A Los Angeles-based advocacy group said hundreds of local students walked out of school to voice their support for immigrants on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court heard arguments on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The Obama-era initiative has allowed about 700,000 people brought to the U.S. as children stay and work in the country legally, according to data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
At Tuesday's hearing, the high court's conservative majority indicated that they may be prepared to support the Trump administration's effort to end it. The justices are expected to make a decision on DACA by the end of the Supreme Court's term in June.
The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, which organized the day's demonstrations in L.A., said those who left classes Tuesday included students from John Marshall High School in Los Feliz, James A. Garfield High School in East L.A., Academia Avance Charter School in Highland Park and Warren High School in Downey.
"Our community will definitely be directly affected," said Zulema Martinez, a student who helped set up the walkout at Garfield High School.
She and dozens of her classmates also planned to join a rally at Edward R. Roybal Federal Building in downtown L.A., then a march to MacArthur Park, where the "Rise for DACA" concert was set to start at 3 p.m.
By 1 p.m., hundreds of students and other supporters had converged on the streets of downtown L.A.
One of the students, Genoveva Alarcon, said the issue hits home.
"[My sister] relies heavily on this... If this is taken away, a lot of people will be left without jobs," Alarcon said. "This means they might not be able to provide for their family."
— KTLA (@KTLA) November 12, 2019
The L.A. Unified School District had said while staffers couldn't supervise students who leave campus to take part in the demonstrations, absences could be excused if a parent or a guardian checked a student out of school.
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner released a statement early Tuesday in support of DACA, saying the program has allowed young immigrants to "pursue a good education, a good job and a better life."
He added, "As a first-generation American, I’m proud to lead Los Angeles Unified and our efforts to provide a great education to all students and to welcome all families."
California is home to about 200,000 DACA recipients, the most in the country, according to a July 2018 report from USCIS.
The Trump administration announced in 2017 that it would end the program, but lower courts kept it alive before the case landed on the Supreme Court's docket.
On Tuesday, the president took to Twitter and criticized DACA participants, saying many of them "are far from 'angels'" and that "some are very tough, hardened criminals."
Trump said that if the Supreme Court overturns the program, he would make a deal with Democrats to allow DACA recipients to stay in the U.S.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California expressed her support for the immigrants whose future lies in the court's decision.
"They love our country and are already a big part of what makes and will keep America great," Pelosi said in a tweet. "To #ProtectTheDream is to honor our American values & our history."