Fifteen states and the District of Columbia went to court Wednesday to block President Donald Trump’s plan to end a programme protecting young immigrants from deportation — an act former President Barack Obama called ‘cruel’.
Washington state’s attorney general, Bob Ferguson called it part of a “dark time for our country.”
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn asked a judge to conclude that the president’s action involving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, is unconstitutional.
It called the move “a culmination of President Trump’s oft-stated commitments … to punish and disparage people with Mexican roots.”
The multistate lawsuit filed by a group of Democratic attorneys general on Wednesday to protect beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program argues their state economies will be hurt if residents lose their status.
The attorneys general also argue the government has not guaranteed DACA recipients that their application information will not be used “for purposes of immigration enforcement, including identifying, apprehending, detaining, or deporting non-citizens.”
“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 be exposed to deportation, the lawsuit says.
New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman took the lead filing the case in the Eastern District of New York. He said that 42,000 New Yorkers participate in DACA, and the end of the program will be “devastating” for them and would cause “huge economic harm” to the state.
In commenting on the suit, the U.S. Department of Justice noted that DACA was implemented under an executive order by former President Barack Obama, not through congressional action.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday the program will end in six months so Congress can have time to find a legislative solution for the people in the program, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families who overstayed visas.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.
California, one of the most solid Democratic states, was noticeably absent.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra plans to file a separate lawsuit because a quarter of DACA recipients are California residents, his spokeswoman Bethany Lesser said.
Becerra’s office has not said when the lawsuit will be filed or whether it will include different legal arguments.
Under the move by Trump, people already enrolled in DACA remain covered until their permits expire. If that happens before March 5, they are eligible to renew them for another two years as long as they apply by Oct. 5. But the program isn’t accepting new applications.
Opponents of the program said they are pleased with the Trump administration’s decision. They called DACA an unconstitutional abuse of executive power.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, both Democrats, called Trump’s action cruel and outrageous, given that the decision was announced by Sessions rather than the president himself.