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States push back on DACA pullback

On the heels of the Trump administration’s announcement that it would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a coalition of 16 states has filed suit to protect the 800,000 “DREAMers” and preserve the Obama-era immigration measure. The lawsuit, filed September 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, and led by New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, contends that the Trump administration has violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection clause by discriminating against the DREAMers, who are overwhelmingly of Mexican origin; violated their due process rights; and harmed the states’ residents, institutions, and economies.

“Immigration is the lifeblood of New York State,” said Schneiderman. In a press statement announcing the lawsuit, he noted that New York is home to nearly 42,000 DACA grantees. “These DREAMers play by the rules. They work hard and pay taxes. America is the only home they have ever known—and they deserve to stay here and keep contributing to our state and our nation. That’s why we’re taking the Trump administration to court to protect DREAMers and the New York employers who rely on them.”

National origin. The decision to revoke DACA was “driven by President Trump’s personal anti-Mexican bias,” Schneiderman charged. “This cruel move to rescind DACA feeds the beast of bigotry and undermines the values that built this state and this nation.” According to the complaint, more than 78 percent of DACA grantees are of Mexican origin—more than double the percentage of the overall foreign-born population in the United States that is of Mexican origin. Schneiderman alleged that ending DACA “is a culmination of President’s 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 consequence of the President’s animus-driven decision is that approximately 800,000 persons who have availed themselves of the program will ultimately lose its protections, and will be exposed to removal when their authorizations expire and they cannot seek renewal,” the complaint asserts. “The individuals who have relied on DACA are now more vulnerable to removal than before the program was initiated, as they turned over sensitive information to the federal government in their applications. Despite the federal government’s repeated promises that it would not use such information to conduct enforcement measures, the Memorandum does not explain how the government will keep that information secure, nor does it provide any assurances that immigration enforcement agents will not use such information to find and remove those who applied for DACA.”

Public policy. New York has an “important public policy” barring discrimination: The state constitution guarantees equal treatment under the law, and New York’s statutes “reiterate the State’s strong interest in combatting discrimination and prejudice.” And the attorney general is empowered to advance this policy, the complaint asserts. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo registered his support for the attorney general’s action, citing the state’s “sovereign interest in the fair and equal application of the law.”

The complaint alleges that rescinding DACA will harm state economies and their residents, their colleges and universities, and their employers—and disrupt the states’ statutory and regulatory interests as well.

Also leading the lawsuit are Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. They are joined by attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.