Immigration Law

15 states and DC sue Trump administration over DACA program wind-down

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Fifteen states and Washington D.C. sued President Donald Trump and his administration on Wednesday, alleging that Tuesday's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will harm those jurisdictions and was racially motivated.

Reuters, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and others reported on the lawsuit, which was filed the Eastern District of New York. The states suing are Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

The complaint (PDF) alleges that ending DACA—which grants two-year work permits to young people who were brought to the U.S. without papers as children—will have an adverse effect on those jurisdictions by decreasing tax revenue, lowering employment, discouraging former recipients from pursuing higher education, splitting up families with mixed immigration status and reducing access to health care. It also suggests that the president’s decision had a motive other than respect for the rule of law cited by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday.

“More than 78 percent of DACA grantees are of Mexican origin,” the complaint says. “Ending DACA … is a culmination of President Trump’s oft-stated commitments—whether personally held, stated to appease some portion of his constituency, or some combination thereof—to punish and disparage people with Mexican roots.”

Relying on the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fifth Amendment, as well as the Administrative Procedure Act and Regulatory Flexibility Act, the plaintiffs ask the court to enjoin the end of DACA, declare illegal any actions that the Department of Homeland Security has taken to end it, and enjoin the federal government from using information it obtained via DACA applications to identify, detain or deport DACA applicants and their families.

The lawsuit was accompanied by sworn statements from Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks, saying the loss of DACA would hurt their businesses, the Post reported separately.

A spokesman the Justice Department issued a statement on Wednesday saying it “looks forward to defending this Administration’s position.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told the Los Angeles Times that he was planning a similar lawsuit. California is home to an estimated one-quarter of the roughly 800,000 DACA recipients. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh told the Post he was “considering all options” on protecting DACA recipients.

Legal experts told the Post that the lawsuit may be a reach, because the same executive power that permitted former President Barack Obama to create DACA permits the current president to end it. A 2014 statement from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel said the program was legal but could be terminated at any time at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security.

However, the Los Angeles Times observed that a similar cause of action was the foundation of a successful effort to cancel the related DAPA program—Deferred Action for Parents of Americans—which was blocked by a Texas judge who said the Obama administration should have published its new rule as an official regulation. Like the current lawsuit, that was brought by a group of states led by attorneys general from the party opposite the sitting president’s. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later upheld that injunction.

Trump said Tuesday that he has “a great love” for the hundreds of thousands of people who will lose their protections from deportation under his order, and hopes Congress will be able to help them. No DACA holders will be affected before March 5, 2018, acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said in a statement on Tuesday.

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