Things That Matter

Luis Cortes Is The 31-Year-Old Dreamer Attorney Fighting To Save DACA In The Supreme Court Case

All eyes are on the Supreme Court right now. Thousands of people supporting the undocumented immigrants protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are at the steps of the highest court in the country, making sure the justices fully understand what is at stake. At the core of the issue is that the Trump Administration wants to do away with the Obama-era program that protects an estimated 700,000 undocumented people from being deported. On June 28, 2019, after months of litigation, the Trump Administration called to end the program went through the court of appeals. The Supreme Court agreed they would hear arguments for keeping DACA and would rule whether to uphold the rights of DACA beneficiaries or end the program altogether. That is where we are right now. The most incredible part about this whole aspect is not just the countless supporters for the DACA program, but the people on the front lines fighting to keep the program alive. 

Two lawyers will be speaking in front of Supreme Court judges in support of DACA, one Theodore Olson, a 79-year-old veteran lawyer, and Luis Cortes, a 31-year-old undocumented Latino lawyer.

Credit: @joshdroner / Twitter

So, while defending this matter is of great importance to the thousands who are protected under DACA and their family friends, this case is also a personal one for Cortes. The Mexican native from the state of Michoacán, who was just a year old when his family came to the U.S., said in an interview with the New Yorker that it’s great to have all the support now. Still, it was a very different case back when former President Obama first launched the program.

“The whole slogan you hear now—’undocumented, unafraid’—is somewhat new,” he said to the publication. “I remember when I was undocumented and very afraid.” He told the New Yorker that he was still in law school and felt pressured over disclosing so much information in order to get protection. 

“I was very incredulous about the whole thing,” Cortes said. “I was, like, They want us to give all of that information about ourselves to the government!”

Soon after Trump Administration began to crack down on undocumented people, even those supposedly protected under DACA, ICE detained one of Cortes’s clients. In early 2017, ICE arrested DACA beneficiary, Daniel Ramirez Medina, because they alleged he had ties to a gang. That matter is still under litigation

This case will be a defining one for Cortes because, on the one hand, he is representing clients to the Supreme Court, which is huge for his career, and on the other hand, the ruling of this case will determine if he will be able to remain in the country.

Credit: @stephberrryy / Twitter

“As a lawyer, I’m very stoked about it,” Cortes told the New Yorker. “I didn’t think I would have a Supreme Court case this early on in my career. But it’s also daunting. I’m going to be looking at the people who get to decide whether my clients are going to get deported, and me along with them.” He told CNN that he would be arguing the case on behalf of nine individuals and also himself. “A lot is at stake for me individually.”

Cortes said that protecting young people with DACA means more than just remaining in the country, but providing the livelihood for entire families. Undocumented people without DACA do not have the ability to get a social security card, which means they cannot obtain legal work. That means it is their children who face the harsh reality of helping those who sacrificed so much for them.

“The United States is an amazing place to live,” he told CNN. “Unlike any other place.”

Thousands of people, including CEOs, politicians, and celebrities, demand that the Supreme Court finally give DACA beneficiaries the proper protection they deserve.

Credit: @capimmigration / Twitter

In October, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent a letter to the Supreme Court informing them they had hired 443 DREAMers because they deserved to have those jobs.

“Our country has enjoyed unparalleled success by welcoming people from around the world who seek to make a better life for themselves and their families, no matter their backgrounds,” the company said. “As a group, they tend to display levels of determination and resolve that would be the pride of any business. We could tell you 443 stories to illustrate these attributes.”

READ: Hundreds Of Universities, Cities, And Businesses File Amicus Briefs Urging The Supreme Court To Defend DACA

Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration From Eliminating DACA

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Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration From Eliminating DACA

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

For three years, people with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status faced an uncertain future. The Trump administration was involved in legal battles after abruptly eliminating the program. For the third time this week, the Supreme Court has handed down a major loss for the Trump administration as they protected DACA from Trump’s attack.

The Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration cannot end DACA.

The 5-4 decision is the third major legal loss for the Trump administration this week. SCOTUS ruled earlier this week that LGBTQ+ cannot be fired for their sexual orientation or gender identity. The court also refused to take up a case challenging California’s sanctuary state law letting the law stand.

The decision to temporarily protect DACA was a split decision with all of the conservative justices (Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Samuel A. Alito Jr.) voting in favor of the Trump administration. Justice John Robert joined the liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan saving the program from the Trump administration, for now.

In the ruling, written by Justice John Roberts, the court cites that the acting secretary of state violated the Administrative Procedures Act when ending the program. Basically, the announcement was lacking substance and did not address key parts of the policy. This made the announcement void of an argument supporting the dismantling of the program.

The ruling is only temporary relief for the hundreds of thousands of young people on DACA.

While the program has been spared, it is not completely saved. The decision from the Supreme Court today focuses on the way DACA was eliminated, not the actual elimination. This means that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now has time to reevaluate its case against DACA to try again.

“The Court still does not resolve the question of DACA’s rescission,” Alito wrote in his dissent. “Instead, it tells the Department of Homeland Security to go back and try again.”

The conservative justices, while dissenting, did release statements that agreed with parts of the decision to block the Trump administration from eliminating DACA. The Trump administration first announced that they were ending DACA in 2017 with a press conference on the border led by Jeff Sessions.

Justice Sotomayor made her own headlines after calling the case a racist attack.

“I would not so readily dismiss the allegation that an executive decision disproportionately harms the same racial group that the President branded as less desirable mere months earlier,” Justice Sotomayor wrote in her concurrence of the decision.

Organizers and activists are giving credit to the DACA community for this victory.

The DACA community has led the charge to protect their status in the U.S. The movement has largely been done thanks to the work of DACA recipients fighting for their right to be here. For many, it is the only country they know after arriving to the U.S. without proper documentation when they were young children.

The president has tweeted his clear displeasure on the Supreme Court that he tried to stack in his favor by appointing two justices.

Both justice Kavanaugh and Gorsuch were Trump’s appointees. After three losses from the Supreme Court, President Trump followed his usual playbook and accused the Supreme Court of not liking him.

Now, it is time for Congress to act.

With DACA recipients temporarily spared sudden deportation, Congress must act and pass legislation protecting Dreamers from being deported. The Dream Act is one piece of legislation that offers DACA recipients a pathway to citizenship, something most Americans agree with.

READ: ICE Is Threatening To Reopen Deportation Proceedings Against All DACA Recipients Regardless Of DACA Status

Supreme Court Rules LGBTQ+ People Protected From Workplace Discrimination

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Supreme Court Rules LGBTQ+ People Protected From Workplace Discrimination

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The Supreme Court has ruled that companies cannot fire people for being part of the LGBTQ+ community. Before the ruling, it was still legal for employers to fire people for being part of the LGBTQ+ community. This is a major victory for LGBTQ+ Americans and a major loss for the Trump administration.

The Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of LGBTQ+ employees.

In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the LGBTQ+ community is protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are protected from discriminatory firings and treatment for their sexual orientation or gender identity. The court’s decision states that the LGBTQ+ community is protected under Title VII of the act.

“An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the decision. “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

The decision was 6-3 in favor of protecting LGBTQ+ employees.

Conservative justice Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, and Samuel A. Alito Jr all voted against protecting LGBTQ+ protections in the workplace. Justices John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer voted that the language of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does include LGBTQ+ people.

“There is only one word for what the court has done today: legislation. The document that the court releases is in the form of a judicial opinion interpreting a statute, but that is deceptive,” Alito wrote in the dissent. “A more brazen abuse of our authority to interpret statutes is hard to recall. The court tries to convince readers that it is merely enforcing the terms of the statute, but that is preposterous.”

The ruling protects millions of LGBTQ+ workers in states that offered no protection.

Before the ruling, employees in several states faced a constant threat of termination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The fear was greater for transgender people who had protections in fewer states than gay and lesbian workers. Justice Gorsuch did state the scope of the ruling.

“We do not purport to address bathrooms, locker rooms or anything else of the kind,” Justice Gorsuch wrote. “Whether other policies and practices might or might not qualify as unlawful discrimination or find justifications under other provisions of Title VII are questions for future cases, not these.”

The decision comes on a day that they also decided not to hear arguments in a case of qualified immunity for police.

It requires four justices to agree to allow for a case to be heard by the justices. Justice Thoms dissented the decision not to take up the case. The conservative justice claims that “qualified immunity doctrine appears to stray from the statutory text.”

Advocates want to see the qualified immunity doctrine to be revised. The doctrine currently makes it easy for lower courts to dismiss cases against police officers. Growing protests in the U.S. demanding a change in police reform after the death of George Floyd.

READ: Supreme Court Refuses Case Challenging California’s Sanctuary State Status