Why The Supreme Court's DACA Decision Is A Big Deal : Code Switch When the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that DACA could remain in place, recipient Miriam Gonzalez was relieved. As a plaintiff in the case, she's been fighting to keep the program alive since 2017 and we've been following her story. In this bonus episode — an update on Miriam, and why this decision is such a big deal.
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DACA Decision: Check-In With Miriam Gonzalez

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DACA Decision: Check-In With Miriam Gonzalez

DACA Decision: Check-In With Miriam Gonzalez

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MIRIAM GONZALEZ: My name is Miriam Gonzalez. I am a sixth-grade humanities teacher in Los Angeles, and I am also a plaintiff in the DACA case. I went to the Supreme Court.

SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, HOST:

Miriam found out the Supreme Court blocked President Trump's attempt to end DACA...

GENE DEMBY, HOST:

On Thursday, June 18, 2020, around 7 in the morning.

M GONZALEZ: My dad's at work, so there's no way of, like, talking to him. My mom was asleep. So the only ones that I kind of woke up were my sisters. When I opened the door, it was like, oh, my God, with profanity. And then I was like, we won.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.

DEMBY: I'm Gene Demby. And this is CODE SWITCH...

MERAJI: From NPR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MERAJI: Gene, as you and many of our longtime listeners know, I've been in touch with Miriam Gonzalez since early 2018. And I checked with her again at a park right by her house here in LA.

DEMBY: I remember you profiled Miriam and two of her siblings for a CODE SWITCH story about mixed-status families.

MERAJI: That's right. Miriam is one of, according to some estimates, nearly 17 million people living in mixed-status households in the United States. Her parents and one of her sisters are completely undocumented.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

ABIGAIL GONZALEZ: I feel like I don't belong anywhere.

MERAJI: She has another sister with DACA, like her.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

M GONZALEZ: OK. So are you going to take it away? Are you going to, like, leave it? Like, what are you going to do?

MERAJI: Her youngest brother's the only citizen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

JOSEVENTURA GONZALEZ: There's so much pressure on me.

MERAJI: Miriam was 6 when her parents moved from Mexico to Los Angeles. She's their oldest child.

DEMBY: In your reporting the last time, she felt really guilty and responsible for not signing her younger sister up for DACA, you know, before President Trump came in and tried to end it.

MERAJI: Yeah. That was Abby. She's the youngest girl in the family. She was in high school when President Trump was elected. She was focused on studying and softball. Abby told me she didn't need a job, so she didn't think she needed DACA.

DEMBY: Right.

MERAJI: Let's listen to part of that episode. It starts off with Abby's voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

A GONZALEZ: Like, I definitely regretted not applying early, as soon as I turned 15.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEFF SESSIONS: I'm here today to announce that the program known as DACA that was effectuated under the Obama administration is being rescinded.

A GONZALEZ: And then, like, it was already too late once we waited out.

MERAJI: On Tuesday, September 5 of 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the official announcement - DACA was over. And the oldest Gonzalez sister, Miriam, got ready to fight. She's a plaintiff in a case suing the Trump administration for ending DACA - Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California. She's fighting for the more than 700,000 people who've applied for DACA and all those people, like her sister Abby, who hadn't applied yet but were eligible before the Trump administration canceled it.

M GONZALEZ: Yeah, I didn't even, like, think about having a conversation with my parents. I kind of decided, like, yeah, I'm going to, like, join the lawsuit. And it wasn't until I ended up hanging up with my attorney that I go out to the kitchen and I told my mom. I was like, so I'm going to be suing, like, the Trump administration for rescinding DACA. And then my mom thought I was joking, and she's like - she just laughed it off, like, ha-ha, yes, you are. And then I was like, no, I'm serious. And she's like, sure. So she didn't believe me.

The day that finally the case was submitted and I - like, I started getting, you know, media requests. And then I called my mom, and I was - hey, Mom. So, like, Telemundo and TV Azteca are going to go to the house. Like, you better clean it, you know (laughter)? And then she was like, why are they going to come to the house? And I was like, I told you about my lawsuit. And then she's like, I thought you were kidding. I was like, Mom, turn on the TV (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Speaking Spanish).

DICK DURBIN: Miriam Gonzalez - she's the 105th DREAMer that I've told a story about.

M GONZALEZ: My name is Miriam Gonzalez. I am a seventh- and eighth-grade math and reading intervention teacher, and I am a DACA recipient.

DEMBY: That was from our episode called "Status Update." If y'all haven't heard that, you should definitely get at it. I remember thinking back then, man, Miriam just joined this high-profile lawsuit and then, like, casually mentioned it to her mom afterwards.

MERAJI: I know. I have learned over time that she is just the kind of person who does big things in a very low-key way.

M GONZALEZ: If you would see me in a room, I probably wouldn't stand out to you because I'm quiet and I'm just watching. I'm a people-watcher. But then when I see something, then I'll speak up.

MERAJI: And she's been speaking up about President Trump's decision to end DACA for years now.

M GONZALEZ: The case was filed in September of 2017, but, you know, all the work that went in terms of preparing the case to file - so that was in September. We filed in San Francisco. Then, it ended up going to the 9th Circuit, and then the challenge that ended up taking the case to the Supreme Court. It's crazy to think that it's been three years.

DEMBY: I can't remember. Miriam went to the oral arguments at the Supreme Court, right?

MERAJI: She did. She told me it was very hard for her to concentrate because her focus was split. She was trying really hard to understand all the legalese.

M GONZALEZ: Then I was also fangirling. You hear about Sotomayor. You hear about RBG. And, like, to sit there - oh, my God, we're in the same room. I'm breathing the same air as them.

MERAJI: She told me the whole thing was just so surreal.

DEMBY: I mean, I bet winning probably feels very surreal, too.

MERAJI: Oh, yeah. She was just starting to process that when we talked. It was, like, an hour after she heard about the decision. And I asked her what was going through her head.

M GONZALEZ: I don't know. Thinking that now Abby is going to be able to apply, hopefully, just all, like, the opportunities that we're going to have.

MERAJI: But then she added that she's also feeling conflicted about celebrating this as a big win. You know, it's not a permanent fix, and it doesn't do anything to help people like her mom or her dad.

M GONZALEZ: I'm just thinking of all the people who work undocumentedly across the nation who live in states that are more hostile towards, you know, immigrants, and thinking about them and just knowing that I was afforded privileges, and just using those privileges to kind of fight for everybody. I think that's where I'm at.

DEMBY: Miriam definitely has a fight ahead of her. I mean, this decision, unsurprisingly, has upset groups that have taken a hard-line stance on immigration.

MERAJI: Oh, yeah.

DEMBY: Groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform - they put out a statement saying the Supreme Court decision will, quote, "lead to future waves of illegal immigration as people around the world see the opportunity to bring minor children to the United States illegally in the expectation that they will be granted permission to remain permanently."

MERAJI: And, you know, the Texas Attorney General Ted Paxton (ph) said he was disappointed in the ruling.

Hey, it's Shereen, popping in here with a little fix. I said Ted Paxton. It's actually Ken Paxton. Now back to the regularly scheduled program.

He vowed to continue litigating the constitutionality of the DACA program. And, Gene, President Trump made his statement on your favorite social media platform, Twitter.

DEMBY: Oh, yeah. He tweeted, as he is one to do, do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?

M GONZALEZ: Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me? I'll just be respectful. You know, I won't say anything (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEMBY: We've got more on this big Supreme Court DACA decision. Our CODE SWITCH teammate Natalie Escobar interviewed the Harvard professor Roberto Gonzales - no relation to Miriam. He wrote the book "Lives In Limbo: Undocumented And Coming Of Age In America."

MERAJI: Roberto surveyed nearly 2,700 recipients about how DACA has affected their lives, and he found that prior to having DACA, their mental health was suffering.

ROBERTO GONZALES: The young people that I met, because of the stress of leading undocumented lives, were experiencing mental and physical manifestations of stress, so chronic toothaches, headaches, trouble sleeping, problems getting out of bed in the morning, suicidal ideation. So this is one thing that through DACA - that DACA has been able to address to so many young people. Nearly 70% of almost 2,700 young people told us that access to work authorization, to driver's licenses and the stay of deportation has meant that they don't have to lead everyday lives always looking over their shoulders and worrying.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GONZALES: Many young people, at least for now, will breathe a huge sigh of relief.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEMBY: You can find more from Roberto Gonzales on the CODE SWITCH blog.

MERAJI: And coming soon on the CODE SWITCH podcast, we talk to the author Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, whose legal status has exacerbated her own mental illness over the years. She writes about that and about the immigrants we ignore in her new book "The Undocumented Americans."

KARLA CORNEJO VILLAVICENCIO: Maybe you won't like it. I didn't write it for you to like it. And I did not set out to write anything inspirational, which is why there are no stories of DREAMers. They are commendable young people, and I truly owe them my life, but they occupy outside the tension in our politics. I wanted to tell the stories of people who work as day laborers - housekeepers, construction workers, dog walkers, deliverymen - people who don't inspire hashtags or T-shirts.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

DEMBY: Until then, we'd be remiss if we did not shout out our teammates. Who helped you produce this episode, Shereen?

MERAJI: Jess Kung, Natalie Escobar and Kumari Devarajan. It was edited by Steve Drummond.

DEMBY: I'm Gene Demby.

MERAJI: And I'm Shereen Marisol Meraji.

DEMBY: Be easy, y'all.

MERAJI: Peace.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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