Fifteen states and the District of Columbia sued Wednesday to block President Donald Trump's plan to end a program protecting young immigrants from deportation — an act Washington state's attorney general called part of a "dark time for our country."
California, one of the most solid Democratic states, was noticeably absent.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn asked a judge to conclude that the president's action involving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, is unconstitutional.
It called the move "a culmination of President Trump's oft-stated commitments ... to punish and disparage people with Mexican roots."
Rescinding DACA will also injure state-run colleges and universities, upset workplaces and damage companies and economies that include immigrants covered under the program, the lawsuit says.
"The consequence of the president's animus-driven decision is that approximately 800,000 persons who have availed themselves of the program will ultimately lose its protections" and be exposed to deportation, the lawsuit says.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Tuesday the program will end in six months so Congress can have time to find a legislative solution for the people in the program, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families who overstayed visas.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are New York, Massachusetts, Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia.
What about California?
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra plans to file a separate lawsuit because a quarter of DACA recipients are California residents, his spokeswoman Bethany Lesser said.
Becerra's office has not said when the lawsuit will be filed or whether it will include different legal arguments. His office emailed KPCC a statement on Wednesday:
“California will sue the Trump Administration over its termination of the DACA program for one simple reason. Our state has become the world’s 6th largest economy due in part to the success of over 200,000 Dreamers whose livelihoods have been put at risk by President Trump’s wrong-headed decision on DACA," Becerra's statement read.
One possible argument that California could use is that DACA recipients' rights were violated because they paid fees and bought into the program after being promised the ability to work legally and be protected from deportation, said Kevin Johnson, dean of the UC Davis School of Law.
“I think the argument might be that these DACA recipients had some kind of reliance interest in the program, made decisions based on the program, and that it couldn’t be taken away arbitrarily and capriciously without some kind of process that allowed them to register their views," Johnson said.
But DACA was never intended as a permanent solution, said John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University. Eastman said he doesn't think the lawsuits will prevail.
"I would not be surprised to see some judge issue a nationwide injunction ordering President Trump to keep DACA in place," Eastman said, but "I think the Supreme Court would overrule it in fairly short course."
Both legal scholars said that because Trump's move to end DACA is an executive decision - as was President Obama's decision to begin the program in 2012 - challenging it could prove difficult.
Under the move by Trump, people already enrolled in DACA remain covered until their permits expire. If that happens before March 5, they are eligible to renew them for another two years as long as they apply by Oct. 5. But the program isn't accepting new applications.
Opponents of the program said they are pleased with the Trump administration's decision. They called DACA an unconstitutional abuse of executive power.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, both Democrats, called Trump's action cruel and outrageous, given that the decision was announced by Sessions rather than the president himself.
A half-dozen beneficiaries of DACA — young adults from Mexico, Venezuela, Peru and elsewhere, including some now working at law firms or for the state Legislature — flanked Inslee and Ferguson at a news conference in Seattle announcing the lawsuit.
"It's outrageous, it's not right," an emotional Ferguson said. "As attorney general for the state of Washington, I have a hammer, it's the law."
Inslee said, "This is one more of a long train of abuses that this president has attempted to foist on this great nation."
Earlier this year, Ferguson sued Trump over his travel ban, prompting a federal judge to block nationwide enforcement.