California sued the Trump administration Monday over its decision to end a program that shields young immigrants from deportation, saying it would be especially hard hit because it has more of the immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by parents or by parents who overstayed visas than any other U.S. state.
The lawsuit's legal arguments largely mirror those already filed in a lawsuit last week by 15 other states and the District of Columbia. Attorney generals for the states of Maine, Maryland and Minnesota joined California's lawsuit.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said California's case is stronger than the first lawsuit, filed last week, because more than 200,000 of the 800,000 participants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program live in the state.
"I don't think there's any doubt that California has the most to lose," he said, flanked by two program participants who were brought to the United States as 4-year-olds who now attend college in the Sacramento area.
Rosa Barrientos, 23, of East Los Angeles, who is now attending California State University, Sacramento, said she "was given wings" by the program. If it ends, she said, "I don't know what's going to become of my life."
She was joined by 21-year-old Eva Jimenez of Visalia, who is attending the University of California, Davis, and said she is terrified that the program might end.
The lawsuit alleges the Trump Administration violated the Constitution and other laws when it rescinded the program.
It was announced as Mexico's top diplomat, Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Videgaray visited California's state capital to meet with lawmakers and DACA recipients as part of a two-day trip.
California's state lawmakers are also expected to soon unveil changes to a bill aimed at limiting state and local officials' cooperation with federal immigration authorities. California already has some of the most protective laws in the country for immigrants detained by local law enforcement. The state has limited police's ability to detain immigrants for federal deportation agents since 2014, and requires jailers to inform inmates if agents are trying to detain them.
Illinois recently passed more even protective legislation that bars law enforcement from detaining immigrants solely for deportation, said Shiu Ming Cheer, senior staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. A handful of cities including Chicago and San Francisco, meanwhile, are refusing to cooperate with new federal requirements for tougher immigration enforcement, prompting the Trump administration to threaten to withhold funding.
The lawsuit relied mainly on procedural arguments, saying federal law requires that such decisions be made for sound reasons and only after the public has a chance to make formal comments. It said the administration failed to follow a federal law requiring it to consider negative effects of the decision on small businesses.
The lawsuit also said the Trump administration and immigration officials could use information provided by program participants to deport them and prosecute their employers. That would amount to misusing sensitive information provided in good faith by program participants, the lawsuit claimed.
"We don't bait and switch in this country," Becerra said.
Though Maine is listed as a plaintiff, its participation happened because Democrat Attorney General Janet Mills signed the state up. She has frequently broken with Republican Gov. Paul LePage in joining other states in lawsuits that run counter to his conservative views on immigration and other issues.
LePage sued Mills earlier this year for abuse of power. Mills, a 2018 gubernatorial candidate, recently called on the Trump administration to maintain DACA. LePage is prevented from running again because he is in his second term and is prohibited from seeking a third one by the state's term limit law.
The University of California has also filed a legal challenge to ending the program.
Unlike the lawsuit filed in New York last week by the other states, the new challenge does not make the argument that Trump's decision was motivated by anti-Mexican bias.
Instead, it hones in on statements by Trump administration officials that the young immigrants in the program rob U.S. jobs from Americans and that the program led to a surge of Central American immigrants.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session announced last week that new applications for the program are being halted and that it the program will end in six months if Congress does not take action.
He said the administration was acting because President Barack Obama created the program without Congressional approval in what he called "an unconstitutional exercise of authority."
Associated Press writers Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco and Marine Villeneuve in Augusta, Maine, contributed reporting.