The first major lawsuit by a university to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has been filed by a school whose top official helped create it.
As the head of the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration, UC President Janet Napolitano knows all about DACA. Though it was announced by President Obama, it was her agency’s plan.
Now as the leader of the University of California system, Napolitano feels DACA was repealed “capriciously” and by “unreasonable” executive whim.
And she let others in the academic community know they are free to join in UC’s legal fight.
“We would welcome the participation of other universities and colleges around the country, absolutely,” Napolitano said in a media call on Friday.
UC filed its lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security in the Northern District of California on Friday, seeking to reverse the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA announced earlier in the week.
“Neither I, nor the University of California, take the step of suing the federal government lightly, especially not the very agency I led,” said Napolitano, who denied that being a former head represented any conflict of interest, or required her recusal. “It is imperative, however, that we stand up for these vital members of the UC community.”
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, California is home to about 25 percent of the estimated 800,000 DACA recipients known as DREAMERS. Napolitano said her university system has 4,000 undocumented students, plus some staff members, many of whom are under DACA.
“They represent the best of who we are—hard working, resilient and motivated high achievers. To arbitrarily and capriciously end the DACA program, which benefits the country as a whole, is not only unlawful, it is contrary to our national values and bad policy.”
The suit claims the rescission of DACA failed to follow the procedures set by the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires an extensive notice and comment period before any significant change in law. The suit also claims the Trump administration ignored the due process rights of UC students and staff protected by DACA.
“The administration’s approach to rescind DACA was the opposite of reasoned decision making and thus is unlawful,” Napolitano said during a media call. “It did not assess the cost of rescinding DACA to hundreds of thousands of DREAMERS, nor to the schools and communities in which they live, study and work. It failed to consider the interests of the DREAMERS.”
Napolitano also noted how the Trump administration failed to justify a dramatic shift on the lawfulness of DACA when the Office of Legal Counsel under the Justice Department had deemed DACA was lawful.
The UC suit now is one of at least three suits aimed at protecting DACA, including one filed by more than a dozen States’ Attorneys General, and another by a DACA student.
UC expressed support of the latest lawsuit, filed Monday by attorney general Xavier Becerra on behalf of the state of California.
“UC will work together with our state government to ensure that these young people remain able to continue the productive lives they have established in the only nation they know as home,” a statement issued Monday said.
The Justice Department has said the rescinding of DACA was based on the “rule of law,” and has vowed to defend the administration’s opinion in court.
Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. His writes on race, politics and society for https://www.aaldef.org/blog/