Monday was supposed to be the day that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program officially came to an end, terminating deportation protections for nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children.
A Supreme Court ruling delayed that end date, possibly by as much as a year, but DACA enrollees still used Monday to push Congress and the White House to pass a new law granting them permanent protection.
From Nevada to Capitol Hill to Trump Tower in New York City, immigrants and their allies held marches, rallies and prayer vigils to make sure their plight remains in the spotlight. Because even though the Supreme Court bought them some time, that reprieve may be short-lived.
"When you are an immigrant you feel so alone, and it feels amazing to see people from so many communities support us," said Nancy Canales, 18, a Seattle resident who participated in a march in Washington on Monday to support her undocumented siblings who could benefit from DACA.
While many of the protests are focusing on Republican leaders in Congress and White House officials who have stalled efforts to pass a DACA solution, some protesters targeted Democrats as well for not pushing the issue hard enough.
A group of DACA recipients wore white wigs and hobbled around on canes outside the Democratic National Committee in Washington to highlight how long they've waited for Congress to pass the DREAM Act, a bill that would protect them but has repeatedly failed since it was first introduced in 2001.
"The Democrats made the calculation to kick the can down the road and allow hundreds of thousands of us undocumented youth to live in uncertainty," said Maria Duarte, a DACA enrollee who walked with others from New York to Washington to protest congressional inaction. "We are anxious and we are scared of being torn away from (our) homes and our community."
President Trump also took a shot at Democrats on Monday, tweeting: "It's March 5th and the Democrats are nowhere to be found on DACA. Gave them 6 months, they just don't care. Where are they? We are ready to make a deal!"
Republicans lead both chambers of Congress and have been unable to pass any DACA-related bill.
A federal judge in California ruled in January that the Trump administration used flawed legal reasoning when it decided to end the Obama-era program, and ordered it to continue processing DACA renewals. The Department of Justice made a rare, direct request to the Supreme Court to hear the case, but the court ruled last week that it must go through the regular appeals process.
That means the case now goes back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in California, which is expected to rule sometime this summer. The earliest the Supreme Court could accept that case would be in October, pushing a final ruling possibly into 2019.
The Department of Homeland Security must continue processing DACA renewal applications during that time. But that grace period also allowed Congress to push a DACA bill to the back of the line, arguing they no longer face the kind of pressure to pass a bill like they faced in recent months as the March 5 deadline approached.
While most DACA enrollees can breathe easy for the time being, there are still thousands at risk of being deported because of the back-and-forth over the status of the program.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services did not begin accepting DACA renewals until Jan. 13 following the California judge's ruling. That created a massive backlog of renewal applications, which can take three to five months for the agency to process.
A total of 13,090 DACA permits are set to expire in March, according to Citizenship and Immigration Services. Another 5,320 DACA permits expire in April and nearly 14,000 more in May.
That means tens of thousands of DACA enrollees may lose their DACA protections while they wait for their renewals to go through. And immigration advocates warn that they would be exposed to deportation if they are arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents during that time.
That fear is intensified by the fact that ICE has been arresting higher numbers of undocumented immigrants who haven't committed any crimes beyond their immigration violations. Shortly after taking office, Trump changed the approach, allowing ICE agents to pick up any undocumented immigrants they encounter in their day-to-day lives. That was a sharp departure from the Obama administration, which focused on those with criminal records.
Erik Lopez, 19, a freshman at the University of Nebraska-Omaha and a DACA recipient, attended the march in Washington and said he fears his studies in political science and criminal justice will go to waste if he loses the work permit tied to his DACA status. The more immediate concern is whether he'll get arrested and deported.
"For myself, I worry because I am not sure about my future," said Lopez, a native of Mexico. "Especially with my family, I am worried about not being able to see them."
To qualify for DACA, created in 2012, DREAMers had to undergo a thorough background check, prove they arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday, were 30 or younger, were attending school or in the military, and had not committed a felony or serious misdemeanor. The program provided work permits and two-year reprieves from deportation that could be renewed.
Contributing: Daniel Gonzalez, The Arizona Republic.