Trump’s Words Deemed Fair Game in DACA Suit

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – Immigrant advocates can press forward with claims that President Donald Trump’s bigoted views played a role in the government’s decision to end a program that shields more than 700,000 young immigrants from deportation.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup found the plaintiffs plausibly alleged that “racial animus towards Mexicans and Latinos was a motivating factor” in nixing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Ruling on the federal government’s motion to dismiss five lawsuits challenging the DACA rescission, Alsup found Trump’s widely publicized comments, including those made at his presidential campaign kickoff event, gave credence to claims that he harbors racist views toward Latinos.

Trump characterized Mexicans as criminals, rapists and “people that have a lot of problems” when announcing his presidential campaign on June 16, 2015. Three days later he tweeted that “[d]ruggies, drug dealers, rapists and killers are coming across the southern border” and asked, “When will the U.S. get smart and stop this travesty?”

Alsup said Trump’s subsequent tweets voicing support for the DACA program “cannot wipe the slate clean.” The judge also found the plaintiffs plausibly alleged that Trump directed the decision to end DACA, despite the government’s argument that it was the acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s decision.

Earlier this week, Alsup ordered the Trump administration to restore the DACA program, finding the decision to rescind the program was based on a “flawed legal premise.”

While he refused to dismiss claims of Trump’s racial bias in his Friday ruling, Alsup did grant the federal government’s motion to dismiss three other claims: that public notice and comment were required to rescind DACA; that the rescission violated DACA recipients’ due process rights; and that the government is liable for equitable estoppel because it deliberately lied to DACA recipients about how their information would be used.

Alsup found because the Obama administration’s creation of the policy in 2012 did not require public notice and comment, terminating the program did not require notice and comment either.

The judge also threw out one due process claim because the immigration policy that authorized the creation of the program created no new “substantive liberty interests.”

Additionally, Alsup found the plaintiffs hadn’t shown the government engaged in a “deliberate lie” when it promised not to use information provided in DACA applications for deportations.

However, the judge refused to dismiss a separate due process claim based on the government’s change in policy regarding how DACA application information is used.

Though the government insists it has not changed its information-sharing policy, Alsup found the plaintiffs plausibly alleged the Department of Homeland Security will start using the information to deport DACA recipients and their families.

Alsup gave the plaintiffs 21 days to request leave to amend their claims.

He also issued a separate order Friday directing the government to start providing discovery in the case.

Adhering to guidance set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court after the federal government challenged Alsup’s prior discovery ruling, the judge asked the government to file a brief on whether any “narrowing” of discovery is appropriate or necessary.

He also ordered the government to identify all records which it deems privileged and exempt from discovery, which will be reviewed in chambers behind closed doors. The discovery submissions are due on Jan. 19.

California is one of four states that challenged the decision to end DACA. Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, the University of California system, the city of San Jose, Santa Clara County, Service Employees International Union Local 521, and individual DACA recipients also sued to stop the rollback.

California Attorney General’s Office representative said the office was still reviewing Alsup’s ruling and had no immediate comment.

The U.S. Department of Justice did immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

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