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Are States Coordinating With the Trump Administration to Take Down DACA? We Aim to Find Out.

DACA State Map
DACA State Map
Michael Tan,
Deputy Director,
ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project
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August 7, 2017

The ACLU filed public records requests today in 10 states that have launched a legal attack on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The requests seek to uncover any coordination by state officials and members of the Trump administration to take down the DACA program.

We’ve filed these requests because the Trump administration continues to speak out of both sides of its mouth on DACA, leaving the future of the program in doubt. President Trump has described Dreamers as “absolutely incredible kids” who have “worked here” and “gone to school here,” assuring them that they “should rest easy” about being allowed to stay in the country. At the same time, other administration officials have long opposed DACA — including Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

This matters now because DACA is under attack. In late June, 10 states — led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton — wrote Sessions demanding that the Trump administration agree to end the program. If the administration refuses to fall in line by September 5, the states will seek to amend a lawsuit pending in the federal district court in Brownsville, Texas, to stop the program.

The states attacking DACA appear to have allies in the Trump administration. Responding to the states’ June letter, Sessions remarked: “I like [that] states and localities are holding the federal government to account and expecting us to do our responsibility to the state and locals, and that’s to enforce the law.” These statements raise serious questions regarding the Trump administration’s commitment to defending DACA as well as questions about possible communications between the states and members of the administration.

The DACA program is a critical lifeline for nearly 800,000 young immigrants, or “Dreamers,” who came to this country as children and know the United States as their only home. DACA allows them to live and work in the country on a renewable, two-year basis. Since its creation five years ago, DACA has enabled hundreds of thousands of young men and women to attend school, support their families, buy homes, begin careers, contribute to their communities, and pursue their dreams.

Ending DACA would be devastating to hundreds of thousands of talented young people like Jessica Colotl. Jessica has lived in Georgia since she was a child, graduated high school and college with honors, and went on to become a paralegal at a prominent immigration law firm. Jessica dreams of going to law school to become an immigration lawyer and give back to the community. But without DACA, Jessica won’t be able to pursue her dreams.

Ending DACA would also hurt the country as a whole. The Center for American Progress estimates that ending DACA would result in a loss of $460.3 billion from the gross domestic product over the next decade and remove an estimated 685,000 workers from the nation’s economy. The CATO Institute’s estimates are more conservative but still grim: The cost of immediately deporting approximately 750,000 DACA recipients would be over $60 billion, along with a $280 billion reduction in economic growth over the next decade.

It is no surprise then that, even in this hyper-partisan moment, Americans across the political spectrum overwhelmingly support DACA. Nearly 78 percent of voters believe that the Dreamers should be allowed to stay in the country, including 73 percent of voters who supported Trump in the November election.

And to be clear, the U.S. government has repeatedly — and successfully — defended DACA against legal challenges. Indeed, every legal challenge to the DACA program has failed. As the U.S. has argued, DACA is a lawful exercise of the enforcement discretion that Congress delegated to the executive branch in the Immigration and Nationality Act, which charges the executive with “the administration and enforcement” of the country’s immigration laws.

Establishing national immigration enforcement policies and priorities like DACA is central to implementing — rather than violating — the executive’s constitutional obligation to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” Any refusal by the Sessions Justice Department to defend the DACA program would require a complete reversal of the U.S.’s own consistent legal positions.

Five years ago, the federal government made a deal with immigrant youth: As long as you pass a criminal background check and meet other conditions, you get permission to live, study, and work here for renewable two-year periods. Hundreds of thousands of young people came out of the shadows to accept the government’s offer in good faith and made plans for the future. The Trump administration should honor the deal and defend the DACA program from attack.

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