Fifteen states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Wednesday against President Trump’s decision to roll back the previous administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
“The president has made numerous statements on the campaign trail and in office disparaging Mexicans,” Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) said in announcing the suit. “We allege the president’s own statements make clear that DREAMers are being targeted based on their national origin.”
Ferguson, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey (D) spearheaded the suit. They are joined by Democratic attorneys general from Connecticut, New Mexico, Illinois, Hawaii, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Delaware, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Vermont and Washington, D.C.
In a press conference in Seattle, Ferguson said the states would challenge Trump’s action on four fronts.
The suit, filed in the Eastern District of New York, will allege the decision violates the Administrative Procedure Act in two different ways, while also violating the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution.
Ferguson said he sees similarities between the decision to roll back DACA and the Trump administration’s early efforts to ban travel from certain predominately Muslim countries in the Middle East. Washington state also challenged that executive order, which courts have blocked.
About 4 in 5 people covered under the DACA program are from Mexico and Central American countries.
Targeting a group of people for certain treatment because of their national origin would violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause, Ferguson said.
“If a majority of DREAMers were caucasian, does anybody really think the president would have taken the action he took yesterday?” Ferguson asked, using a common term for DACA recipients.
The suit will say Trump’s decision on DACA is arbitrary and capricious, allegations that would violate the Administrative Procedure Act. It will also claim that the administration did not properly lay out its reasoning behind canceling the program, a process claim that would also violate the act.
And if the government were to use information that DACA recipients provided when they registered for the program to enforce immigration actions, it would violate the Constitution’s due process clause, the lawsuit alleges.
Democratic attorneys general have been preparing to bring legal action to save DACA as Trump sent signals he would cancel it. In an interview Tuesday, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas (D) told The Hill he anticipated a long fight.
“It’s only the beginning of a long debate and a protracted legal battle,” Balderas said. “Various attorneys general from across the country are preparing to defend DACA recipients. The Constitution applies [to them] as well in terms of equal protection and due process.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Tuesday said it would be up to Congress to pass a fix before the program expires in six months.
“The president’s DACA decision today brings us closer to a safer, fairer and legal immigration system,” Sanders said. “Now that he has ended this unsustainable and unconstitutional program imposed by the previous administration, the president is calling on the men and women in Congress to fulfill their duty to the American people by truly reforming our immigration system for the good of all people.”
Ferguson, whose office has sued the Trump administration 14 times in its first eight months, said he was confident the suit would succeed.
“We’ve beaten the Trump administration over and over again,” Ferguson said. “We are careful about the lawsuits we bring. We are thoughtful about the lawsuits we bring.”
This story was updated at 5:20 p.m.