NEW ORLEANS —
Dozens of immigrant advocates from across the country gathered outside the Federal Courthouse in New Orleans, standing in for hundreds-of-thousands of young, undocumented immigrants known as “dreamers.”
Inside, arguments were underway on whether The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, better known as DACA, is legal.
Former President Barrack Obama created DACA through executive action in 2012. It was created to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children from deportation.
The program lasts for two years at a time and can be renewed, but it does not give a pathway to citizenship.
Dreamers who participate in DACA can remain in the country, get their drivers license, go to college, work legally and get health insurance.
Aimee Benitez Aguirre is a dreamer.
Her family crossed the border when she was just a baby.
“Like many of you, my parents migrated to the United States, to provide a better life for me a better education for me and my generation,” she said to a crowd outside the court.
Twenty years later, DACA gave her the opportunity to go to school and get a job legally in the only home she’s ever known.
“It’s a dream come true,” she said. “(My parents) came to this country for this.”
That dream is now in the hands of three Louisiana judges.
A coalition of states led by Texas, including Louisiana, argued that former President Barrack Obama exceeded his powers when he created DACA through executive action in 2012. They also said that it is an illegal financial burden on the states, costing them millions for healthcare, education and social services.
The US Justice Department defended the program along with New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin. They argued that DACA recipients contribute to the United States in several ways and that Texas has no proof that ending the program would decrease those costs.
While the court considers both sides of the case, Benitez Aguirre and her fellow dreamers are left in limbo.
The federal judge in Texas that declared DACA illegal last year agreed to leave the program intact for the people already benefiting from it – at least until the case plays out in court.
Outside the courthouse, Benitez Aguirre and her fellow dreamers didn’t just have their sights set on DACA. They want full US citizenship.
“To be frank, we want access to citizenship we want access to the resources we need,” she said. “We’re hard working citizens, we do good. We’re just a regular family.”
No matter what the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decides, the case will likely end up in the Supreme Court.