Immigrant rights lawyers opened the first legal front against the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, hours after it was announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday.
In a court filing Tuesday afternoon, attorneys asked a federal judge in Brooklyn to allow them to amend an existing lawsuit filed on behalf of a Mexican-born man — who came to the United States when he was seven years old and received work authorization under DACA — to address Tuesday’s policy change.
Lawyers for the plaintiff, Martín Batalla Vidal, said they planned to raise two claims against the administration’s decision to end DACA: First, that officials failed to offer a “reasoned explanation” for the move, in violation of the federal Administrative Procedure Act, and, second, that the decision was unconstitutionally “motivated by anti-Mexican and anti-Latino animus.”
“This administration has no interest in trying to find a compassionate solution,” Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said in a press call Tuesday afternoon. The center is representing Vidal along with Make the Road New York, and the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic WIRAC at the Yale Law School.
Democratic state attorneys have also indicated that they’ll take legal action to try to stop the administration from ending DACA.
On Tuesday morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he and other officials would “wind down” the program, enacted by the Obama administration in 2012, thereby allowing protections against deportation for roughly 800,000 people to end in six months.
Current DACA recipients “generally will not be impacted until after March 5, 2018,” said a follow-up statement from the White House, which says the six-month window would allow Congress to pass legislation.
But on a press call, Hincapié said that arbitrary timeframe is unworkable for plaintiffs like hers. Batalla Vidal originally filed suit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York over the revocation of his work authorization after a federal district judge in Texas blocked the Obama administration’s expansion of the DACA program in 2015. (The judge also halted the Obama administration’s proposed DAPA program, a similar deferred action program for undocumented immigrants who were the parents of US citizens or lawful permanent residents).
In Tuesday’s court filing, Batalla Vidal’s lawyers also noted that DACA applicants had provided personal information about themselves and their family members to the US government, and had relied on representations by officials at the time that it would not be used for immigration enforcement.
“Probably one of the greatest fears is about what will happen — whether all the information will remain confidential or not,” she said. “Young people relied on the assurance from federal government, not just from Obama administration but from this administration as well, that they could rest easy.”
At least two states also appear poised to challenge the decision to end DACA in federal court. On Monday, attorneys general from New York and Washington state threatened litigation if the Trump administration canceled the program.
“We have been working closely with legal teams around the country, and we expect to be joined by other states in this action,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement on Monday.
Neither state would comment on their legal strategies. On Tuesday afternoon, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a press conference that his office was "ready to sue to defend the DACA program," but did not offer details on what kind of legal action they might pursue or when they would file in court.
But their legal claims and efforts to gain standing to sue the administration could echo arguments the states made when challenging Trump’s travel ban executive order. In those cases, several states contended they were harmed because the administration's plans had ramifications for state schools and international corporations based there.
Like the individual plaintiffs, the states could claim the Trump administration is acting out of animus toward foreigners, violating constitutional rights to due process and equal protection, also echoing arguments they made in the travel ban case alleging religious discrimination.
New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement on Monday, "President Trump's decision to end the DACA program would be cruel, gratuitous, and devastating to tens of thousands of New Yorkers—and I will sue to protect them. Dreamers are Americans in every way. They played by the rules. They pay their taxes. And they've earned the right to stay in the only home they have ever known.”
“More than 40,000 New Yorkers are protected under DACA,” he added. “They pay more than $140 million in state and local taxes. They are vital members of our community.”
Zoe Tillman is a legal reporter with BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Zoe Tillman at email@example.com.
Dominic Holden is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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