The University of California filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration Friday over its decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California against the Department of Homeland Security and its acting secretary Elaine Duke, is the first to be filed by a university in opposition of Trump’s DACA repeal, according to a UC press release issued Friday morning. The lawsuit was filed by the UC Board of Regents and UC President Janet Napolitano “on its own behalf and on behalf of all students currently enrolled at the University,” according to the complaint.
“Neither I, nor the University of California, take the step of suing the federal government lightly, especially not the very agency that I led,” Napolitano said in the press release. “It is imperative, however, that we stand up for these vital members of the UC community.”
Napolitano, who served as the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under the Obama administration from 2009-13, helped create the DACA program in 2012, which has since allowed nearly 800,000 undocumented people to legally live, work and study in the United States. There are an estimated 4,000 undocumented students currently enrolled in the UC system, of which 500 are at UC Berkeley. Of these 500 campus students, 400 are covered by the DACA program.
Meng So, the director of the Undocumented Student Program, or USP, described President Donald Trump’s decision to repeal DACA as a “knife to the soul of the nation,” adding that three times the amount of students are seeking out mental health drop-in support ever since the repeal was announced Tuesday.
“The lawsuit is a sign that we’ll be leaders that fight for justice and equity, and it’s an invitation to universities across California and across the country to join the fight,” So said. “It’s a powerful statement that we’re going to fight with and for our students.”
In the face of deportation, however, the undocumented students on campus have remained resilient and hopeful, So added.
On Tuesday evening, members of the Berkeley community gathered on Sproul Plaza in protest of Trump’s decision. The rally, organized by activist group By Any Means Necessary, included approximately 150 participants at its peak.
Napolitano held a press conference about 11:30 a.m. Friday to address the suit. During the conference, she said the suit makes three fundamental claims about the Trump administration’s actions to rescind DACA: It’s not supported by reasoned decision making, it didn’t follow the proper procedure and the decision violates the due process rights of the university and DACA students and staff under the U.S. Constitution.
She added that the University of California will also be advocating for Congress and other universities to respond to the Trump administration as well. She emphasized that this lawsuit would not only affect DACA recipients in California, but also nationwide.
“At the University of California, we see the exceptional contributions that the young Dreamers make everyday,” Napolitano said at the conference. “They really represent the spirit of the American dream, and by its action, the administration has dashed those dreams. We hope by this lawsuit to restore those dreams.”
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom also released a statement Friday afternoon, in which he announced his support of Napolitano’s lawsuit.
“I support this lawsuit on legal, moral, and economic grounds. President Trump has arbitrarily and unlawfully manufactured a crisis in the lives of fellow Californians,” Newsom said in his statement. “The U.C.’s DREAMers and its staff are integral to the academic and intellectual fabric of our campuses, and it is paramount that the University protects the future workforce and families of California.”
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Contact Harini Shyamsundar, Chantelle Lee and Malini Ramaiyer at [email protected].