LOS ANGELES (CN) – The American Civil Liberties Union marked the Trump administration’s Thursday deadline for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program participants to renew by filing a class action on behalf of young undocumented “Dreamers” who say federal officials have unlawfully revoked protections under the program.
In April, President Donald Trump said the “dreamers should rest easy.” But the president threw the fate of 800,000 young immigrants into serious doubt just a few months later when he rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, known as DACA, which protected them from deportation and allowed them to work and go to school in the United States.
Trump has urged Congress to come up with a replacement.
A federal complaint filed Thursday, however, says Trump has further stripped immigrants of protections under DACA “even while the program winds down.” The class action comes as immigration rights activists took to the streets of Los Angeles on Thursday morning to protest the end of the DACA program – the last day for recipients, known as “Dreamers,” to reapply to the program.
Recipients could face deportation as early as March 2018 as the protections are phased out. But according to the class action, immigration officials aren’t waiting until then.
“On his watch, federal immigration authorities have targeted numerous DACA recipients and unlawfully revoked the grants of deferred action and work permits they have received, without any notice or opportunity to be heard, even though these individuals have abided by all the program rules and have not engaged in any conduct that would disqualify them from the program,” the 34-page complaint states.
Naming Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection officials, the lawsuit says the government’s policies and procedures violate the federal Administrative Procedures Act and the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.
“President Trump has said that ‘Dreamers should rest easy,’ yet his administration has placed these young immigrants directly at risk,” ACLU attorney Michael Tan said in a statement. “Not only is he ending the protections the government pledged to these young immigrants who know no other home, but his administration is targeting them now while the DACA program is still in place.”
The “Dreamers” are represented by ACLU attorney Jennifer Chang Newell.
In a news release, the ACLU said that the policies and procedures strike at the heart of the Dreamers’ immigration status by targeting them for removal for low-level offenses, including traffic infractions. Other young immigrants have lost their DACA status based on unproven allegations, the lawsuit says.
Plaintiff Jesús Alonso Arreola Robles, 23, says he was a cook at the famous Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood and working as a driver for Uber and Lyft when federal immigration agents arrested him this past February while he was driving.
His complaint says authorities accused him of attempting to smuggle a customer’s family members into the United States.
He says he has been working the two jobs to support his parents, who are permanent residents that have been in America since he was a baby. He had no criminal history but found himself facing deportation, according the lawsuit.
An immigration judge rejected the smuggling charges, and Arreola was never criminally charged. But the Department of Homeland Security revoked his DACA status, the suit says.
Arreola was granted DACA status three times, in 2012, 2014 and again in 2016. In a statement, he said he and his girlfriend are expecting their first child and he wants to stay in the country to raise his son.
“I don’t want an unfounded accusation to take everything I love away from me,” Arreola said.
Inland Empire-Immigrant Youth Collective joined Arreola in filing the lawsuit. They want an order that finds the practice of revoking immigrants’ DACA status is unconstitutional. The plaintiffs also want the government to reinstate DACA status to those who have lost it or give them a proper opportunity to challenge their change in status.
The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.