Fifteen states sue United States President Donald Trump for cancelling program for undocumented immigrant minors

Saturday, September 9, 2017

On Wednesday, the attorneys general of fifteen U.S. states filed a lawsuit against United States President Donald Trump for ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA, which placed a moratorium on the deportation of undocumented immigrants who had come to the U.S. while they were still minors. They argue that Trump's decision to resume deportation was based on racism and therefore illegal and that deporting DACA beneficiaries would harm the economies of their respective states.

The suit reads, in part: "Ending DACA, whose participants are mostly of Mexican origin, 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." The greatest number of DACA beneficiaries are from Mexico, and the next most common countries of birth are El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

According to New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, his state is home to 42,000 DACA participants, also called dreamers, after the DREAM Act, a proposed law that would have made something similar to the DACA program a law rather than an executive policy. "Dreamers play by the rules. Dreamers work hard. Dreamers pay taxes. For most of them, America is the only home they've ever known. And they deserve to stay here," he said. According to the lawsuit, 50 DACA participants are students at Harvard University, one the most prestigious schools in the U.S.

At the U.S. government's last count, the DACA program covered 787,580 people. It allowed undocumented immigrants who had come to the U.S. under the age of 16 and were no older than 30 in 2012 to apply for temporary federal permits for legal residency, which expire after two years. These in turn allow them to file for work permits and drivers' licenses. It made it much easier for them to attend four-year colleges and for the government to collect income tax. The Trump administration describes this as a phasing out rather than an immediate cancellation. Some DACA participants will be allowed to renew their permits, but only until October and only for participants whose existing permits would expire by next March.

President Trump invited Congress to take action on the dream issue: "We will resolve the DACA issue with heart and compassion — but through the lawful Democratic process — while at the same time ensuring that any immigration reform we adopt provides enduring benefits for the American citizens we were elected to serve," President Trump told the press on Tuesday. "We must also have heart and compassion for unemployed, struggling, and forgotten Americans." Under the new Trump policy, if Congress does not pass a law establishing a program for DACA participants, 300,000 would lose legal status next year.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, accompanied by now-adult DACA recipients who work for the state legislature, announced to the press, "It's outrageous, it's not right[...] As attorney general for the state of Washington, I have a hammer, it's the law." Ferguson also sued Donald Trump earlier this year over a travel ban prohibiting people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

DACA was not a law but rather an executive policy established by Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama. The U.S. Constitution gives the legislative branch of the government, Congress, the duty of establishing laws but the executive branch, headed by the President, the duty of enforcing them. The DACA program was examined by lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice in 2014, and they determined then-President Barack Obama did have the authority to decline to enforce existing immigration laws in this way.

The suit was filed by attorneys general from North Carolina, Hawaii, Washington, New York, Illinois, Iowa, Oregon, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont, and Rhode Island and the country's capital, Washington D.C., all of whom are Democrats. The attorney general of California, home to one out of four DACA participants, stated intent through a spokesperson to file a separate lawsuit.