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.
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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.
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“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.
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.”