By Bill Parry
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman led a coalition of 16 attorneys general in filing a lawsuit to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients in Brooklyn federal court Wednesday where the legal battle to protect thousands of students from Queens will be waged.
The Trump administration announced Tuesday it would rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Obama-era policy which allows young people who came to the United States illegally as children to stay in the country without fear of deportation.
The move had an immediate impact in Queens, where elected officials spoke out on behalf of the young people who are affected among the borough’s large immigrant population. City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) called the decision “heartless and a blunder of epic proportions.”
The program, which began under a 2012 executive order by President Obama, covers nearly 800,000 immigrants who came to the country before their 16th birthday and who were younger than 31 before 2012, who haven’t been convicted of a felony or major misdemeanors, and are in school or in military service.
“Immigration is the lifeblood of New York State. The Trump administration’s decision to end DACA is cruel, inhumane, and devastating to the 42,000 New Yorkers who have been able to come out of the shadows and live a full life as a result of the program,” Schneiderman said. There are 30,000 people covered by DACA in Queens.
Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions announced the decision calling DACA an “open-ended circumvention of immigration law through unconstitutional authority by the executive branch,” but Congress was given six months to address the issue. Sessions said the program would be phased out and new applications would no longer be accepted.
DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, passed background checks and paid a fee to get deferral from deportation and a work permit.
“President Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program would be shocking if it weren’t so predictable from a president who has routinely demonized immigrants, elevated politics above principles, and catered to the most extreme voices in his party,” U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), the House Democratic Caucus Chairman, said. “Given that today’s action comes after President Trump repeatedly claimed he wanted to help these young people, all Americans should realize how empty his promises are when compared to the reality of his political interests. It’s absurd to think that our nation’s interests are served by ending this program and forcing these individuals back into the shadows. Without a doubt, this action is both heartless and senseless.”
At a City Hall rally with Dreamers, Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to defend them.
“These are our neighbors. They’re just as much New Yorkers as anybody else,” he said. “They contribute just as much as anybody else. They’re human beings and they need to be treated with dignity and respect.”
U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called the president’s action an affront to who we are as Americans.
“He is needlessly targeting children who know no other country as home than America,” she said. “This does not make our communities safer or our economy stronger. In fact, it does just the opposite.”
Data from the Center for American Progress shows that ending DACA would result in the loss of more than $460 billion from the national GDP over the next decade, and more than $2.5 billion a year in New York state.
“Repealing DACA is not only immoral, but it’s economic suicide,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said. “DACA not only provides hope and opportunity, it boosts our economy and creates jobs. We cannot afford to lose our Dreamers to appease political rhetoric. This is a sad, tragic day for America.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr