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Donald Trump’s ‘bad hombres’ remark among many in states’ DACA suit

LiveMint logoLiveMint 07-09-2017 Erik Larson

New York/San Francisco: President Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks about Mexicans, some of whom he referred to as “bad hombres” and “rapists,” were highlighted in a lawsuit by a group of more than a dozen states challenging his decision to end a program protecting so-called Dreamers from deportation.

The suit filed by attorneys general from 15 states plus the District of Columbia seeks to block Trump’s plan to roll back a program used by about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children. About three quarters of the young people are Mexicans.

Ending the program “is a culmination of President Trump’s oft-stated commitments—whether personally held, stated to appease some portion of his constituency, or some combination thereof—to punish and disparage people with Mexican roots,” according to the complaint, which was filed Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.

The administration will end president Barack Obama’s 2012 policy directive, formally known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in six months, giving Congress time to pass legislation to protect the program’s beneficiaries, called Dreamers. US attorney general Jeff Sessions, in announcing the action Tuesday, described Obama’s initiative as an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”

But the administration’s plan violates Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, as well as the federal Administrative Procedures Act, according to the complaint. It also threatens to harm companies’ and states’ economic interests, the state officials allege.

‘We are confident’

“We are confident the rescission was lawful, and DOJ will be vigorously defending it in court,” a White House official said. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees immigration policy, declined to comment.

Hans von Spakovsky, a lawyer at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said Trump’s history of comments about Mexicans aren’t the issue. “That has nothing to do with, and is irrelevant to, President Trump ending a program that President Obama had no constitutional or lawful authority to implement,” von Spakovsky said in an email.

Peter Spiro, an immigration law professor at Temple University, disagrees. He says the president’s comments about Mexicans will bolster the states’ equal protection claim by establishing discriminatory intent.

“Beyond that, they just make the president and the administration look bad,” Spiro said. “That can change the judicial atmospherics. It certainly did in the travel ban case.”

Corporate America has come out largely in support of DACA. Inc. filed arguments supporting the states’ lawsuit on Wednesday, saying the company has nine employees with the protection. Tech giants including Facebook Inc.’s Mark Zuckerberg earlier called Trump’s assault on Dreamers “cruel.”

“Amazon has always been committed to equal rights, tolerance, and diversity—and we always will be,” the company said in the filing. “As we’ve grown as a company, we’ve worked hard to attract talented people from all over the world, and we believe this is one of the things that makes Amazon great.”

‘Contribute significantly’

The attorneys general pointed out ways that losing DACA will negatively affect the states as well the Dreamers. That includes Dreamers losing their eligibility for health insurance -- which, in turn, drives up everyone’s insurance costs—and access to colleges with in-state admissions preferences and tuition.

“Throughout the country, DACA grantees are employed by various companies and state and municipal agencies, which benefit from their skills and productivity,” the attorneys general said. “DACA grantees also contribute significantly to state and local revenues and tax bases.”

In announcing his campaign in 2015, Trump compared undocumented Mexican immigrants to rapists and drug smugglers, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in Brooklyn, New York. The states cited several such examples, copying a tactic used in their challenges to Trump’s travel ban, which quoted Trump’s negative comments about Muslims.

“The Mexican government is much smarter, much sharper, much more cunning,” Trump is quoted as saying at a Republican presidential debate later in 2015. “And they send the bad ones over because they don’t want to pay for them. They don’t want to take care of them.”

The states’ lawsuit also seeks to block the government from using any personal information that Dreamers provided as part of the DACA program to target them for deportation.

Prolonged cheers

At a rally Tuesday in Manhattan, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman shouted into a microphone as he promoted the lawsuit against Trump, eliciting prolonged cheers from a few thousand immigrants and supporters. He said the DACA program had allowed people “to come out of the shadows” and pay taxes.

“They are not the enemy. They represent the best of the American dream,” Schneiderman said. “I will go to court to protect our Dreamers and protect our values.”

Elizabeth Mendez of New York said she went to the rally to support her husband and close friends who are Dreamers. Getting DACA protection for her husband, who is from Mexico, “was the best feeling in the world,” allowing him to open a small business and buy a house, Mendez said.

“You can’t even put a price on that, not having the stress of thinking ICE is going to come knocking on your door,” said Mendez, 32, referring to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Bloomberg

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