000 DACA recipients in Fresno.

Central Valley immigrant advocates say they were celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, but more work remains.

Samuel Molina, California state director of Mi Familia Vota, based in Fresno, said he was grateful for the ruling.

“While immigrants have had to endure so much heartache and grief under this administration, we see that there is still hope,” he said in a brief statement after the ruling. “Although we have won today, we must continue to fight and make our voices heard at the ballot box on election day November 3. We cannot allow the attacks on our communities to continue.”

Gonzalez, who came to the U.S. when he was about 5 years old, said DACA opened the opportunity for him to attain an education. He’s in his final year of pharmaceutical school.

“It’s just a relief. I’ll be able to continue my schooling, take the licensing and practice in Fresno,” he said.

Gonzalez, who was raised in Fresno, said one fight is over, but there is more to win.

“In this case, I feel the fight is over in trying to end what was already established, but at the same time, I feel … Dreamers have been fighting for some sort of citizenship, so I feel they are going to continue that battle,” he said.

Min Ku Choi, 32, who was born in South Korea, and brought to the U.S. at 15.

“I do feel that this is just the beginning of a long battle of survival,” Choi said.

Choi recently finished his pharmacist clinical rotation in Fresno, and is getting ready to start his residency in Santa Rosa. He said when he goes to work as a pharmacist, and puts on his white coat, he is regarded as an essential worker, especially during the current pandemic.

But when he takes his white coat off, he’s “deemed as an undocumented, illegal alien.”

“I hope that people can realize we are here, we are doing our part, and we are being essential to people,” he said.

Lidia Tinoco, 25, graduated from Fresno State in 2018 with a double major, and is now a state employee and a homeowner in Fresno. She has feared losing her job and her home as a result of her legal status.

“I was worried,” she said. “It’s a roller coaster.”

Her family was particularly worried for her, given that the government has all of her personal information, including her address.

“I think an amnesty or a path to citizenship would be the next best step,” Tinoco said, who was born in Baja California, Mexico, and came to the U.S. when she was 7 years old. “We are taxpayers and we stimulate the economy.”

Fresno Congressman Jim Costa called the ruling a “big win.”

“We must work to pass comprehensive immigration reform, so we have a legal process for those who want to stay and continue to contribute to our country in meaningful ways,” Costa said in a statement.

California Community College Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said the ruling “offers hope for some of California’s best and brightest students who were brought to this country as children and who contribute to the fabric of our communities and our economy.”

“We will continue to fight for undocumented students and call on Congress to pass permanent protections for these students. In the midst of a global pandemic, it is more important than ever that we as educators provide students with the tools they need to help protect our public health and our economic security,” he said.

He estimates about 70,000 students in the 113 California Community College system are undocumented.

Eliseo Gamiño, president of the Central Valley Leadership Round table, which works closely with the immigrant community, said Dreamers “can finally sleep well without the constant fear of being deported.”

“The U.S. Supreme Court struck down any attempts to revoke DACA recipients the right to live and continue to enrich this Great Nation,” he said. “DACA students can enjoy a true sense of relief and at the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court reminds the entire nation that American ideals will triumph over unfair political motivations.”

Gamiño the “verdict comes during a critical point in history where citizens need to be assured that American institutions will be held to a higher moral and ethical standard in the areas of diversity and cultural tolerance.”

Maricela Gutierrez, executive director for Services, Immigrant Rights and Education Network (SIREN), said the Supreme Court “ruled on the right side of history.”

“Today’s ruling was a step in the right direction for our communities,” she said in a statement. “This is one of the many attacks on immigrants by this administration, and while DACA was a good start, we need Congress to find a permanent solution for DACA recipients, their siblings, and their parents by passing a clean version of the DREAM Act.”

Congressman TJ Cox, D-Fresno, said there are about 7,400 DACA recipients in his Central Valley district, and they are part “of the fabric of our communities.”