‘Dreamers’ Tell Supreme Court Ending DACA During Pandemic Would Be ‘Catastrophic’

WASHINGTON — Aldo Martinez, a paramedic in Fort Myers, Fla., is one of about 27,000 young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers who work in health care, many of them on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s an all-hands-on-deck situation that we have going on,” he said on Friday, halfway through a 48-hour shift.

Mr. Martinez, 26, came to the United States from Mexico when he was 12, and he is able to work thanks to a program announced by President Barack Obama in 2012, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. The Trump administration wants to end the program, and at a Supreme Court argument in November, a majority of the justices seemed inclined to let it.

Mr. Martinez said it would be foolish to take an army of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, researchers and other health care workers off the battlefield in the middle of a pandemic.

“It’s imperative that the Supreme Court take account of conditions that did not exist back in November,” he said. “It seems nonsensical to invite even more chaos into an already chaotic time.”

The status of health case workers like Mr. Martinez was the subject of an unusual Supreme Court filing on Friday, one that urged the justices to take account of a new reality.

“Termination of DACA during this national emergency would be catastrophic,” the filing said.

Ramis Wadood, a student at Yale Law School who helped prepare the filing, said the contributions made by the program’s recipients are well known.

“It’s always been important, and it’s a point we’ve been driving home since the beginning,” he said. “But this pandemic just brings those interests front and center.”

A prescient supporting brief filed in the case in October by the Association of American Medical Colleges and other groups seemed to anticipate the current crisis. The nation, the brief said, was not prepared “to fill the loss that would result if DACA recipients were excluded from the health care work force.”

By Adam Liptak for THE NEW YORK TIMES
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