A combative Bob Ferguson, Washington’s attorney general, called the Trump administration’s plan to end a program that offers legal protection to people who immigrated to the United States as children a betrayal.
“Isn’t a deal a deal in our country? Isn’t that a core value?” Ferguson asked Tuesday night at Fort Vancouver High School.
Ferguson and other state attorneys general have filed suit to stop President Donald Trump’s plan to unravel protections set through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers a primarily Latino cohort of young people protection to live and work in the United States.
DACA was created during the Obama administration through an executive order. Applicants, often called Dreamers, must hand over their personal information to the government, with the understanding that it won’t be used against them or used to deport them.
Ferguson told the audience that the administration’s proposal reneges on that trust.
“We’re not going to live up to our end of the bargain on that? That’s outrageous, and that’s at stake in that,” said Ferguson, noting that the day the administration announced its intent to rescind DACA protections, it removed from the DACA program’s website a note saying the data wouldn’t be used to deport anyone.
“The government has to live up to its promise to those Dreamers.”
Although Ferguson isn’t running for office this year, his outline of his office’s legal resistance to Trump’s executive agenda was replete with rhetorical and political red meat, which was often met with applause from the night’s highly receptive audience.
The event was organized by the Latino Community Resource Group, the Southwest Washington chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, One America Vancouver and the Healthy Living Collaborative of Southwest Washington.
Ferguson headlined the event as keynote speaker, but the evening also included speakers from the county’s immigrant advocacy community and local elected leaders, and much of the subject matter focused on immigration policy and the fate of DACA recipients.
A member of his legal team, Ferguson told the crowd, was in New York that day to argue against the administration’s decision to end the program.
Ferguson said part of what’s at issue in this case, as with the 18 others against the federal government that his office has been part of, are ideas fundamental to America as equality and fair play under the law.
There are roughly 18,000 DACA recipients in Washington, 700,000 around the country.
The case, he said, leans on the argument that a decision like rescinding DACA can’t be made with discriminatory intent. As his and other state attorneys general’s offices have done in other lawsuits, they’ve been using the president’s own words and actions to build their case.
Trump, Ferguson said, has made it clear that he’s not talking about immigrants from white, European countries.
“If these Dreamers were basically mostly from Norway — instead of, let’s say, Mexico — does anyone really think the president would be rescinding DACA?” he said. “Hell no.”
Ferguson’s office has so far been involved in six lawsuits against the government. His team is 6-0 against the administration, which has not appealed those decisions.
Those cases included the so-called “travel ban,” where Washington and five other states argued against policies banning immigration and travel to the United States from Muslim-majority countries, and a challenge against a ban on allowing transgender service members in the military. Both cases led to delays in the implementation of the policies.
Washington, along with New York and Massachusetts, leads the current 17-state challenge to the government’s plans to end DACA.
Since the travel ban suits, more state attorneys general have been willing to file suit against the administration, he said, or sign on to others.
“The beautiful thing about a courtroom,” he said, “it is not the loudest voice that prevails. … You can’t tweet your way out of a problem in a courtroom.”
All that matters is the law and the facts of the case, he said, and that’s why his and other attorneys general’s offices have been successful.
Ferguson said he was hopeful that the federal judge hearing the DACA case would be receptive. However, he said, litigation can only go so far, and he encouraged continued advocacy and participation from citizens in the broader legislative process, locally and beyond.
“I don’t know whether this year there will be 19 more lawsuits against the Trump administration,” he said. “What I can tell you is that if the administration continues to flaunt the law, we will see them in court. That’s just going to happen.”