Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Wednesday that 15 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for its call to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Flanked by DACA recipients and Governor Jay Inslee, Ferguson called Trump's decision to undo the program, which currently protects 800,000 undocumented youth from deportation, "arbitrary and capricious." The attorney general said Trump's decision is discriminatory and violates the United States Constitution's equal protections clause and due process procedures.
"The president has made numerous statements on the campaign trail and in office disparaging Mexicans...nearly 80 percent of DREAMers are of Mexican decent," Ferguson said during a press conference in downtown Seattle. "If those DREAMers were Caucasian, would Trump have acted on this?"
As of March, Washington State is home to about 17,800 DACA recipients. More than 1,400 of those DACA students is pursuing higher education, the lawsuit noted.
Ferguson and his staffers expressed concerns that information undocumented children and their parents provided on their DACA applications could be used against them by the Trump administration.
Colleen Melody, chief of the attorney general's civil rights unit, said the president's announcement yesterday "broke that promise" of privacy for these families. She also added that federal officials recently removed information about privacy protections from the DACA website.
According to the lawsuit, the Trump administration's plan "does not explain how the
government will keep that information secure, nor does it provide any assurances that immigration
enforcement agents will not use such information to find and remove those who applied for DACA."
Washington Governor Jay Inslee said Trump now has "a hand on the knife in back of these [DREAMers]" and called on communities throughout the state to support DACA recipients and their families.
"Our state is under a dark pall—and it's not just the smoke from the wildfires," he said. "You cannot trust Trump... It's an administration based on deceit."
The states of New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia join Washington in filing the lawsuit. More states may join the suit, Ferguson said.
In the meantime, DREAMers are left in limbo.
Community activist and LGBTQ advocate Monserrat Padilla said that since Trump was elected last November, she has been in a constant state of paranoia that her information could be used to target her and her family.
"Today, that is a real threat," she said. "It's what keeps me up at night with anxiety."
Despite this, Padilla said Ferguson's multistate lawsuit gives her hope for the futures of DACA recipients and undocumented residents.
"Yesterday I felt betrayed by my country," Padilla said. "Today, I feel reaffirmed in my state's willingness and commitment to fight for all of our communities, especially the most vulnerable among us."
University of Washington graduate and aspiring law student Graciela Nuñez's was seven years old when she and her parents fled a Venezuela coup for safety in the United States. Today's lawsuit provides her a sense of relief "and a feeling that I'm no longer alone," she said.
"Yesterday, we felt alienated from the public. We felt that we weren't people anymore," Nuñez told The Stranger after the press conference. "I remember receiving text messages from family members who were having nervous breakdowns... Their bodies couldn't handle the news."
Nuñez said going back to Venezuela is not an option for her or her parents, who were political dissidents. Her extended family is now "scattered around the world" after fleeing Venezuela. Tukwila is her only home, she said.
"I will not let someone who won [the presidency] by 80,000 votes tell me that I don't belong here," she said. "This is my home."