SAN FRANCISCO >> Six immigrants brought to the United States as children who became teachers, graduate students and a lawyer sued the Trump administration today over its decision to end a program shielding them from deportation.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco alleges the move violated the constitutional rights of immigrants who lack legal status and provided information about themselves to the U.S. government so they could participate in the program.
“The consequences are potentially catastrophic,” said Jesse Gabriel, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. “These people can very powerfully and very clearly communicate the extent to which they organized their lives around this program.”
The lawsuit joins others filed over President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which has allowed nearly 800,000 immigrants to obtain work permits and deportation protection since 2012.
More than a dozen states from Maine to California have sued over the administration’s decision to phase out the program, alleging similar constitutional violations. So has the University of California system.
Gabriel said the impact of Trump’s decision directly weighed on his clients’ personal lives and decisions they made to advance their careers in this U.S.
He said Dulce Garcia is a 34-year-old lawyer in San Diego who came to the United States from Mexico when she was four years old. She recently signed a lease for an office and hired employees because she believed she could stay and work in the U.S. under the program, Gabriel said.
“Now, the government is totally pulling out the rug from under her,” he said.
The plaintiffs also include teachers, a medical student and a law student. They are from Mexico and Thailand.
Trump’s announcement on Sept. 5 came after 10 Republican attorneys general threatened to sue in an attempt to halt the program. Under Trump’s plan, those already enrolled remain covered until their two-year work permits expire, and some renewals are being allowed. But there will be no new applications.
Department of Justice spokesman Devin O’Malley blamed the Obama administration for starting the program and said the agency will defend Trump’s decision.
“It was the previous administration’s arbitrary circumvention of Congress that got us to this point,” he said. “The Department of Justice looks forward to defending this Administration’s position and restoring respect for the rule of law.”
Immigrant advocates praise the program for protecting immigrants who were raised and educated in the U.S. despite their lack of legal immigration papers. The program’s opponents criticize it as too broad and said major changes to immigration laws need to go through Congress and cannot be enacted by the U.S. president alone.