I was outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. a week ago as the news came down that in a 5-4 ruling, a conservative Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
It was an emotional moment, and things moved quickly.
DACA was implemented in 2012 by President Barack Obama, allowing certain undocumented immigrant young people to obtain a work permit and be protected from deportation.
Only later did I have time to fully process what had happened at the court. When I was finally able to sit with how I personally felt about the decision, as a DACA recipient myself, the words written in an opinion by Justice Sonia Sotomayor stood out.
Sotomayor sided with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan in their ruling — with one exception. Sotomayor wrote a separate opinion stating the Trump administration’s rescission of DACA violated the Equal Protection Clause.
The president’s words, she wrote, “create the strong perception” that the rescission decision was “contaminated by impermissible discriminatory animus.”
These words have stuck with me. In her four-page opinion, Sotomayor succinctly called out the racism that has clouded Donald Trump’s entire presidency.
As a Mexican immigrant, Trump’s racism isn’t new to me. I was glued to CNN as I watched him launch his campaign for the presidency saying disparaging and racist things about Mexican immigrants.
I felt a similar horror last month when I read Trump’s midnight tweet: “When the looting starts the shooting starts.” In one tweet, Trump referred to protestors in Minneapolis in the wake of the murder of George Floyd as “thugs,” and he threatened military violence against them.
This came a month after he tweeted “LIBERATE MINNESOTA” in support of protests calling on COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted. For Trump, Minnesotans protesting against the will of health officials to get a haircut: “Okay.”
Meanwhile demonstrations against the state-sanctioned murder of Black people: “No way!”
The president speaks with rage against Black people and other people of color, particularly immigrants. It is disingenuous for us to attempt to separate Trump’s rhetoric from his policy choices. This is the president who disparaged immigrants from African countries, which he referred to as “shithole countries,” and then moved to limit migration from those countries he deemed not worthy.
In her opinion, Sotomayor goes on to write that she “would not so readily dismiss the allegation that an executive decision disproportionately harms the same racial group that the President branded as less desirable.” Her words made me as a Mexican immigrant feel seen and valued in a small way at the nation’s highest court.
Despite last week’s Supreme Court decision, Trump is already working to find another way to end DACA. His administration is working to find ways to throw my life and the lives of hundreds of thousands of other young immigrants and their families — including over 5,300 DACA recipients who live in Minnesota — into limbo again.
This decision is a victory for DACA recipients and their families. It calls on the Trump administration to reinstate the DACA program back to its 2012 origins, allowing for new applicants and renewals for current enrollees. This decision, however, isn’t a permanent solution.
Trump is seeking to trade protections for DACA recipients and other immigrant youth for money to build his wall, and to continue to detain and deport more people.
Following the murder of George Floyd, Minneapolis and Minnesota have become the jumping off point for a slew of direct actions across the country. We’ve seen as Black organizers have won victories in police divestment, from Minneapolis Public Schools, to the Minneapolis Parks system. They have shown us that nothing is unrealistic and anything is possible with enough public pressure, and fierce advocacy.
As long as Trump is in the White House, the attacks on immigrants, Black people and people of color, LGBTQ people, will continue from the nation’s highest office. Just as Justice Sotomayor called Trump on his racism, so should Minnesotans.