Fifteen states — not including Georgia — filed suit in federal court Wednesday, seeking to block President Donald Trump from canceling Obama-era protections for hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, many of whom were brought here as children.
Also this week, Atlanta’s City Council passed a resolution opposing the president’s decision and calling on the police to limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
Joined by the District of Columbia, the states filed their suit in a federal court in New York, alleging Trump’s actions are discriminatory and violate equal protection rights. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson highlighted Trump’s inflammatory language from the campaign trail, where he called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and accused them of bringing illegal drugs and crime across the border. The majority of the young immigrants known as Dreamers who have been accepted into the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, or DACA, are Mexican.
“Ask yourself one question, if the overwhelming majority of Dreamers were Caucasian, does anybody really think this president would have taken the action he took yesterday?” Ferguson told reporters Wednesday in Seattle.
In addition to Ferguson’s state, the plaintiffs are Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.
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In response to the suit, a spokesman for the Justice Department, Devin O’Malley, said in a statement: “As the Attorney General said yesterday: ‘No greater good can be done for the overall health and well-being of our Republic, than preserving and strengthening the impartial rule of law.’ While the plaintiffs in today’s lawsuits may believe that an arbitrary circumvention of Congress is lawful, the Department of Justice looks forward to defending this Administration’s position.”
In announcing his decision Tuesday, Trump accused President Barack Obama of making an “end-run” around Congress when he created DACA, “violating the core tenets that sustain our Republic.” Obama has countered that his action was based on a well-established legal principle of prosecutorial discretion, used by both Republican and Democratic presidents.
Trump took to Twitter later Tuesday and announced: “Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can’t, I will revisit this issue!” On board Air Force One on the way to North Dakota for tax cut talks Wednesday, Trump told reporters he wants to see congressional legislation addressing DACA and border security.
“I’d like to see a permanent deal, and I think it’s going to happen,” he said. “I think we’re going to have great support from both sides of Congress, and I really believe that Congress is going to work very hard on the DACA agreement and come up with something.”
Tuesday evening, the Atlanta City Council voted 9-1 in opposition to Trump’s decision. The symbolic resolution says city police should not arrest or detain anyone based on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests called “detainers” or “administrative immigration warrants.”
ICE routinely issues such requests for jails to hold people for an additional 48 hours — excluding weekends and holidays — so the federal agency may pick them up and attempt to deport them. Critics point to federal court rulings that say jailing people based on ICE detainers can violate their constitutional rights.
The council’s vote follows a similar decision by Clarkston’s City Council in May. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office had no immediate comment on the council’s resolution Wednesday. But he released a statement Tuesday condemning Trump’s decision to cancel DACA. As of March, the program has provided work permits and deportation deferrals to 24,135 young immigrants in Georgia.
“Eliminating DACA is a shameful abdication of moral leadership,” Reed said. “By ending this program, the president is breaking a promise that the federal government made to the nearly 800,000 young people in our country who stepped forward, passed background checks and have been granted permission to live and work legally in the United States.”
Sponsored by Councilman Kwanza Hall, the council’s resolution also puts the city on record opposing Trump’s actions.
“What if they were your children?” Hall said in a prepared statement. “Now is one of those defining moments for the city of Atlanta — we must lead based on justice and compassion and standing with these children is the message this resolution sends.”
Also Tuesday, the council voted 8-2 in favor of a separate resolution — sponsored by Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong — that urges Trump to reverse his decision on DACA.
ICE spokesman Bryan Cox issued a statement Wednesday saying his agency is “committed to collaborating with jurisdictions throughout Georgia and nationwide to promote public safety.” He added that ICE “seeks to educate local authorities about the ramifications when that cooperation is absent, which threatens public safety when criminal aliens are released into our communities rather than into ICE custody.”
Meanwhile, immigrants in the Atlanta area are worrying over how the government will use the personal information they submitted with their DACA applications, including fingerprints, home addresses, relatives’ names, and school and bank records.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials told reporters Tuesday that they plan to retain that information and eventually move it to the National Archives and Records Administration. ICE, they said, will not be changing its enforcement priorities and will access the DACA records only when they have a “significant law enforcement or national security interest.” Such a scenario, they said, could involve people convicted of felonies or “serious” misdemeanors.
“If there comes to be someone who previously had DACA and now they are acting in a way that undermines public safety or they are acting to overthrow the government through some kind of terroristic act, then as part of our investigative process we will use all of the resources ICE has at its disposal to identify that person and take them into custody,” said a senior Department of Homeland Security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment for attribution.
Marisol Estrada, 23, a DACA recipient from Sandy Springs, is skeptical about ICE.
“What they say is different from what they do,” said Estrada, an Armstrong State University graduate and a legal assistant who was brought here from Mexico when she was 5 years old. “They might say we are not a priority, but we are — the term is low-hanging fruit. Our information is out there. If they see us on the streets and they ask for our status, we can’t run away.”
Georgia’s congressional delegation split over Trump’s decision.
“President Barack Obama’s executive order was outside the constitutional authority of the executive branch, and I agree with President Trump’s decision to reverse the order and call on Congress to fundamentally reform our immigration policy,” said U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville.
U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, disagreed with the president’s actions.
“It is unconscionable to punish children for the actions of their parents,” he said. “These are children and young adults who were brought to the U.S. as small kids, and they know no other home but here in America.”