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Engineer puts a human face on today's Supreme Court immigration case

The case is questioning whether President Obama overstepped his authority or ignored legal procedures when he made changes to immigration law.

The Verge

Felipe Salazar arrived in Miami with his family at the age of 10, using a tourist visa to flee guerrilla warfare in Colombia. One of his most vivid elementary school memories was watching gunmen firing into the nearby mountains from a hovering aircraft.

A childhood hobby of helping his father repair computers turned into a passion that led him to Georgia Tech, where he earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in computer science. But his undocumented status prevented Salazar from applying for student financial aid, so his grandparents drained their savings to send him to college. Despite graduating with honors, he worried about his prospects of finding a job in Silicon Valley without working papers.

Life changed for Salazar in 2012, when President Obama issued an executive order that allowed immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to apply for temporary protection from deportation and obtain work permits. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, made it possible for him to get a job as a software engineer at Microsoft and, later, join Doppler Labs, a wearable technology startup in San Francisco.

Felipe Salazar

“Without DACA I would not be here, I would not be working, I would not be putting my skills to work,” said Salazar, who is now putting his younger sister through school. “I really don’t know what I would be doing.”

A 2014 presidential order expanding DACA, and another protecting the parents of U.S. citizens from deportation, are at the heart of a U.S. Supreme Court case, which many consider the most important immigration case the high court has considered in decades.

Arguments will be heard Monday in a case brought by Texas, which, along with 25 other states, is questioning whether Obama overstepped his authority or ignored legal procedures when he made the immigration changes. You can find a great explanation of nuances of the legal arguments on our sister site, Vox.

The outcome will effect the lives of some 4 million to 5 million immigrants without documentation in the U.S. — people like Salazar.

Several prominent technology leaders, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, angel investor Ron Conway and PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, have signed a legal brief supporting the president’s immigration programs.

The business leaders argued to the high court that immigrants are vital to entrepreneurship, noting that 25 percent of the high-tech companies founded in the United States over the past decade were founded by immigrants.

This view stands in sharp contrast to the charged political rhetoric of Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, both of whom have made stopping illegal immigration a centerpiece of their campaigns and talk about building a wall along the Mexican border. Cruz was among 43 Republican Senators who signed a legal brief arguing that Obama’s actions usurp Congressional authority on matters of immigration.

Zuckerberg used the global prominence of Facebook’s f8 developer conference to attack the anti-immigrant rhetoric, saying “instead of building walls we can help build bridges.” The technology industry group he helped launch,, plans to stage a rally outside the Supreme Court to show support for Obama’s executive actions.

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