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Washington state leaders stand up for DACA

The program—which the Trump administration announced it would end—is being fervently defended by state leaders

Bob Ferguson addresses a rally at El Centro de la Raza.

Early Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration would be ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, in a move called “cruel” and “heartless” by everyone from immigration activists to members of Congress.

About 19,000 DACA program recipients live in Washington State. If Congress doesn’t pass a bill to preserve the program, their status will slowly expire over the course of the next few years—although some program recipients could be at risk for deportation as early as March.

A Center for American Progress study found that nearly 15,000 DACA recipients work in Washington, and ending the program could result in more than $1 billion in lost gross domestic product from the state.

Rumors of the move had been circulating for quite a while, prompting Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson to preemptively fight back. On Monday, Ferguson announced that if the Trump administration ended the program, he’d file a lawsuit.

Ferguson, who filed the first state suit against Trump’s travel ban back in January, elaborated on Tuesday speaking to hundreds during a rally at El Centro de la Raza in Beacon Hill.

“The President’s announcement today is as dark as it gets,” said Ferguson. “As cruel, as inhumane as the action is, there’s one other problem with it: I think it’s illegal.”

Ferguson said that his office has filed fourteen lawsuits against the Trump administration. “So far, we’re 4 and 0,” he said.

He said his legal team, headed by the office’s Civil Rights Unit, have been working on legal action or several days anticipating the announcement—including calling up attorney general offices in New York and California.

“I can’t announce exactly when we will file,” said Ferguson. “But I can tell you this: It’ll be very, very soon.”

He said he’s optimistic; while it “will not be an easy fight,” he said, “in the courtroom, it isn’t the loudest voice that prevails. You can’t tweet your way out of a problem.”

President Barack Obama established DACA as an executive order in 2012 which protects certain undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children from deportation. The order came after more than a decade of attempts to pass the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) act, meant to give those same undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship—so undocumented immigrants who arrived as children are frequently referred to as DREAMers.

In 2014, Washington State passed the REAL Hope Act, which allows qualified undocumented students to apply for federal financial aid. While it only concerns financial aid, it’s better-known as Washington’s DREAM Act.

Speaking at the same rally on Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Cyrus Habib, a child of immigrants himself, said it’s not enough.

“All Washingtonians can access financial aid and go to college,” he said, but “we need a second DREAM act in this state for everyone to get the legal help they need in this moment.”

Habib also said he’s working with other state leaders, including business and labor leaders, to go to Washington, DC to lobby for a DACA bill—which would make the program permanent—without other legislation attached.

“You are every bit as American and Washingtonian as we are,” said Habib to DREAMers present. “You are our family, we love you, we’re here for you.”

City leaders have also condemned the administration ending DACA. City councilor Lorena González, who earlier this year helped establish a city legal defense fund for immigrants and refugees, applauded Ferguson’s actions in a statement, adding that the announcement “demonstrates [the President’s] premeditated effort to rescind protections and continue attacks intended to harm more than 11 million undocumented immigrants that live, work and pay taxes in the United States.”

“For me, this fight is incredibly personal,” said González. “Trump’s cruel and immoral action goes beyond creating a chilling effect in immigrant communities, it is a direct threat to the safety and security of my community and many others.”

City councilor Kshama Sawant said in a statement that the decision is “part of [the President’s] promised all-out right-wing assault on immigrants.”

Mayor Ed Murray called the announcement “reprehensible” and “heartless,” and said his budget will include $150,000 to help DREAMers file for renewal.