Tennessee pulls out of multistate DACA challenge

Tennessee pulls out of multistate DACA challenge
© Getty

The attorney general of Tennessee Friday announced that the state would pull out of the 10-state coalition that had threatened to challenge the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in courts.

In a letter to Tennessee's two GOP senators, Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGOP senator: ObamaCare fix could be in funding bill Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal Murkowski: ObamaCare fix not a precondition for tax vote MORE and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerBannon: McConnell 'picking up his game' because of our 'insurgent movement' State Dept. spokeswoman acknowledges 'morale issue' The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III (R) said, "At this time, our office has decided not to challenge DACA in the litigation, because we believe there is a better approach."

That leaves Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia in the coalition led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R).

In June, Paxton led that group in a letter that demanded President Trump rescind DACA by Sept. 5, or the states would file a lawsuit against its legality. 

ADVERTISEMENT
Under pressure from that deadline, Trump plans to announce his decision whether to defend or rescind the program on Tuesday.

Several administration officials, including White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, said they didn't believe DACA would survive a lawsuit, and Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsFederal judge rules Trump defunding sanctuary cities 'unconstitutional on its face' FBI informant gathered years of evidence on Russian push for US nuclear fuel deals, including Uranium One, memos show Alabama election has GOP racing against the clock MORE declined to say whether he would mount a defense in court. 

A similar lawsuit by 26 states against Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), DACA's sister program, successfully obtained an injunction against DAPA in a case that ultimately ended in a 4-4 Supreme Court tie, effectively killing that program.

"We have every reason to believe the states' legal challenge to the DACA program would yield a similar outcome. It suffers from the same constitutional infirmities," wrote Slatery on Friday.

"There is a human element to this, however, that is not lost on me and should not be ignored," he added.

Slatery told Alexander and Corker that in light of DACA recipients' "outstanding accomplishments and laudable ambitions," his office now favors a legislative solution.

Several proposals have been filed in both houses of Congress to permanently enshrine in legislation DACA benefits, including a renewed version of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, first presented by Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock Graham on Moore: 'We are about to give away a seat' key to Trump's agenda Tax plans show Congress putting donors over voters MORE (R-S.C.) and Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinQuestions loom over Franken ethics probe GOP defends Trump judicial nominee with no trial experience Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  MORE (D-Ill.).

"Whether this particular legislation is a viable solution is a matter for congressional debate," said Slatery. "It is not a comprehensive answer to our immigration policy challenges, but it would be a very good start."

Tennessee's change of heart comes as Trump weighs pressure from his base against a growing number of voices supportive of the fundamentals of DACA, if not necessarily its legality.

Democrats and some Republicans, like Graham, had long spoken in favor of DACA and its beneficiaries.

They were joined by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDem: Ex-lawmaker tried to pin me to elevator door and kiss me Two months later: Puerto Rico doesn’t have power, education or economy running again On Capitol Hill, few name names on sexual harassment MORE (R-Wis.) Friday, who said Trump should leave DACA in place and allow Congress to legislate on the matter, while arguing that President Obama exceeded his powers in installing it in the first place.