Ruben Ramirez moved to Oregon from Mexico with his mother and sister when he was two years old.
“We came here for more opportunities,” Ramirez told the Mercury. “There were no jobs, and my parents couldn’t get an education. They didn’t want that for us—they wanted us to have a future.”
Now 18 years old and a student at Western Oregon University, Ramirez is undocumented—but he is currently protected from the threat of being deported, because he is a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA is a federal policy that allows some people who immigrated to the US as children to live without the fear of being forced to move back to a country of origin that they might not even remember. DACA does not provide a path to citizenship, but it does allow recipients to re-enroll when their DACA status expires after two years.
It's a program that the Trump administration wants to rescind—and has requested the US Supreme Court determine its constitutionality. On Tuesday morning, as the majority-conservative Supreme Court heard oral arguments on DACA's future, a hundred people gathered in downtown Portland to show their support for the program, including Ramirez.
The Supreme Court will announce its ruling on DACA sometime between now and June of 2020. Ramirez called the prospect of DACA ending “terrifying.”
“There’s not a day where I don’t think about it,” he said. “You never know when you might not see your family anymore. It’s just insane that I’ve never known anything besides this country, but there are people who are trying to make me leave this country.”
Speakers at the rally, held at Terry Schrunk Plaza and organized by the Oregon DACA Coalition and other groups, echoed Ramirez’s fear and uncertainty.
“This is my reality,” said Vania, a DACA recipient who attends Portland State University. “Survival is the only thing on [our] minds right now.”
Vania added that DACA recipients make up a small portion of the general undocumented population, and called for support for all undocumented people—not just the ones who immigrated to the US as children.
“We are here to defend DACA, yes,” she said. “But let’s recognize that we are also here to defend the undocumented community. It’s not just about DACA, it’s about our community. It’s about dignity. We are not bargaining chips, we are tired of that.”
After five speakers shared their experiences as undocumented Oregonians, the group marched to Pioneer Courthouse Square, chanting “Undocumented, unafraid,” and “Hey hey, ho ho, detention camps have got to go,” as they walked.
Event organizers said that those who want to help undocumented Oregonians can donate to the Oregon DACA Coalition. Those donations will help cover DACA renewal fees, which cost about $500, for undocumented people who cannot afford the cost themselves.
After oral arguments at the Supreme Court wrapped up Tuesday, journalists reported that the court seemed to be leaning toward allowing Trump to eliminate DACA. Ramirez said he’s reluctant to trust that the Court will side with him and other undocumented people.
“Knowing the Supreme Court is very conservative,” he said, “it’s hard for people who have lived very privileged lives to understand what it means to have your fate in the hands of someone else.”