Five weeks ago, Viridiana Chabolla started law school at the University of California, Irvine. When she's not studying or spending time with her new husband (they just got married in March), she's following the news. Like many other beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the 26-year-old tells Broadly, she's been consumed by worry over what the Trump administration might do with the Obama-era policy that offered quasi-legal status to some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children.
So on the morning of September 5, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration's decision to rescind DACA, Chabolla says in some ways, knowing for certain brought her a sense of relief. "I knew that the option was to fight—I knew the next steps were to figure out how to push for a more permanent solution to make sure that people have their rights respected."
That's why on Monday, Chabolla joined five other DACA recipients in filing a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco against the Trump administration over its decision to phase out DACA within six months.
"The decision to end DACA is not only inexplicable and immoral, it is unconstitutional," Ted
Boutrous, one of the attorneys representing the six plaintiffs, said in a press release. "These young people were able to attend college, open businesses, and give back to their communities because they trusted the government to honor its promises and live up to its word. In suddenly and arbitrarily breaking those promises, the government is in direct violation of the Due Process Clause and federal law."
According to the lawsuit, the government's decision to rescind DACA is unconstitutional and "was motivated by improper discriminatory intent and animus against Mexican nationals, individuals of Mexican heritage, and Latinos, who together account for 93 percent of approved DACA applications." The suit also alleges that the federal government did not "follow its normal procedures in reversing course and terminating the DACA program." Thus, they seek to block the repeal of the program.
Chabolla says she joined the lawsuit because she felt it was important for people to see the rollback of this program affects "real human beings."
"I think it's important for DACA recipients to be at the forefront of these fights," she says, "because the reason DACA exists in the first place is because young people came out and chained themselves to buildings and visited congresspeople and really fought to get at least this benefit."
Chabolla came to the US from Mexico when she was two years old. "As far as I can remember, I knew I was undocumented," she says. She recalls as a child filling out applications to join various clubs and community activities, and being "very aware" that her family always left the space for a Social Security number blank. "I didn't realize what it actually meant until I started having to apply for programs—so, like in middle school, as part of a youth club, I was given the opportunity to do an international student exchange. That's when it started coming together—the things I could not access because of my immigration status."
Chabolla says she applied for DACA in 2012, right before she entered her senior year at Pomona College. As a result, she was able to land a job as a community organizer with the nonprofit law firm Public Counsel (which is one of the firms representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit), which eventually led her to the decision to work toward becoming a public interest attorney.
"DACA, for many of us, changed our lives entirely," she says. "I've seen people express that DACA really just allows them to work and provide, and sometimes that's all people want. I think people deserve that chance. People just want to clock in and clock out and be able to support a family. Not everyone has a grand dream of going to a really great school or anything; people just want to be able to live without fear and without anxiety."