Attorney General James Scores Major Victory For Dreamers

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James has scored another major victory for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers across the nation who are eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and who were at risk of deportation by the Trump Administration. A federal court has issued a remedial order granting Attorney General James’ request for partial summary judgment, ordering the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reopen the DACA program to first-time applicants, restore protections to a two-year period instead of one year, and make Advanced Parole available to DACA recipients again without restrictions.

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the Trump Administration’s attempts to cancel DACA were unlawful, the program was supposed to resume. Instead, DHS announced that new DACA applications would not be granted and that the purported acting secretary of homeland security, Chad Wolf, had made other interim changes to DACA through a memorandum issued on July 28, while Wolf considered whether to fully rescind DACA. In August, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 17 attorneys general in two filings against President Donald Trump, the DHS, purported-Acting DHS Secretary Wolf, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, asking the court to vacate the Wolf memo as unlawful. In November, a federal district court issued an order granting Attorney General James’ request for partial summary judgment, ruling that Chad Wolf was not lawfully serving as acting secretary of homeland security at the time.

“Justice prevailed today — not just for Dreamers, but for all Americans,” said Attorney General James. “Every time the outgoing administration tried to use young immigrants as political scapegoats, they defiled the values of our nation. The court’s order makes clear that fairness, inclusion, and compassion matter. America is where these young people have gone to school, where they have worked, where they have paid taxes, where they have raised families, and where they have continued to be vital members of our communities. We are proud to fight for them and grateful to deliver them the justice they are due.”

Dreamers are foreign-born young people who came to the United States at a young age and now identify as Americans. Most have no memory of or connection with the country where they were born, and many don’t speak any language other than English. Under immigration law before the DACA program, most of these young people had no protection against deportation, even though they had lived most their lives in the United States. Since 2012, more than 825,000 young people who were brought to this country at a young age were promised that if they came out of the shadows, they could legally work, study, serve in the military, and raise families in the United States without fear of arrest or deportation.
After President Trump ordered his administration to change the policy in 2017 and break the promises made to these Dreamers, a prolonged legal battle began in September 2017 that made its way through multiple courts before landing, in a combined case, at the U.S. Supreme Court. This past June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump Administration’s attempt to cancel the DACA program was arbitrary and capricious, in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Despite the Supreme Court’s reinstatement of DACA, the late July memo by Wolf ordered DHS to reject all new initial DACA applications, to change the renewal period for current beneficiaries from two years to one year, and to reject all advance parole applications absent exceptional circumstances. The Wolf memo also purported to apply these changes retroactively to all applications submitted after the June 18 — the date of the Supreme Court decision.

In November, the court found that the Wolf memo was invalid, explaining that Wolf has never lawfully served in the role of acting secretary of homeland security because his assumption of that role violated DHS’s order of succession.

The court granted the coalition’s request for remedy, vacating the Wolf memo and reinstating the terms governing the DACA program to those in place prior to the attempted rescission in September 2017. Furthermore, the court ordered that DHS accept first-time requests for deferred action under DACA within three days, as well as extend one-year deferred action and employment authorizations to two-years.

Attorney General James thanked the National Immigration Law Center, Make the Road New York, and the Yale Law School Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic for their partnership in this effort.

Joining Attorney General James in co-leading the coalition of attorneys general was Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The three were joined by the attorneys general of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

This matter was handled by Deputy Solicitor General Anisha S. Dasgupta of the Division for Appeals and Opinions; Chief Counsel for Federal Initiatives Matthew Colangelo, Senior Trial Counsel Joseph Wardenski, and Project Attorney Alex Finkelstein of the Executive Division; and Assistant Attorney General Sania Khan of the Civil Rights Bureau. The Civil Rights Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice. Both the Executive Division and the Division for Social Justice are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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