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Democratic Attorneys General Ask Trump to Keep DACA

Taking on their GOP peers, 20 Democrat attorneys general say DACA has been an economic boon and should be continued.
Image: Xavier Becerra
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.Carolyn Kaster / AP

WASHINGTON — Twenty attorneys general are pushing back against a group of their peers who are trying to force President Donald Trump to phase out the deferred deportations and work permits for young immigrants.

The coalition of 20 attorneys general sent a letter to Trump urging him to continue the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program authorized by former President Barack Obama.

Attorneys general from Maine and North Carolina were among signatories. Governors of two states have been parties in a lawsuit that has stymied two other deportation relief programs authorized by former President Barack Obama.

The 20 attorneys general, all Democrats, argued DACA has been an economic boon to many communities as recipients have been able to purchase cars, homes and other goods and services, as well as contribute more tax revenue as their wages have increased and provide employers with better educated and trained workers.

“You have repeatedly expressed your support for Dreamers,” the letter to Trump states using the term often used for young immigrant children without legal status. “Today we join, together to urge you not to capitulate to the demands Texas and nine other states set forth …”

The lead signature on the July 21 letter from the 20 AGs is California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a former Democrat in Congress who helped push for the DACA program. Along with Maine and North Carolina, the other signers are attorneys general from Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington state.

Related: Senators Make Another Run At Passing Dream Act For Young Immigrants

Their letter responded to one sent to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions by 10 attorneys general and Idaho's governor in June. The state officials issued an ultimatum to Trump demanding that his administration stop issuing new DACA status and stop renewals for people who already have it. They gave Trump until Sept. 5 to respond to their demand.

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 20: Immigration reform activists in front of the White House march and chant following President Barack Obama's speech on his executive action on immigration policies on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)Bill Clark / CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

The 10 were among officials from 26 states who had sued the Obama administration in 2016. They challenged his executive action that would have expanded who was eligible for DACA and would have created a program, known as DAPA, providing deferments and work permits to parents illegally here who have U.S. citizen and legal resident children.

The 10 states whose officials signed that letter were Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Louisiana, Kansas, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia. Also, Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed that letter.

But missing from that letter were signatures from state officials of 16 states that have been part of the 2017 lawsuit, still pending in court: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and Wisconsin.

Maine Attorney General Janet Mills is a Democrat chosen by the state's Legislature. North Carolina elected replaced its Republican governor with a Democrat who took office in January. The North Carolina attorney general is also a Democrat.

Related: Texas AG, Others Demand Trump New DACA Permits, End Renewals

A Pew Research Center report found that many of the 26 states that had sued the Obama administration expansion of DACA had relatively few unauthorized immigrants in their states that would have qualified for the expanded DACA or the parents program.

Lawmakers on Thursday re-introduced the Dream Act, legislation that would create a path to legal permanent residency for certain young immigrants without permanent legal status, including DACA recipients whose deferments are temporary and must be renewed every two years.

Related: Analysis: DACA Boosts Young Immigrants Well-Being, Mental Health

The Migration Policy Institute estimated that if enacted, the 2017 Dream Act would grant permanent legal status to about 1.5 million immigrants without legal status in the U.S. While there is a larger pool who would qualify under the age requirements of the legislation, many young immigrants have trouble meeting the English proficiency and education criteria, the institute’s analysis shows.

The National UnDACAmented Research Project has found that DACA has been very beneficial to its recipients, boosted their economic and personal well-being and improved their trust of law enforcement.

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