On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the legality of President Donald Trump’s repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Among those challenging the potential repeal was Viridiana Chabolla PO ’13.
Chabolla was in her junior year at Pomona College in 2012 when then-President Barack Obama announced that he would implement DACA through executive action. She applied for and received the designation shortly after, according to a University of California press release.
“I think Pomona was the first place where I felt like I could be open about my status,” Chabolla said. “… It’s where I first met other individuals who were undocumented and felt very supported by my administration … it’s played a vital role, I think, in where I am now.”
Pomona has joined 164 other higher education institutions, including Claremont McKenna College and Claremont Graduate University, in filing a brief with the Supreme Court defending DACA.
During Chabolla’s first month of law school at the University of California, Irvine, Trump announced his plans to scrap the program. Mark Rosenbaum, a civil liberties lawyer and faculty member at Irvine, asked her if she would join a lawsuit challenging the repeal.
Chabolla said she was “very scared” about the initial request. However, she eventually decided she was in a good position to join the lawsuit after consulting with friends and other people.
“I’m in law school, I have a very supportive network of not only friends and family and allies but lawyers,” she said. “I knew I had a network of people backing me up.”
Chabolla became one of six DACA recipients to file suit against the Trump administration in September 2017. Their case, Garcia v. United States of America, along with four other lawsuits filed in California, scored a victory in January 2018 when a U.S. federal judge issued a court order blocking the repeal.
“It felt like … we’re affirming that as a DACA recipient, as an immigrant, this is my home, this is where I deserve to be, where I’ve built my life,” Chabolla said. “It felt really great.”
The combined DACA cases made their way to the Supreme Court this week, where the court’s conservative majority may side with the Trump administration and allow it to shut the program down, according to The New York Times.
“It’s been a rollercoaster, I mean being at the Supreme Court was surreal,” Chabolla said, “… It just really goes to show, being in D.C., being in the place where all the decisions are being made really solidified the idea that really, what we need is congressional movement for immgration reform, not only for DACA but for our families.”
Chabolla has long been interested in law as a way to fix systemic issues with immigration, she said in an article on UCI Law School’s website in 2017. She was brought from Mexico to the United States at the age of two, according to a filing for the Supreme Court case.
Her experience growing up around community challenges in East Los Angeles led her to study sociology and Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies at Pomona, where she volunteered to help students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds attain college access, the filing said.
After graduating from Pomona, Chabolla worked as a community organizer with Public Counsel, a large pro bono law firm, before receiving a fellowship to attend UCI Law.
“The termination of DACA … will frustrate Ms. Chabolla’s ability to fulfill her dream of working as a lawyer and helping individuals from disadvantaged and underrepresented communities obtain justice through the legal system,” lawyers for the people suing the administration wrote in the filing.
In addition to her DACA status, Chabolla now has legal residency through marriage, according to the University of California press release. But she hopes her case can help change the lives of the hundreds of thousands of undocumented people in the United States.
“The Supreme Court is certainly not the end,” Chabolla said. “… For those without [DACA] status and families without [DACA] status, everybody should remember that we’re also fighting for them, and that we should be fighting for them, not just those who have DACA.”