September 11, 2017 at 1:37 pm PDT | by Karen Ocamb
California AG Becerra sues Trump over DACA

AG Becerra at news conference with two DREAMers (Photo via Becerra’s Twitter account)

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit  on Monday challenged the constitutionality of President Donald Trump’s directive to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era program that protects from immediate deportation undocumented young immigrants brought to America as children. DACA allows those DREAMers to work and study here, if they meet certain stringent requirements.

On Sept. 5, Trump, through US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, called DACA an “amnesty-first approach” and said the program would begin to phase out the approximately 800,000 DREAmers in March, unless Congress came up with a fix in six months. In a statement, Trump said he was concerned for “the millions of Americans victimized by this unfair system.” Sessions said DACA had “denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.”

Becerra’s lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California, intends to “immediately address the president’s unlawful and mean spirited actions,” the Sacramento Bee reports,  alleging the administration violated DACA applicants’ due process protections by putting their requested personal information at risk of being turned over to immigration officials.

“They should not be punished for things that were done by others,” Becerra said, with two DREAMers at his side. “We don’t bait and switch in this country.”

California is home to nearly one quarter of the nation’s estimated 800,000 DREAMers. “Donald Trump turned his back on all of these folks,” Becerra said. “And he turned his back on the American public.”

Last Friday, the University of California filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration alleging the DACA program is being eliminated on “nothing more than unreasoned executive whim.” Their suit contends that such a substantial policy change targeting an entire group of people should be first subject to a review and public comment.

At the news conference, Becerra acknowledged the separate lawsuit filed by the state of New York and 14 other attorney generals but said California needed to act independently, given the impact on its immigrant population and economy. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that California has the most to lose if (Dreamers) don’t win,” Becerra said.

Becerra was joined in the lawsuit by Maine Attorney General Janet Mills and Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson. Late Monday, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh announced that state had joined in, as well.

“The DACA initiative has allowed more than 800,000 DREAMers to attend school, serve in our armed forces, and contribute to our communities,” Frosh said in a press release. “The callous and cavalier action taken by the Trump Administration will destroy the lives of many immigrants who were brought here as infants and toddlers, who love the United States of America, who pay taxes and abide by the law. In Maryland alone, there are nearly 10,000 current DACA recipients working and going to school. Ending the program would constitute a $509.4 million loss to the state’s annual GDP. My office will stand with and defend Maryland’s DREAMers and the nearly one-million DREAMers across America.”

Per the Frosh press release, the complaint alleges:

  • The Trump Administration’s termination of DACA and the associated Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memo and FAQs may lead to the untenable outcome that the Administration will renege on the promise it made to Dreamers and their employers that information they gave to the government for their participation in the program will not be used to deport them or prosecute their employers. The risk DACA grantees face is compounded by DHS’s earlier imposition of boundless enforcement “priorities” that sweep in most immigrants. The threatened misuse of sensitive information provided in good faith by DACA grantees to the government is fundamentally unfair, violating the Fifth Amendment’s due process guarantee.

  • The federal Regulatory Flexibility Act also requires the government to analyze the effects of a proposed change on small businesses, many of which are owned by, or employ, Dreamers, and to take comments on the proposed change. The Administration completely ignored these legal requirements.

  • The termination of DACA directly affects the substantive rights of almost 800,000 people and indirectly affects millions more, as well as small and large businesses, non-profits, and the towns, cities and states that these individuals call home. The federal Administrative Procedure Act requires such a change to be made for sound reasons, and for the public to be able to make formal comments on it before it’s made into law. Whether or not the initiative was implemented through notice and comment rulemaking, it cannot be terminated without it.

Meanwhile, the California Legislature is debating a number of bills dealing with DREAMers and other immigration issues, including a bill by out State Sen. Ricardo Lara that would require federal immigration agents to get warrants before they are allowed to enter public sites like courtrooms or schools to do surveillance or make arrests. Both the state and the city of Los Angeles are debating “sanctuary” status to provide “safe zones” for undocumented immigrants.

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