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Attorney General Janet Mills Applauds Nationwide Injunction by Federal Court Against the Trump Administration’s Rescission of the DACA Program
January 10, 2018
Attorney General Janet Mills applauded the ruling of the federal court in California, issued late last night, that permits hundreds of thousands of law-abiding hard-working young people brought from other countries at a young age, to keep their jobs and remain in school in Maine and across the nation.
“People working in Maine, going to school in Maine, paying taxes in Maine and contributing to our economy, should not live under the threat of being arrested and deported to some war-torn country they never knew, risking their lives and their families’ security,” Attorney General Mills stated.
Maine was a plaintiff in the action, with three other states, in a case that was joined with suits brought by the University of California, the Service Employees International Union Local 521 and others. The case was argued in December, and all plaintiffs welcomed last night’s ruling by Federal District Court Judge William Alsup.
Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals, or “DACA,” is the federal government’s program to postpone deportation of undocumented immigrants brought to America as children and, pending action in their cases, to assign them work permits allowing them to obtain social security numbers, pay taxes, and become part of the mainstream economy.
DACA grew out of a long agency history of discretionary relief programs going back to at least 1956, under Presidents Eisenhower, Reagan and George H.W. Bush, providing a pathway to lawful permanent residency in the United States for broad categories of individuals, including victims of domestic violence, foreign born orphans adopted by American parents, victims of human trafficking, and refugees fleeing the Hungarian revolution in the 1950’s. DACA, adopted in 2012 as an exercise in prosecutorial discretion, requires that the individual (1) have come to the United States before the age of sixteen and been under the age of thirty-one in 2012; (2) have been present in the United States on June 15, 2012; (3) have continuously resided in the United States for at least the prior five years; (4) have been enrolled in school, graduated from high school, obtained a GED, or been honorably discharged from the United States military or Coast Guard; and (5) not pose a threat to national security or public safety. The program requires substantial documentation from the applicant on all of these elements.
The program allows individuals to obtain social security numbers and become "eligible to become legitimate taxpayers and contributing members of our open economy.”
In Maine, this program has meant that more than one hundred people have met these stringent qualifications and are contributing to Maine’s diminishing young work force.
Across the country, there are nearly 700,000 active DACA recipients, nearly all of whom are working legitimate jobs and/or enrolled in school. These individuals under the program are entitled to a measure of safety from detention and removal for a period of two years, subject to termination at any time in any individual case.
On September 11, 2017, Maine, along with California, Maryland and Minnesota, filed suit alleging that the loss of their residents’ DACA status and work authorizations will injure their public colleges and universities, upset the states’ workforces, disrupt the states’ statutory and regulatory interests, cause harm to hundreds of thousands of their residents, damage their economies, and hurt companies based in these states.
The federal court last night ruled that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Trump administration’s rescission of DACA was “ based on a flawed legal premise and was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law.”
The court also ruled that many of the plaintiffs have "clearly demonstrated that they are likely to suffer serious irreparable harm absent an injunction. Before DACA, individual plaintiffs, brought to America as children, faced a tough set of life and career choices turning on the comparative probabilities of being deported versus remaining here. DACA gave them a more tolerable set of choices, including joining the mainstream workforce. Now, absent an injunction, they will slide back to the pre-DACA era and associated hardship.”
The court also ruled that the public interest requires a nationwide injunction against the Trump administration:
"For the reasons DACA was instituted, and for the reasons tweeted by President Trump, this order finds that the public interest will be served by DACA’s continuation.” “Beginning March 5, absent an injunction, one thousand individuals per day, on average, will lose their DACA protection. The rescission will result in hundreds of thousands of individuals losing their work authorizations and deferred action status. This would tear authorized workers from our nation’s economy and would prejudice their being able to support themselves and their families, not to mention paying taxes to support our nation. Too, authorized workers will lose the benefit of their employer-provided healthcare plans and thus place a greater burden on emergency healthcare services.”
Attorney General Mills noted that the order does not protect any individuals who pose a risk to public safety. The order says, nothing "prohibits the government from proceeding to remove any individual, including any DACA enrollee, who it determines poses a risk to national security or public safety, or otherwise deserves, in its judgment, to be removed. Nor does this order bar the agency from granting advance parole in individual cases it finds deserving, or from granting deferred action to new individuals on an ad hoc basis.”
"With respect to geographical scope, this order finds a nationwide injunction is appropriate,” the court ruled. “Our country has a strong interest in the uniform application of immigration law and policy….The problem affects every state and territory of the United States.”
AG Mills noted, the end of the first quarter of 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services had accepted 134 initial applications for DACA in Maine and 410 renewal applications since 2012. Because the majority of these individuals are gainfully employed in Maine, the estimated GDP loss in Maine from removing DACA workers is $3.97 million.
DACA-eligible individuals contribute $330,000 a year in state and local taxes. Many Maine employers – from electronics manufacturers to meat processors – have struggled to find the workers they need to expand and to keep growing in our state.
“There is no doubt about it. This ruling by the federal court will save lives and help keep the Maine economy growing,” Mills stated.”