Citing concern for the nearly 800,000 young immigrants who have been granted protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and 19 of his colleagues are asking President Trump to keep the program running.
In a letter to the president, Becerra and the other attorneys general are urging Trump to refuse a request from Texas and nine other states that wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, asking the Trump administration to rescind DACA, which was established by President Barack Obama in a June 15, 2012, memorandum.
Instead, the state officials say, the president should defend the program that benefits "Dreamers" — people brought to the U.S. illegally as children — by providing a legal framework for them to live and work in the country. More than 200,000 DACA grantees live in California.
Becerra wrote to Trump:
"You have repeatedly expressed your support for Dreamers. Today, we join together to urge you not to capitulate to the demands Texas and nine other states set forth in their June 29, 2017, letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. That letter demands, under threat of litigation, that your Administration end the DACA initiative. The arguments set forth in that letter are wrong as a matter of law and policy."
In that June 29 letter, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said the DACA program is unlawful, writing that it "covers over one million otherwise unlawfully present aliens."
Paxton and his allies from Tennessee, Louisiana and other states sent the letter after Trump made headlines by reversing himself on a campaign promise to dismantle DACA. In June, the Department of Homeland Security revoked DAPA — the similar Obama-era program that protected the parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents — but the agency left DACA intact.
"We're going to take care of everybody," Trump told ABC at the time. "But I will tell you, we're looking at this, the whole immigration situation, we're looking at it with great heart."
In the letter Becerra sent to the White House on Friday, he wrote:
"Mr. President, now is the time to affirm the commitment you made, both to the 'incredible kids' who benefit from DACA and to their families and our communities, to handle this issue 'with heart.' You said Dreamers should 'rest easy.' We urge you to affirm America's values and tradition as a nation of immigrants and make clear that you will not only continue DACA, but that you will defend it."
Becerra was joined by attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington and Washington, D.C.
The issue is also the subject of new legislation on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, the bipartisan "Dream Act" was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who want to offer a path to permanent legal status to people who arrived in the U.S. as children, can pass a background check, and otherwise fit the DACA criteria.
Graham also said he's unsure how a federal court might rule on the legal challenge to the president's power to grant legal residency to hundreds of thousands of immigrants. But, he said, "These DACA kids have come out of the shadows at the invitation of their government."
Saying those young people deserve to be treated fairly, Graham added, "If you told them to go back home, they would go to where they were raised. They're no more connected with a foreign country than I am."