Luis Cortes, the immigration lawyer who helped represent a Seattle-area Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient detained by federal officials in a landmark case earlier this year, has taken on new clients. Cortes is suing the Trump administration on behalf of six other DREAMers who want to block a repeal of DACA.
But there's one thing different about Cortes. He, too, holds DACA status.
Like the six plaintiffs Cortes and a high-profile legal team are representing, Cortes was brought to the United States as a young child by his parents. As the Seattle Times explained in a profile published in May, Cortes attended the University of Idaho's law school, but struggled to find a state that would allow him to work as a lawyer. Idaho attorney John Barrera nevertheless recruited Cortes to work at his firm in Kent, Washington, where the state bar association is silent on DACA status.
The new case, filed in federal court today, is the first case in the country in which DREAMers themselves are suing the federal government in order to preserve their rights—as promised by the Obama administration—to stay in the country. The plaintiffs say that Trump's DACA repeal "was motivated by unconstitutional bias against Mexicans and Latinos.”
"This case is important because it's the only of its kind to speak on behalf of the DREAMers directly," Cortes said by e-mail. "It's a case brought by DREAMers that include DREAMer advocates. If that doesn't show how much we have to contribute, nothing will."
Cortes said he was contacted about the new case by the same legal team that helped free 23-year-old DREAMer Daniel Ramirez Medina from the Northwest Immigration Detention Center in March. Cortes was the original point of legal contact for Ramirez, whose brother reached out to Cortes. The case drew national attention and attracted big-name civil rights and First Amendment lawyers Mark Rosenbaum of Public Counsel and Ethan Deter and Ted Boutrous Jr. of Gibson, Dunn, & Crutcher to Ramirez's cause alongside Cortes.
Cortes told The Stranger that representing DREAMers has always been "emotionally complex."
"I relate so much to my clients," Cortes said, "and know how terrifying the prospect of deportation can be."
This case feels different for Cortes because it's being litigated on a much larger platform. "But at the end of the day, this case is about the DACA recipients, like myself, who are trying to obtain legal recognition in the only country we call home, and we haven't lost sight of that," he added. "So in that way, this case is just as personal and equally as important to me than any other DACA case."