He was exhausted, but Jirayut ‘New’ Latthivongskorn was all smiles.
In just 24 hours, he had two big reasons to celebrate: the end of his night-shift training at San Francisco General Hospital, where he’s now a resident, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Obama-era program that would allow Latthivongskorn to keep his temporary legal status.
“Today is too exciting to go back to sleep,” he said after the ruling came down Thursday morning. “This is truly a celebration of what our communities have fought for, just like the way that we have fought to get the DACA program in place in the first place.”
Latthivongskorn, who goes by the nickname New, came to the United States from Thailand with his family as a nine-year-old. He co-founded Pre-Health Dreamers, a resource group for undocumented medical students. In 2014, he became UCSF’s first medical student living in the country illegally.
“I’m thrilled that I’m going to be able to complete my residency training and be able to take care of communities in the ways I had dreamed of. But this is so much bigger than just about me,” Latthivongskorn said. “Tomorrow, we will continue to keep fighting to get back what we have lost in terms of immigrant rights.”
The 5-4 ruling by the nation’s highest court rejected an attempt by the Trump administration to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It was created in 2012 as a temporary solution for so-called DREAMERs, or people who were brought to the United States illegally as children.
The program extended qualified individuals protection from deportation and the ability to legally apply for work, loans and other benefits. President Trump tried to end the program in 2017, months after taking office. Since, office U.S. Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) has paused new applications for the program as the case made its way through the courts.
According to the liberal Center for American Progress, roughly 180,000 of the nation’s nearly 650,000 DACA recipients call California home.
Dulce Garcia, a San Diego immigration attorney and plaintiff in the case, urged the Trump administration to “immediately” reopen the program following the decision.
She also called on Congress “to provide a path to citizenship for all of us so that this doesn’t happen again — so that Dreamers have protection from deportation permanently.”
“We see ourselves as Americans and we keep asking Congress for a path to citizenship to one day call ourselves American citizens,” Garcia said.
Following the ruling, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra offered multiple warnings to people seeking legal status: “Don’t let anyone rip you off.”
Becerra cautioned that predatory attorneys would take advantage of the decision by promising a false “quick fix” for immigration status at a high price. He said it is now up to USCIS to reopen the program. When that happens, the attorney general promised guidance from his office to help navigate the process.
Until then, Becerra told Dreamers and prospective applicants to “Take a breath. Pause for a moment. Savor your victory. Understand what the Supreme Court just said to you.”
In a statement, USCIS deputy director Joseph Edlow said the court decision “has no basis in law and merely delays” Trump’s ability to end the program.
“If Congress wants to provide a permanent solution for these illegal aliens it needs to step in to reform our immigration laws,” Edlow said.
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