The Trump administration’s decision to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
initiative, has sparked a whirlwind of activity at the city, county and state level, all aimed at thwarting the president’s action and to push Congress to adopt a permanent solution for the hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.
The protests and promises of legal battles is not surprising given that one in four DACA recipients – or about 200,000 of the young beneficiaries – live in California.
Speaking in Los Angeles Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra vowed to fight the decision “on every front.”
Becerra, joined by the attorneys general for Minnesota, Maryland and Maine, filed a lawsuit Monday in San Francisco against the administration, arguing that the federal government violated the Constitution and federal laws when it moved to rescind DACA.
“The DACA initiative has allowed more than 800,000 Dreamers — children brought to this country without documentation — to come out of the shadows and become successful and productive Americans,” Becerra said following a roundtable meeting with immigration advocates in downtown Los Angeles. “I’ve never seen a time in our country when we punish kids for coming out of the
Last week, the University of California filed suit against the administration on grounds that the decision would violate the due process rights of thousands of immigrant UC students. That same day, Los Angeles Councilman Jose Huizar introduced a motion directing the city attorney to either file his own lawsuit or to join the state’s lawsuit being promised by Becerra.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles County supervisors added their voices, adopting a measure to support the lawsuits brought by other government bodies and to pursue a financial boycott of sorts of states “unfriendly” to DACA by banning county employees from traveling to those states on county business.
California’s Attorney General Tells Dreamers to Reapply
According to Becerra, with the help of the state’s 200,000 DACA recipients, California has become “the sixth largest economy in the world.”
Federal immigration officials are no longer accepting new requests for DACA, but the agency is hearing two-year DACA renewal requests received by Oct. 5 from current beneficiaries whose benefits will expire before March 5.
Flanked by representatives from immigrant rights groups, Becerra said Tuesday that financial help is available to cash-strapped Dreamers who don’t have the $495 renewal fee. “If you have the opportunity, submit your paperwork,” the attorney general said. “We don’t want anyone to be deprived of the chance to reapply.”
Cynthia Buiza, executive director of the California Immigrant Policy Center, urged recipients not to “make money an issue.”
Added Martha Arevalo, executive director of the Central American Resource Center: “Don’t let financial concerns be a reason not to reapply. We can find solutions.”
Becerra said the DACA phase-out indirectly affects millions of residents, as well as businesses, nonprofits, and the state’s towns and cities.
“We’ll do whatever we can to win,” he said.
Fifteen other states have also filed a lawsuit challenging the end of the DACA program.
UC Is First University System to Enter Legal Battle
The UC’s lawsuit filed Sept. 8 in San Francisco against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its acting secretary, Elaine Duke, is the first of its kind to be filed by a university. The lawsuit alleges the Trump administration failed to provide proper notice to the impacted population as required by law.
”As a result of the defendants’ actions, the Dreamers face expulsion from the only country that they call home, based on nothing more than unreasoned executive whim,” the complaint reads. UC President Janet Napolitano, who was secretary of DHS from 2009 to 2013, spearheaded the Obama administration’s creation of the DACA program in 2012, setting in place a rigorous application and security review process, according to the lawsuit.
Applicants for DACA were only approved if they were in or had graduated from high school or college, or were in the military, or an honorably discharged veteran. They cannot have been convicted of a felony or major misdemeanor or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety.
“Neither I, nor the University of California, take the step of suing the federal government lightly, Napolitano said. “It is imperative, however, that we stand up for these vital members of the UC community.”
The lawsuit asks the court to set aside Trump’s action because it is “unconstitutional, unjust, and unlawful.”
L.A. Councilman Calls for City Attorney to Join Lawsuits
Roughly 100,000 DACA recipients are believed to live in the Los Angeles area. A motion introduced last week by L.A. Councilman Jose Huizar states, “These Dreamers were brought here as children and have proven themselves to be lawful residents contributing to the social fabric and diversity of the United States.” It also instructs City Attorney Mike Feuer to pursue legal action on behalf of the city to defend their presence.
When asked to comment on the motion, Feuer spokesman Rob Wilcox said, “Our office is already in discussions with other government entities on how best to maximize our impact on fighting the removal of DACA.”
County to Support Lawsuits, Boycott DACA-unfriendly States
County supervisors voted Tuesday to institute a travel ban on DACA-unfriendly states and to support legal challenges to Trump’s order ending the policy.
Supervisor Hilda Solis championed a one-year restriction on county government travel to nine states that threatened legal action to end the program, saying it could “cost the United States approximately $460 billion in GDP.”
Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia will be subject to the travel restriction, which will not apply in the case of emergency assistance for disaster relief or critical law enforcement work.
The vote was 3-1, with Supervisor Kathryn Barger dissenting and Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas abstaining, though they both support DACA and voted in favor of related measures.
The young adults nationwide affected by the administration’s action are contributing to America’s economy, not taking from it, said Sonja Diaz, founding director of UCLA’s Latino Policy & Politics Initiative.
“Ninety-one percent of DACA recipients are employed. DACA is a net positive for the U.S. economy” and ending it would cost California alone $11.3 billion,” Diaz told the board.
David Rattray, executive vice president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, promised the support of business leaders in any fight to restore the program.
Employers have invested in hiring and training so-called Dreamers and are “dumbfounded about how stupid this is, frankly,” Rattray told the board.
Barger, the only Republican on the non-partisan board, said the county should take an aggressive, hands-on role in pressing Congressional representatives to craft new legislation.
“We need to be at the table and we need to push as hard as we can,” Barger said. “This is bipartisan, this is about doing what is right,” quoting then-President Barack Obama’s 2012 remarks saying DACA was “a temporary stopgap measure” to give Congress time to act.
“Congress needs to get to work, they’ve had over five years to do it,” Barger said. “If Congress does not act in six months, shame on them.”
Ridley-Thomas proposed having county lawyers file “friend of the court” briefs in support of several states suing the Trump administration.
DACA recipients are entitled, Ridley-Thomas said, to “the right to privacy, the right to work, the right to move within the halls of government and elsewhere without wondering if someone is going to report you or snatch you.”
The vote on amicus briefs was 4-1, with Barger dissenting.
Based on Solis’ motion, the board will also send a letter to the president and Congress demanding legislative action, a move that garnered unanimous support. The board also directed the county’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to help existing DACA recipients renew their status by Oct. 5.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl introduced a motion to add immigration to a county list of policy priorities, which currently include homelessness, child protection, reform of the Sheriff’s Department, integration of county health services, and environmental oversight and monitoring.
The board’s vote in favor of the new priority was unanimous.