Advocacy groups file lawsuit over DACA in Maryland

Immigrant rights groups on Thursday sued the Trump administration over its move to end a program that protects young people who were brought to the United States illegally.

CASA de Maryland, along with eight other groups and more than a dozen individuals, filed suit in a Maryland federal court against President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in addition to four government agencies -- U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Customs and Border Protection -- and their department heads.

The lawsuit argues that the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program didn't follow the necessary procedures, and is discriminatory against Mexicans and Central Americans. It also says the decision violates the Fifth Amendment because the administration is walking back a guarantee that sensitive information provided on DACA applications won't be used for enforcement purposes.

CASA Senior Manager of Legal Services Nick Katz said roughly 2,500 DACA recipients who have worked with CASA could be at risk of enforcement as a result. He added that the DACA application form asks for a volume of sensitive information, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services made a commitment during President Obama's administration to not share the information with its immigration enforcement arm. But advocates are concerned that the Trump administration will renege on that promise.

The administration's memorandum "provides no assurance to Dreamers, or direction to (government agencies) that information contained in DACA applications or renewal requests cannot be used for the purpose of future immigration enforcement proceedings," the lawsuit says.

A spokesman from the Department of Homeland Security said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Department of Justice Spokesman Devin O'Malley said the agency "looks forward to defending this Administration's position."

DACA affects hundreds of thousands of young people across the country. Known as "Dreamers," many were brought to the U.S. illegally as young children, while others came with their families legally but overstayed their visas. On Sept. 5, Sessions announced the end of the DACA program, though the administration said it would continue to renew existing two-year work permits for six months. The administration has said it is up to Congress to pass a replacement within that time.

Fifteen states sued the administration in a lawsuit filed just days after the memorandum was issued. The attorneys general who brought the lawsuit -- all Democrats -- represent states where the population of DACA participants ranges from hundreds to tens of thousands. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include New York, Hawaii, Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

This lawsuit is the first such legal action in Maryland, Katz said.

"The rescission of DACA is unconstitutional in that it targets a specific population of individuals, based on animus against Mexicans and South Americans as evidenced by statements by Trump and Sessions," Katz said. "There were assurances that information wouldn't be shared for enforcement purposes and the administration is backing away from those promises."