New York State will sue the federal government if President Donald Trump ends the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy as he is expected to announce, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said Monday.
Trump is to disclose Tuesday that his administration will end the program known as DACA — with a six-month delay — that protects young immigrants, known as “Dreamers,” who entered the country illegally as children, according to news reports. The act protects the children who found themselves illegally in this country through no fault of their own.
“If he moves forward with this cruel action, New York State will sue to protect the ‘dreamers’ and the state’s sovereign interest in the fair and equal application of the law,” Cuomo said in a news release, noting that protections under DACA affect about 42,000 New Yorkers. “It will rip families apart, sow havoc in our communities and force innocent people — our neighbors, our friends, and our relatives — to live in fear.”
Cuomo announced the intention to sue at the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn on Monday. He celebrated the diversity on display at the parade and spoke of what he called a racist movement taking hold in the country.
“New York will do everything it can,” he said. “In essence, we are celebrating the diversity of New York . . . at this time in our country, there are forces that are making diversity weaker.”
Schneiderman said in the release that Trump’s expected decision “would be cruel, gratuitous, and devastating to tens of thousands of New Yorkers — and I will sue to protect them. Dreamers are Americans in every way. They played by the rules. They pay their taxes. And they’ve earned the right to stay in the only home they have ever known.”
DACA was an executive action issued in June 2012 by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama, allowing a subset of immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children, or who overstayed visas, to stay in the country without immediate fear of deportation.
The program grants protections to nearly 788,000 young immigrants from immigration enforcement and permits them to work and study legally in the United States, according to figures updated in March by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Many have renewed their permission to stay once or twice since the program started.
About 14,000 Dreamers on Long Island were eligible for the protections when DACA was rolled out, according to the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., though it’s not clear how many of them applied and were accepted.
Nelson Melgar, 27, a DACA recipient since 2012 who works as a constituent liaison for Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) and serves as president of the North Shore Hispanic Civic Association that grew out of Glen Cove, on Monday condemned the expected action.
“I am disheartened by what’s going on, and I’m disappointed that the president has decided to take this particular stance on an issue that really should not be about politics, but about prudence,” Melgar said.
Melgar said he could hardly sleep after hearing news Sunday night that Trump planned to cancel the program. “I came out of the shadows when President Obama issued DACA in 2012, and I can tell you at the very least . . . I did my time there, I did my time in the darkness,” Melgar said. “I have no intention of going back.”
Walter Barrientos, the Long Island organizing director of Make The Road New York, an immigrant rights group, is directing a protest to Washington, D.C., from Long Island Tuesday. “I think that young people are really confused and perplexed at how cruel this president continues to be toward the immigrant community, and this time, coming after them,” he said.
Rescinding the program would mostly affect Latino youth, with Mexicans, Salvadorans, Guatemalans and Hondurans being the top recipients of the deferred action.
While many express sympathy for Dreamers, that shouldn’t overcome the rule of law, enforcement proponents say.
“The reason DACA is still in place is that no one ever stepped forward to challenge it,” said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group in Washington, D.C., that backs restrictionist immigration policies.
Leaving Dreamers in the United States is unfair for citizens and legal immigrants, said Barrett Psareas, an immigration enforcement proponent who is vice president of the Nassau County Civic Association, based in Cedarhurst.
“What about my child? Isn’t my child a ‘Dreamer’?” asked Psareas. “It would be a competition for resources of school, of work and other particular entitlement of services and all.”
With Ivan Pereira