Six California beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program sued the Trump administration Monday for rescinding protections for young immigrants without legal status.
In the 46-page suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco just after midnight, the so-called Dreamers claimed Trump's decision to phase out the DACA program over the next six months "was motivated by unconstitutional bias against Mexicans and Latinos."
The federal DACA program shields from deportation nearly 800,000 immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, providing recipients with renewable two-year work permits.
The lawsuit seeks to block the Trump administration from ending the program.
The Dreamers argue that the government, in asking the program's vulnerable applicants to identify themselves and undergo background checks in exchange for protection to live and work in the United States, was engaging in an "unconstitutional bait-and-switch" and that terminating the DACA program breaks the government's promises to them.
"The DACA program has meant not living in fear, and the opportunity to graduate from law school and build a business," Dulce Garcia, one of the plaintiffs, said in a statement. "And despite the administration's cruel choice to end DACA, we know that our American dream shouldn't have an expiration date."
Garcia, a San Diego attorney, was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 4, according to the lawsuit.
The other plaintiffs include two middle school teachers, a UC San Francisco medical student who is working on a public health degree from Harvard, and a PhD candidate in clinical psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. Five of the plaintiffs, according to the lawsuit, were brought to the U.S. from Mexico between the ages of 1 and 6, and one was brought to the U.S. from Thailand at 9.
Viridiana Chabolla Mendoza, one of the plaintiffs, was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 2. Now 26, she is a first-year law student at UC Irvine. In 2012, she was accepted to the DACA program during her senior year at Pomona College, where she got her undergraduate degree, and was therefore able to work at two law firms while she saved money for law school.
Chabolla Mendoza, who grew up in East Los Angeles, said she only knows Mexico through her relatives' stories about it. She has wanted to be a lawyer since she was a child.
"When I was really little, my grandpa would tell me lawyers were able to fight with words," she said. "I am not a physical person. I'm pretty meek. But I can write. I can argue."
Chabolla Mendoza was only a few days into her first year of law school when U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions on Sept. 5 announced that the Obama-era program would be phased out. She was walking to class as she watched a live-stream video of Sessions' announcement on her phone.
"Honestly, this is something I"ve been dreading since the election," she said. "In my mind, I've tried to keep a positive frame of mind, like, we'll be OK and push for larger immigration reform. Once there started being more concrete rumors about DACA being rescinded, I started being really anxious. … But I knew my next action would be to fight."
The Dreamers' lawsuit says that when DACA was first launched in 2012, the government vigorously promoted it, encouraging young people — many of whom were skeptical about identifying themselves — to apply for the program and stated that the information they provided about themselves or family members would not be used for immigration enforcement purposes, absent special circumstances.
That the government made such promises to young immigrants, only to revoke them, violates their constitutional due process rights, the plaintiffs allege.
The Dreamers say that with their sensitive personal information provided to the federal government no longer protected from disclosure, DACA recipients "face the imminent risk" that the information could be used against them at any time, without notice, and that they could be deported.
The lawsuit alleges Trump was moved to end the program because of animus toward Latinos, especially those from Mexico, who make up the vast majority of DACA applicants. Such a motivation, the suit alleges, violates constitutional equal protection guarantees.
Trump's "statements and actions reflect a pattern of bias against Mexicans and Latinos," the suit states. It references Trump's assertion last year that a federal judge presiding over a lawsuit against Trump University was biased because he was Latino, as well as his pardoning last month of Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff in Arizona who had been convicted of criminal contempt for defying a court order to end racial profiling of Latinos.
The suit also quotes numerous tweets from the president, including those that reference "anchor babies" and claim that "druggies, drug dealers, rapists and killers are coming across the southern border."
Earlier this month, the 10-campus University of California sued the Trump administration, saying that ending DACA violates young immigrants' rights on "nothing more than unreasoned executive whim." UC President Janet Napolitano helped to create the DACA program when she was U.S. Homeland Security secretary under President Obama.
Days after the UC filing, the state of California also sued.
State Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said he decided to file a suit separate from legal actions by 15 other states, the University of California and civil rights activists because California and its economy will be hurt the most by the president's decision to end DACA
"There is no state that will be more economically impacted by the Trump administration's unconstitutional and illegal termination of DACA than California," Becerra said.
11:30 a.m.: This article was updated with information from Viridiana Chabolla Mendoza and additional details about other DACA-related lawsuits.
9:15 a.m.: This article was updated with additional details from the lawsuit.