Attorney General James Leads Coalition in Fight to Preserve and Fortify DACA

Coalition of AGs Highlight Critical Contributions of Hundreds of Thousands of Dreamers
to Public Health Efforts, Economies, and Communities Across the Country

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today continued her fight to protect hundreds of thousands of Dreamers across New York and the rest of the nation. Co-leading a coalition of 24 attorneys general, Attorney General James sent a comment letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in support of the federal government’s efforts to preserve and fortify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. In the comment letter, the coalition highlights the critical contributions of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers to broader public health efforts, to economies, and to communities across the country, and urges the federal government to finalize regulations strengthening DACA — ensuring that states can continue to benefit from the policy, as well as providing relief to all the Dreamers who fear deportation. Since 2012, DACA has protected approximately 825,000 individuals who grew up in this country — most of whom have known no home other than the United States — from deportation and permitted them to work here.

“Home is here for hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who know no other home but the United States,” said Attorney General James. “America is where these young people have gone to school, where they have worked, where they have paid taxes, where they have raised families, and where they have continued to be vital members of our communities. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s where they have put their lives on the line to protect and save others. In the past, our coalition has stood up against inhumane and immoral threats of deportation, but the federal government now has the opportunity to step up and finally strengthen DACA going forward. Our Dreamers deserve to know that they are valued, that they are loved, and that we will always fight to protect them. Si se puede!”

DACA is an Obama era policy that has allowed hundreds of thousands of young people to live, study, and work in the United States, and to become stable and even more productive members of their communities, without fear that they could be arrested and placed in deportation proceedings at any moment or forcibly separated from their families and communities. DACA has enabled grantees to enroll in colleges and universities, complete their education, start businesses that help improve the U.S. economy, and give back to communities as teachers, medical professionals, engineers, and entrepreneurs — all on the books. These contributions have been especially evident as the deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic began to sweep through the nation and thousands of DACA recipients have served on the frontlines as essential workers. As of April 2020, an estimated 27,000 health care workers and support staff depend on DACA for their authorization to work in the United States, including nurses, dentists, pharmacists, physician assistants, home health aides, technicians, and others. DACA has also advanced public health and societal interests by giving its recipients the opportunity to procure employer-provided health insurance, which has been particularly critical as states fight COVID-19.

In today’s the comment letter, the coalition asserts, among other things, that:

  • DACA has public safety and public health benefits for states,
  • States benefit economically from DACA and DACA recipients,
  • DACA and DACA recipients are important to states’ higher education institutions,
  • States have adopted laws, regulations, and programs in reliance on DACA, and
  • Opponents of DACA are unable to substantiate any alleged harms.

After former President Donald Trump broke the promises made to Dreamers by ordering his administration to change the DACA policy in 2017, a prolonged legal battle began in September 2017 that made its way through multiple courts before landing at the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2019. In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump Administration’s attempt to cancel the DACA policy was unlawful.

After the Supreme Court ruled, the policy was supposed to resume, but the Trump Administration announced that new DACA applications would not be granted. In August 2020, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 17 attorneys general in a lawsuit that sought to vacate, as unlawful, a memo from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that sought to make changes to DACA. In November 2020, a federal district court issued an order granting Attorney General James’ request for partial summary judgment. And, in December 2020, that same federal court issued a remedial order granting Attorney General James’ request for DHS to reopen DACA to first-time applicants, restore protections to a two-year period instead of one year, and make Advanced Parole available to DACA recipients again without restrictions.

On January 20, 2021 — on his first day in office — President Joe Biden signed an executive order rescinding the Trump Administration policy that threatened these Dreamers with deportation.

Joining Attorney General James in filing the comment letter are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.

This matter was handled by Assistant Attorney General Lillian Marquez of the Civil Rights Bureau; Project Attorney Alex Finkelstein of the Executive Division; and Deputy Solicitor General Anisha Dasgupta and Assistant Solicitor General Grace Zhou — both of the Division for Appeals and Opinions. The Civil Rights Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux. Both the Executive Division and the Division for Social Justice are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy. The Division for Appeals and Opinions is overseen by Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood.

Groups audience: