In a rare bipartisan show of support, Washington’s entire congressional delegation urged a permanent resolution for the 800,000 young immigrants protected under DACA. Others in the political and education realms also vowed action.
President Trump’s announcement that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program on Tuesday riled many of Washington’s political, business and education leaders.
In a rare bipartisan show of support, Washington state’s congressional delegation expressed strong support for continuing legal protections for immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
State Attorney General Bob Ferguson reiterated his intention to sue the president, and said a larger group of state attorneys general might also be interested in joining a lawsuit. University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce vowed to join in that fight, and Gov. Jay Inslee said he is encouraging Ferguson to take any legal action that has “any chance of winning.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray committed $150,000 to community organizations to help with outreach and legal assistance.
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Microsoft President Brad Smith promised to pay for lawyers to help any of the 39 Dreamers it employs if the government seeks to deport them, and to work with the broader business community to protect those workers.
“The Dreamers are part of our nation’s fabric,” Smith said in a statement. “They belong here.”
Washington’s 12 legislators, including four Republican House members, urged a permanent resolution for some 800,000 young people, who, under DACA, can work and attend school legally in the United States without fear of deportation for two years.
“Any decision to end the DACA program would not merely be a disappointment, but a major setback for the young people I know who were brought here as children through no fault of their own,” U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, also weighed in with passionate defense of the so-called Dreamers, who would lose their protection from deportation unless Congress acts to shield them.
“Punishing these individuals who have contributed so much to our communities and for a crime they did not commit is not in the American DNA,’’ Reichert said in a statement. “ … We in Congress must work toward a long-term immigration solution that is fair, respects the dignity of families, and allows all individuals to pursue the American dream.”
Democratic lawmakers were particularly harsh in their criticisms of the president, calling his actions cruel, heartless and shameful.
“By choosing to end #DACA, President Trump has let the voices of division & hate win the day in the White House,” U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a series of tweets. “Beyond shameful. More than 17,000 call WA home — they are woven into the rich fabric of our culture and (are) emblematic of the American spirit.”
U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Seattle, said Trump “has once again sided with hate and xenophobia.”
U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, and Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Vancouver, expressed support for the Dreamers but said they did not approve of the manner in which Obama enacted the program.
“President Obama created a difficult situation for everyone when he circumvented U.S. laws through executive order,” Herrera Beutler said. “A lasting solution can only be provided through force of law.”
Hours after the Trump administration’s announcement, Ferguson reiterated his intention to sue the president.
“It’s immoral and it’s illegal, ” Ferguson said in a statement.
“There’s a lot of conversation going on right now amongst a handful of Democratic AGs,” he said. But he said he couldn’t specify when or where he and others might file a lawsuit.
Some have called into question the ability to fight Trump in court. Since DACA was created by executive action — President Barack Obama’s in 2012 — it can be undone by executive action, reasoned Jorge Barón, executive director of Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.
Last week, Inslee, vowing to fight for Dreamers, said he thought some kind of “estoppel” legal argument would apply. That’s an argument to stop the government from doing something contrary to earlier promises or advice.
Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, suggested that argument as well — as it might apply should the government seek to deport Dreamers or immediately cancel work permits granted through DACA.
Federal officials said Tuesday that DACA recipients can use their work permits until they expire. Those with work permits expiring before March 5 can apply to renew them.
As more details about DACA’s end and the state’s response emerge, the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and others are holding Facebook livestreaming events and meetings around the state. They plan to answer questions and discuss immigration options individual Dreamers might have should Congress not step in as Trump is urging.
In a statement released Tuesday, 50 presidents of the state’s public, private and community colleges expressed “profound disappointment” in the DACA decision, echoing the sentiment of college and university presidents across the U.S.
The presidents said they had “unequivocal resolve to stand up” for DACA students. Calling it a “lamentable decision,” they wrote that ending DACA “threatens to rob us of hundreds of thousands of gifted, hardworking, and dedicated young people who are American in every way but their immigration status.”
Many of the presidents also sought to reassure students that they would not ask about their immigration status or do anything that would aid in their deportation.
For example, in a letter to students, Western Washington University President Sabah Randhawa underscored that the university would not work with federal immigration authorities to arrest or detain anyone, and would not release student records to immigration without written consent, unless there was a legal exception to release those records.
In a separate statement, the UW’s Cauce said that the school “will do everything within its power to minimize the disruption” to DACA students’ lives and education, and that the university would stand with Ferguson as he fights the decision in court.
“Our students are extremely anxious about what will happen to them with today’s decision,” said Laura McDowell, spokeswoman for the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.
The University of Washington estimates that as least 120 students, and as many as 400 students, studying on its three campuses — in Seattle, Bothell and Tacoma — were brought here illegally as children.
Eastern Washington University, near Spokane, estimates it has 200 undocumented students, and Washington State University also estimates it has several hundred.
Three years ago, the Washington Legislature passed a bill to begin providing state financial aid to students who were undocumented, including many with DACA status.
Last year, under that program, 1,824 students received financial-aid grants or scholarships — making up a little less than 3 percent of all Washington students who received financial aid. About 72 percent of those aid recipients had DACA status.
Anticipating the rollback of DACA, Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, earlier this year sponsored HB 1488.
Among other things, the bill would make sure DACA students are eligible for financial aid through the state’s College Bound Scholarship program — even if DACA is eliminated — as long as the students meet the other guidelines.
Two committees approved HB 1488 this year — though the proposal did not get a vote on the House floor. It counted two Republicans among its co-sponsors.