At least 13 migrant justice advocates were arrested Thursday during a Washington, D.C. protest denouncing a federal court's decision that an Obama-era program shielding hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth from deportation is illegal.
"We are here to stay and will keep fighting as we have been for so long."
Activists from groups including United We Dream Action (UWD) and CASA rallied outside the Hart Senate Office Building a day after a three-judge panel on the right-wing U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found the 2012 Obama administration memo establishing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program unlawful.
DACA protects around 600,000 people—known as "Dreamers"—who unlawfully entered the United States as children from being deported.
The activists marched while chanting slogans like "yes we can," "here we are and we are not leaving," and "the people united will never be defeated" in Spanish before Capitol Police began arresting demonstrators after giving them three warnings to disperse.
"I have had DACA for 10 years now, since the Obama administration brought the program to life," said protester Cindy Kolade, a 29-year-old DACA recipient from Baltimore who has lived in the United States since she was 12.
"I am extremely upset about the decision made yesterday and today took time away from the essential work I perform at a hospital to participate in an action with CASA and UWD to make sure Congress hears our voices," she added. "We are here to stay and will keep fighting as we have been for so long."
Protester Flor Sapunar told the Post that while she is thankful for DACA, the program has "never been enough."
"The only thing that can stop this roller coaster of emotions," she said, "is offering citizenship to the millions of immigrants who have had DACA and beyond."
Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court narrowly blocked a Trump administration effort to end DACA, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's liberal justices in a 5-4 ruling that called then-President Donald Trump's attempt to terminate the policy "arbitrary and capricious."
However, the justices did not rule on the legality of DACA's implementation.
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden—who campaigned on a platform plank of citizenship for Dreamers—directed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security "to take all actions" to "preserve and fortify DACA."
In August, Biden took executive action to strengthen DACA protections, while calling on Republicans in Congress to pass legislation giving Dreamers a pathway to citizenship.
Dreamers and their allies, including numerous congressional Democrats, have repeatedly called on Congress to codify DACA protections in law.
"We need Congress to act on citizenship now," said Kolade, "so we no longer have to live in fear and can continue to prosper in this country we call home."
The Center for Law and Social Policy, an anti-poverty advocacy group, said following the 5th Circuit Court's ruling that "DACA recipients have grown up, built careers, and raised families in this country."
"We need Congress to codify a path to citizenship," the group added, "which has historically had bipartisan support."
This content originally appeared on Common Dreams - Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community and was authored by Brett Wilkins.