Gov. Cuomo, AG are ready to sue Trump Administration over DACA repeal

Legislative Gazette file photo

New York’s governor and attorney general are threatening to sue the federal government after the Trump Administration’s announcement to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.

The legal challenge, announced preemptively on Monday by Governor Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, aims to protect more than 40,000 immigrants who benefit under the policy in New York state.

On Tuesday, Sept. 5, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced on behalf of President Trump that DACA, implemented in 2012, will be revoked. Sessions said the executive order, made by the Obama Administration, was an unconstitutional measure that was a deliberate contradiction of the congressional consensus at the time.

“The nation must set and enforce a limit on how many immigrants we admit each year and that means all cannot be accepted,” Sessions said.

The DACA program temporarily prevents the deportation of those who illegally immigrated to the United States as children, allowing them to work under a renewable two-year permit. DACA beneficiaries or “dreamers” are provided with work-related benefits that undocumented immigrants are not, such as work authorization, social security and unemployment. Dreamers are not permitted to vote or receive federal student aid, however they are allowed some state education benefits and the right to a criminal attorney.

“New Yorkers know that we are a nation of immigrants. If there is a move to deport immigrants, then I say start with me,” said Governor Cuomo, “I come from a family of immigrants who came to this country without jobs, without money, without resources – seeking only the promise of America.”

Almost 800,000 immigrants are protected under DACA and roughly 42,000 of them are New Yorkers. The dreamers contribute a total $140 million in state and local taxes.

“President Trump’s decision to end the DACA program would be cruel, gratuitous and devastating to tens of thousands of New Yorkers and I will sue to protect them,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “Dreamers are Americans in every way. They played by the rules, they pay their taxes and they’ve earned the right to stay in the only home they have ever known.”

Trump’s White House said it wants to move jobs into the hands of American workers, claiming that DACA has done more harm than good.

Sessions said Tuesday morning, “It denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same illegal aliens to take those jobs.” Sessions also spoke of the program’s enactment and its contribution to a “surge of minors at the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences.”

DACA requests are no longer being accepted and renewal applications must be submitted by Oct. 5 to maintain legal-status for the next two years. President Trump’s DACA elimination comes ahead of a six month replacement-period in which Congress will attempt to draft a substitute.

Immigrant advocacy groups are blasting DACA’s repeal.

Co-Executive Director of Make the Road NY, Javier Valdes said, “Today the president has escalated his war on our community and he is being met with the fiercest possible resistance. We will fight this decision in the streets, in the courts and in Congressional offices around the country.”

Karen Tumlin, legal director of the National Law Center, is leading an open case against the federal government alongside Martin Badalla Vidal, the defendant and a New York Dreamer.

“DACA has changed my life for good, taking me out of the shadows,” said Vidal, “They call us the dreamers, but our parents were the dreamers.”

Tumlin said the Trump administration’s action is in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Equal Protection Clause. Legally the government in not permitted to revoke a longstanding policy without explanation and to change law that is prejudices against any single group.

Congressional representatives are talking about the controversial “DREAM Act” as a potential bipartisan replacement. Unlike DACA, the Dream Act provides undocumented minors a stronger path to citizenship. It’s being drafted by legislators on both sides of the aisle in an attempt to provide some security for the immigrant youth that are now uncertain of their futures.

The DREAM Act was introduced in 2001 but has moved to the front burner due to the pressure to repeal DACA.

Undocumented children are legally graduating from high schools and colleges across New York and nationwide. The problem comes after their graduation when they are unable to legally join the workforce. There are a number of alternate bills in draft form that offer similar paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrant youth, such as the STARS Act and the ARMS Act.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York said President Trump’s decision goes against American traditions and values.

“This does not make our communities safer or our economy stronger,” said Gillibrand, a Democrat. “In fact it does the exact opposite. Congress must lead where the president won’t and pass the DREAM Act.”

Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, issued a statement Tuesday applauding the Trump Administration’s decision, saying, “Congress should seize this opportunity to come together and forge these much needed reforms in our nation’s immigration policy.”

The group’s mission is to reduce immigration levels in the United States from well over one million presently to 300,000 a year over a sustained period to allow America to manage growth, address environmental concerns, and maintain a high quality of life,” according to its website.

“If the Democrats fail to show up to the table it raises the legitimate question of whether DACA is something that the Democrats really want, or if it has merely been used as a convenient political football for fundraising and energizing their base,” Stein added.

At a press event on Tuesday, Cuomo said rescinding DACA “is just feeding the beast of bigotry red meat. That’s all this is about.

“And these lines and these divisions and this racism and this bigotry is the greatest threat this country faces. And New York’s example is the exact opposite,” Cuomo added. “We believe in diversity. We believe in welcoming people from all over the globe because we’re not one religion, we’re not one race — we’re one idea. If you come here and you work with us, you join the family of New York. E pluribus unum — out of many, one.”

Reporter’s Note: If you’re a dreamer and want to share your story on the record, please contact Legislative Gazette Staff Writer, Bryce Eckwall at or (845) 518-0770.