By Michael Tan, Staff Attorney, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project October 5, 2017 | 3:00 PM,
In April, President Trump had a message for the 800,000 young undocumented immigrants who were given permission to live in the U.S. under President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program: “The dreamers,” he said, “should rest easy.”
We now know that was a lie. In September, Trump announced he was ending the DACA program in six months, plunging nearly a million young immigrants’ lives into chaos. But Trump’s assault on DACA recipients began much earlier than previously known.
During his administration, federal immigration authorities have illegally stripped DACA protections from DACA recipients who have only been accused of a crime or found guilty of a minor misdemeanor that doesn’t affect their DACA status. Their protections have been taken away without any notice, any explanation, or any opportunity to respond. They now face deportation back to their parents’ home countries, even though America is the only true home they’ve ever known.
To stop the government’s abuses, we filed a class action lawsuit today on behalf of DACA recipients and the Inland Empire – Immigrant Youth Collective, a grassroots organization led by immigrant youth in Southern California. Our lawsuit seeks to hold the administration to the promises it made and ensure that DACA provides protection from deportation for however long the program exists.
The story of one of our lead plaintiffs, Jesús Alonso Arreola Robles , shows what’s at stake.
In February, Jesús was wrongly arrested by a Customs and Border Protection agent for smuggling immigrants into the country and had his car and cellphone confiscated as well. After spending three weeks in immigration detention, Jesús finally went before an immigration judge who found that he wasn’t involved in smuggling and released him on bond.
Jesús thought his nightmare was over, but it was only beginning. A few days later, the government issued a notice that his DACA had been terminated without any explanation. Without a work permit, Jesús couldn’t make a living, and CBP has refused to return his car and phone. Now he faces the possibility of deportation to Mexico — a country he left when he was one year old.
What happened to Jesús , and many other DACA recipients like him, is unlawful. Under the DACA program, the government must give prior notice to young immigrants of their termination from the program and allow them to contest it. Instead, the government is revoking DACA status without due process, based on unsubstantiated suspicions of criminal activity or minor run-ins with the law, such as traffic offenses, even though these people have not violated the terms of the program and continue to be eligible for it.
No one should lose their ability to live and work in the United States after being merely accused of wrongdoing. Nor should they be stripped of a benefit as important as DACA without basic due process protections. People like Jesús — who met all the requirements for DACA, came forward courageously and provided their information to the government, paid a fee, and planned their lives in reliance on the program — deserve DACA’s protections for as long as they continue.
But the reality is that DACA has never been enough. The Trump administration’s arbitrary decision to end the program makes it clear that we cannot leave these young people’s fate to whoever happens to be sitting in the White House.
Congress must act immediately to pass a clean Dream Act that would put people like Jesús on a path to citizenship and demand that the president sign it into law. Only the Dream Act will ensure that DACA recipients become full and permanent members of the country they know as their home. Only the Dream Act can protect these Americans from a president who tells them everything will be okay and then callously throws their lives into disarray.