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Minnesota joined California, Maine and Maryland in filing a lawsuit Monday that challenges the Trump administration's move to phase out an Obama-era program that grants young immigrants work permits and deportation protection.
Attorney General Lori Swanson filed the suit in federal court in California, arguing that the decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, is unconstitutional. The five-year program has shielded from deportation almost 800,000 people brought to the U.S. illegally as children, including about 6,300 in Minnesota.
The Trump administration announced last week that it would wind down the program over six months, creating an opening for Congress to act on multiple proposals to grant DACA recipients legal status. A 10-state coalition had threatened to sue the government, arguing that the program is an unconstitutional overreach by the Obama administration.
"The federal government's rescission of DACA violates the promises made to these young people — 97 percent of whom are in school or in the workforce — who have relied on the law to make important decisions about their lives," Swanson said in a statement.
Separately, 15 states sued the government last week over the move to end DACA; that suit relied more heavily on arguments that the decision was discriminatory by highlighting the high number of recipients from Mexico and disparaging statements about Mexican immigrants Trump made.
The new lawsuit argues that the government's move violated the law by failing to give notice, an opportunity for public comment and a legal rationale for plans to phase out the program. The states also said documents spelling out the decision appear to weaken earlier language that assured DACA applicants that their personal information would not be shared with immigration authorities.
The complaint says some Minnesota DACA recipients who lose their work permits also will lose employer health insurance, adding to the state's health care costs as they forgo preventive treatment. Meanwhile, the state could lose out on an estimated $376.7 million in annual GDP and $6.9 million in taxes as about 5,440 DACA recipients exit the workforce.
The program's demise also will harm Minnesota's colleges and universities, the complaint argues. Ending DACA might cause some students to drop out because they rely on their jobs to afford college — and because jobs in their fields will be out of reach.
A possible new path
Susana Gomez, a Twin Cities DACA recipient and leader with the advocacy group Asamblea de los Derechos Civiles, said she is elated that the state is joining the legal standoff. In recent days, Gomez, a mother of four U.S. citizen children, was busy organizing an event next week to lobby Minnesota legislators to back a bill that would open a path to citizenship for DACA recipients. While Gomez said her focus remains on Congress, Swanson's lawsuit opens up another avenue for hope.
"Wow, we are not alone," said Gomez, whose family came from Mexico when she was 15. "We have someone else who will be fighting with us."
GOP: AG playing politics
In a statement, Jennifer Carnahan, state Republican Party chairwoman, criticized the lawsuit as a partisan exercise, referring to Swanson as "gubernatorial candidate-in-waiting."
"Rather than adhere to the U.S. Constitution she has sworn to uphold, Lori Swanson is playing the worst type of politics to cater to the far-left obstructionist base of the DFL Party," Carnahan said.
Kim Crockett, an attorney and vice president of the Twin Cities-based Center of the American Experiment, said Obama's executive action that launched DACA was a "flagrant abuse of the office of the president." She noted that a tied Supreme Court last year upheld a lower court decision blocking another Obama program, for parents of U.S. citizen children.
"If the courts follow the Constitution, this new wave of 'blue state' AG suits will fail, or be rendered 'moot' by congressional action," Crockett said.
But Virgil Wiebe, a University of St. Thomas immigration law professor, said the Minnesota lawsuit makes "creative" arguments that hold merit.
He said the courts this year have appeared open to weighing comments by Trump that seem to undercut the administration's rationale for acting. In this case, the complaint brings up a tweet that said Trump would revisit his decision to phase out the program if Congress doesn't deliver.
"The rational for ending the program is that it's illegal and unconstitutional," Wiebe said. "Then the president turns around and hints that he could extend it."