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Washington joins suit to fight Trump effort to end DACA

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 6, 2017, 11:09 p.m.

DACA supporters march to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to protest shortly after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), will be suspended with a six-month delay, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Phoenix. (Matt York / AP)
DACA supporters march to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office to protest shortly after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), will be suspended with a six-month delay, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, in Phoenix. (Matt York / AP)

President Donald Trump’s decision to close the DACA program is unconstitutional and arbitrary, Washington and other states are claiming in a federal lawsuit that will try to block that action.

The Trump administration didn’t follow procedures set up in federal law to eventually end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, and its claims about the illegality of President Barack Obama’s executive order that created it don’t hold water, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Wednesday.

“No court has actually held that,” Ferguson said at a news conference announcing the lawsuit. Until recently, the Department of Justice had argued it was legal, but “overnight there was a change.”

Washington joined 14 other states and the District of Columbia in a lawsuit filed Wednesday in New York. In announcing Washington’s participation, Ferguson was joined by Gov. Jay Inslee and six “dreamers” – people brought by their parents to the United States as young children and now registered with the federal government under DACA.

The state has more than 17,000 dreamers, including more than 150 at Washington State University and more than 100 at the University of Washington, Ferguson said.

Inslee repeatedly blasted Trump, saying the threat to end DACA unless Congress passes legislation was an “act of willful malice” that casts “a dark pall of cruelty and inhumanity” over the country.

Going through the “not always enlightened halls of Congress” could wind up leaving the nation’s 800,000 DACA members “hostage” to other things lawmakers want, said the governor, who served more than 15 years in the U.S. House of Representatives from two different congressional districts.

Young people who registered for DACA to be able to work or attend college had to provide the federal government with information on themselves, and in some cases their families, with the promise that information would not be used by immigration enforcement. The statements that the information would be kept safe have been removed from the program’s federal website, Ferguson said.

Some of the team from Ferguson’s office who successfully challenged Trump’s initial executive order restricting immigration from several Muslim countries will be working on this case. There are some similarities, and some differences, he said.

Lawyers for the states challenging the decision on DACA will argue there is some “animus” behind the change, Ferguson said, based in part on public statements Trump has made. With the travel ban, they produced derogatory campaign statements about Muslims; on the DACA case, there are disparaging remarks he made about Mexicans, and about 80 percent of people in DACA are of Mexican descent, he said.

“If the overwhelming majority of dreamers were Caucasian, does anybody really think that this president would have taken the action he took yesterday?” Ferguson said.

They will also allege the Trump administration is not following procedures under federal law to make such a change and is violating the constitutional protections of equal protection.

It will raise a new question under federal law, which will charge the federal government is harming businesses where dreamers work, by removing employees those companies have trained or otherwise invested in.

Unlike the travel ban case, which resulted in a court injunction quickly halting that executive order, at this point the DACA lawsuit is not seeking an immediate hearing for a restraining order against the Trump administration’s efforts to shut down DACA if Congress doesn’t act in the next six months.

More states may join, or file their own lawsuits, Ferguson said. The decision to file in New York was made by attorneys representing Washington, New York and Massachusetts. Other states named in the lawsuit are Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.

Washington has sued the Trump administration 14 times over changes to federal law, has won four and not lost any yet.