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DACA Beneficiaries Sue Federal Government Over Termination of Program

Dream ActivistJust over five years ago, President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed certain undocumented immigrants who had been brought to the United States as children to remain here. The idea behind the program was that people brought here as children, who had no say in the matter, and who have demonstrated commitment to certain ideals deemed particularly American, should be allowed to remain in the country they call home. The creation of DACA occurred after Congress had failed multiple times to pass legislation addressing this issue, known as the DREAM Act. Since DACA began in 2012, around 800,000 people have benefited. In early September 2017, however, the new White House administration announced plans to terminate the program. This would leave hundreds of thousands of people vulnerable to loss of work authorization and possible deportation. Multiple states have filed suit to challenge the termination of the program, and they have been joined by a group of DACA beneficiaries in Garcia, et al. v. United States, et al., No. 3:17-cv-05380, complaint (N.D. Cal., Sep. 18, 2017).

President Obama first announced DACA on June 15, 2012. At that time, Congress had considered but not enacted the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act three times. In order to qualify for DACA protection, applicants had to have entered the U.S. as children and have been present in this country for at least five years. They must not have a felony criminal record, and they must have either attended college or served in the U.S. military. DACA status was initially valid for two years, and it has been subject to renewal several times. DACA beneficiaries are also eligible for work authorization.

On September 5, 2017, the White House announced that it would end the DACA program after a six-month period. The announcement included a request to Congress to enact legislation making DACA protections a formal part of federal immigration law. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) re-introduced the DREAM Act shortly afterwards, but if Congress does not act by March 2018, hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients—often known as “Dreamers”—could face deportation.

The Garcia lawsuit is the first filed by Dreamers, and it joins several lawsuits filed by state governments and other political entities. See, e.g., Regents of Univ. of Cal., et al. v. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, et al., No. 3:17-cv-05211, complaint (N.D. Cal., Sep. 8, 2017). Most of the lawsuits assert claims for violations of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. § 500 et seq., alleging that the federal government failed to follow required procedures for administrative rule-making. The Garcia lawsuit also alleges Due Process and Equal Protection violations under the Fifth Amendment.

The seventh cause of action in the Garcia complaint, equitable estoppel, is notable because it addresses the fundamental fairness, or lack thereof, of the White House’s action. The complaint states that “the government represented to…DACA applicants that…information collected in connection with the DACA program would not be used for immigration enforcement purposes absent special circumstances.” Garcia, complaint at 41. The government’s possession of that information, provided by DACA applicants in good faith, now puts them “at real risk of removal and deportation.” Id. at 42.

Samuel C. Berger is a family immigration lawyer who represents immigrants, prospective immigrants, and their family members and employers in the Northern New Jersey and New York City areas. Contact us today online, at (201) 587-1500, or at (212) 380-8117 to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our skilled and knowledgeable team.

More Blog Posts:

DACA Recipient Challenges Detention by Immigration Authorities, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 9, 2017

Travel Outside the U.S. for DACA Recipients Remains Tricky, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, May 13, 2015

Federal Government Allows Extension of DACA Status, Amid Efforts to Roll Back the Program, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, August 6, 2014

Photo credit: Dream Activist [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr.