University lawyers preview hearing for DACA lawsuit

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Adrienne Shih/File

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The UC Office of the President, or UCOP, held a teleconference Friday to discuss its ongoing lawsuit against the Trump administration — university representatives will appear before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday, May 15.

The UC filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration in September 2017, arguing that the administration’s rescission of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was unconstitutional and in violation of the rights of the university. According to a UCOP press release, the UC was the first university to sue the federal government.

UCOP spokesperson Claire Doan moderated the teleconference, which included attorneys Jeffrey Davidson and Alexander Berengaut, partners from Covington & Burling LLP who are representing the university pro bono on Tuesday.

“We are taking a public stand on behalf of the thousands of dreamers who contribute in so many ways to the university,” Davidson said in the teleconference. “This case is very powerful for them and their right to stay in the United States … fundamentally about whether these young immigrants will be represented as the Americans they are.”

U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California William Alsup ordered a nationwide injunction on the administration’s rescission of DACA in January, which mandated that the Trump administration must uphold the benefits of the program while litigation surrounding the issue continues.

Berengaut said in the teleconference that this particular case was part of a “broader effort” to challenge the Trump administration’s decision, referring to another federal injunction upheld by U.S. District Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis from the Eastern District of New York and an injunction from U.S. District Judge John D. Bates from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He added that because the aforementioned judges were appointed by both Democratic and Republican presidents, it is an indication that their case was “not about politics.”

Berengaut, however, also said during the teleconference that these injunctions were not a substitute for legislative action.

“Ultimately, it is only Congress that can enshrine the (DACA) into law,” Berengaut said in the teleconference.

According to Davidson and Berengaut, the federal government’s rescission of DACA went against executive precedent, citing former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who supported a similar deferred action program 50 years ago.

The decision had also violated the Administrative Procedure Act, or APA, — the “magna carta” of the administration, Davidson said during the meeting. The lawsuit states that APA gives the courts the power to check federal actions that are “arbitrary, capricious … or otherwise not in accordance with law.” According to Davidson, the way the government decided on the rescission was not compliant with the appropriate procedures outlined in the APA, which include a period of public notice and public comment.

Davidson noted that the president’s tweets bargaining the rights of DACA recipients in exchange for the passage of the border wall between the U.S. and Mexico “tell quite a different story” about the administration’s justification for rescinding DACA.

“The government cannot say one thing when the truth appears to be that DACA recipients are used as human bargaining chips,” Davidson said in the teleconference.

Francesca Munsayac is an assistant news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @fcfm_dc.