California’s attorney general on Monday joined the growing legal fray challenging President Trump’s recent decision to end protections for undocumented young people.
Stating that Trump’s decision would “be an economic travesty for California,” State Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed suit in Northern District federal court to stop Trump from overturning the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects those who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children, also known as “Dreamers.”
One in four DACA recipients, or about 200,000 young people, live in California – the largest group in the nation. DACA allows them to work and live in the U.S. legally, for renewable periods of two years.
“No state will be more economically impacted by (the DACA repeal) than California,” Becerra said Monday. “California is the world’s sixth largest economy. … We don’t turn our backs on those who helped build this state.”
California businesses stand to lose at least $1 billion in turnover costs if DACA is repealed and “Dreamers” lose their work permits, Becerra said. Furthermore, DACA recipients play an important role in the state’s cultural and social landscape, he said.
Thousands are enrolled in the University of California, California State University and community colleges. They own homes and businesses, serve in the military and have family here. They pay taxes and work in nearly every profession, although they can’t vote and have no legal path toward citizenship.
Three other states – Maryland, Minnesota and Maine – joined in California’s lawsuit. Last week, the University of California also filed suit against the Trump administration over the DACA repeal. Washington, New York and 13 other states and the District of Columbia also filed suit last week.
The suits all claim that that the Trump administration violated the DACA recipients’ Fifth Amendment right to due process by not adequately considering the order’s impact on Dreamers, their families, businesses and local governments, among other things. They also argue that Trump did not go through the required procedures in making the order. Washington’s lawsuit claims that Trump’s decision was based on racial bias, although neither California’s nor UC’s suits make that argument.
Law professor Niels Frenzen, director of the Gould Immigration Clinic at the University of Southern California, said that although Trump has the legal authority to make executive orders, the lawsuits still have merit.
“It’s a serious legal challenge, and definitely something for DACA recipients and their families to follow,” he said. “If nothing else, the suit could potentially buy time for the issue to be looked at more fairly, or give Congress time to act.”
In repealing DACA, Trump gave Congress a six month deadline to take action. He’s pressuring Congress to create a more comprehensive immigration policy over the next six months, while DACA winds down. The Department of Homeland Security is not accepting new DACA applications, and those whose permits expire before March 5, 2018, have until Oct. 5 to apply for a two-year renewal.
President Obama created DACA as an executive order in 2012 after Congress failed to pass the Dream Act, which would have offered legal status and eventually citizenship to qualified “Dreamers,” young people who came to the U.S. with their parents as children.
“In the end, DACA was always intended to be a temporary program,” Frenzen said. “It was likely going to end sometime.”
In the aftermath of a major policy announcement, it’s not unusual for multiple agencies to file similar lawsuits over an issue, all seeking the same outcome, Frenzen said. Often the suits end up getting bundled into one case, which may happen with the DACA suits, he said.
UC officials said on Monday they supported the state’s lawsuit.
“Dreamers are valued members of our California communities,” according to a UC statement. “UC will work together with our state government to ensure that these young people remain able to continue the productive lives they have established in the only nation they know as home.”
In announcing his lawsuit, Becerra introduced two DACA recipients who are college students in California. One, Eva Jimenez, 21, said she’s “terrified” of losing the legal protections that allow her to work and be free of the fear of deportation.
Before DACA, she “stayed quiet,” rarely expressed herself and otherwise stayed in the shadows, she said. Now a student at UC Davis, she’s studying international relations and political science, works as a tutor and volunteers at an immigrant law center.
“DACA helped me gain strength. It opened doors and gave me hope,” she said. “When (Trump announced the end of DACA), I suddenly felt vulnerable. That cloud that was once above me returned.”
Becerra said stories like Jimenez’s inspired him to file the lawsuit.
“I filed this suit for all 40 million people in California, but also because I’m the son of immigrants. I lived this. I get it,” he said. Becerra was born in Sacramento, but his mother was born in Jalisco, Mexico and immigrated to the United States when she married Becerra’s father.
This article was updated at 8 a.m. Sept. 12 to remove inaccurate information provided by the attorney general’s office on the immigration status of Becerra’s grandparents.
To get more reports like this one, click here to sign up for EdSource’s no-cost daily email on latest developments in education.