SAN FRANCISCO ― California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) announced Monday he is suing President Donald Trump’s administration to block it from ending protections against deportation for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants.
Attorneys general in Maine, Maryland and Minnesota are joining the suit.
Becerra’s announcement came one week after the Trump administration rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and left the issue for Congress to resolve legislatively in the next six months, when work permits and deportation protections will begin to lapse for many of its recipients. Implemented by President Barack Obama in 2012, DACA protects from deportation roughly 800,000 “Dreamers” who came to the U.S. as children and allows them to work legally. More than 200,000 Dreamers live in California.
In the lawsuit, Becerra argues that rescinding DACA violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause due to concern that the administration will use the personal information Dreamers provided to apply for the program to find and deport them or their family members.
He also argues that using that information would violate the legal principle of equitable estoppel, which essentially protects against a “bait and switch,” in this case giving Dreamers reason to believe their personal information wouldn’t be used against them and then doing so anyway.
The lawsuit also contends the administration violated two federal laws ― the Administrative Procedure Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act ― by rescinding the program without giving the public proper notice nor soliciting public comment on changes to it. Becerra also argues that the Justice Department’s action violates those statutes because the department failed to adequately assess the effect rescinding DACA will have on businesses and municipalities.
“The reckless choice to rescind DACA violated the Constitution as well as federal laws that help ensure our government treats everyone fairly and transparently,” Becerra said at a press conference Monday morning.
Becerra’s suit is one of several legal challenges against reversing DACA.
Last Wednesday, a coalition of 15 states and the District of Columbia filed a suit in the Eastern District of New York, arguing that Trump’s decision to roll back DACA is intended to “punish and disparage people with Mexican roots” and therefore violates the Fifth Amendment’s due process clause.
And on Friday, University of California President Janet Napolitano — who created the DACA program while serving as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under Obama — also sued to block Trump from rescinding Dreamers’ deportation protections and work authorizations, making a similar argument to Becerra’s statutory claims.
“The administration’s approach in rescinding DACA was the opposite of reasoned decision-making and thus is unlawful,” Napolitano told reporters last week. “It did not assess the costs of rescinding DACA to the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers or to the schools and communities in which they live, study and work.”
Becerra acknowledged that while those cases have “similar causes of action,” his complaint takes a “slightly different” legal approach due to DACA’s outsize effect in his state.
“I’m doing what I think I must do for [the] 40 million people in the state of California,” he said. “There is no state that will be more economically impacted by the Trump administration’s unconstitutional and illegal termination of DACA than California.”
Becerra previously led a group of 20 attorneys general in urging Trump to uphold the program, and he vowed to help defend DACA against lawsuits threatened by state officials who wanted to end its protections.
Trump repeatedly promised to end DACA throughout his 2016 presidential campaign, vowing he would “immediately terminate” the program if elected. But after his inauguration, his rhetoric toward Dreamers softened somewhat, describing undocumented young people as “incredible kids” and promising to show “heart” when deciding their future.
The president ultimately gave in to pressure from conservatives to end the program, but since the announcement has again spoken sympathetically about Dreamers.
“I have a great heart for the folks we’re talking about, a great love for them,” he said Tuesday following the DOJ announcement.
And on Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Trump told her twice he would support a bill giving legal status to Dreamers.
“The president supports that, he would sign it. But we have to get it passed,” Pelosi said.