California's top lawyer on Thursday hailed an appeals court decision blocking the Trump administration from ending the so-called DACA program as "a tremendous victory" and one that will continue protections for hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. as children.
The ruling by the three-judge panel for 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed a nationwide preliminary injunction that U.S. District Judge William Alsup issued in January that shielded young people with protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. The administration in February unsuccessfully appealed the district court's ruling to the Supreme Court.
In remarks to reporters Thursday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the appeals court decision "a tremendous victory for everyone who is a believer of the American dream, and certainly a victory for the rule of law. But for ... the young men and women we call Dreamers, those who have had to live in the shadows, those who had an opportunity to come out of the shadows and actually prove themselves to America, and have done so so ably and so courageously, it's a victory for them as well."
California was joined in the DACA case by attorneys general for Maine, Maryland and Minnesota, as well as the University of California, individual DACA recipients and other plaintiffs. In their arguments to the 9th Circuit, Becerra's legal team focused on "the irreparable harm that DACA recipients, their communities and the states would suffer if the program were terminated."
The Trump administration moved in September 2017 to phase out the DACA program that shields Dreamers from deportation and gives them work permits. There are currently around 700,000 young adults nationwide with protections under the DACA program, which was introduced in 2012 by former President Barack Obama. California alone has about 200,000 Dreamers.
The Trump administration has argued that Obama exceeded his constitutional powers when he bypassed Congress and created the program. Back in January, the district judge had ordered the federal government to continue processing renewals of existing DACA applications while litigation over the legality of Trump's action was resolved.
"When President Trump announced the rescission of the DACA program, we knew right away that we needed to take legal action here in California," said Becerra. "We are home to one of every four Dreamers in this country."
On Monday, the administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the DACA case, a move that came before the 9th Circuit handed down its ruling. The U.S. Department of Justice and White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
"We want all Americans and all Dreamers to know that whatever comes next we will continue to fight on their behalf to ensure that they can remain as working, contributing members of our society," Becerra said. "And for those who wish to understand what it means to have this victory today, just think of what it would feel like for you to be able to come out of the shadows and live your dreams."
As a result of the January preliminary injunction, the federal government resumed accepting applications Jan. 13 from Dreamers to renew DACA status. Becerra said more than 187,000 Dreamers have been able to regain or renew their DACA protections as a result of the court injunction from January and added that "hundreds of thousands of additional Dreamers continue to be eligible to renew their status as well."
Becerra, the state's attorney general since last year, has been at the center of California's legal war with the Trump administration on immigration and several other fronts, including health care, education, environmental protections, as well as the 2020 Census. The Democrat also has defended California from the administration's lawsuit challenging the state's sanctuary laws that are designed to protect undocumented immigrants.
Becerra called the fight for Dreamers "personal for so many communities in California. And I must say, as the son of immigrants myself, this fight is personal to me too."
— Reuters contributed to this report.