As DACA faces a threat of extinction and its participants scramble to determine what to do if those protections disappear, Janet Napolitano and UC are suing the Trump administration to try to save it.
When University of California President Janet Napolitano led the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2012, she created DACA, the federal program that safeguards nearly 800,000 young immigrants from deportation.
Now, as the program faces a threat of extinction and its participants scramble to determine what to do if those protections disappear, she’s suing the Trump administration to try to save it.
Attorneys for Napolitano and the state’s vast public university system filed a lawsuit Friday in federal court, calling the Trump administration’s plans to end DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, “unconstitutional, unjust and unlawful.”
In a statement, Napolitano acknowledged the unusual circumstances surrounding the move—she’s suing the very agency she once led—but she said it’s imperative to stand up for DREAMers, whom she describes as “vital members of the UC community.”
“They represent the best of who we are—hard-working, resilient and motivated high achievers,” Napolitano said. “To arbitrarily and capriciously end the DACA program, which benefits our community as a whole, is not only unlawful, it is contrary to our national values and bad policy.”
UC enrolls about 4,000 undocumented students, a substantial number of whom are protected by DACA. These young people were either illegally brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were children, or lost legal status when their families remained after their international visas expired.
Earlier this week, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced plans to wind down the program in six months unless Congress acts to protect the participants. Later Trump himself took to Twitter to suggest he didn’t consider the case closed:
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
To prepare UC’s complaint, the first filed by a university since Sessions’ announcement, the system got pro bono help from former Obama administration Attorney General Eric Holder’s law firm Covington and Burling, which the Legislature hired earlier this year as a consultant.