Flurry of lawsuits after repeal of law protecting Dreamers

Mr Jario Reyes, 25, and Ms Karen Caudillo, 21, with photos of their younger selves at a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday. They are Dreamers, or beneficiaries of the Obama-era programme which is set to be phased out from nex
Mr Jario Reyes, 25, and Ms Karen Caudillo, 21, with photos of their younger selves at a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday. They are Dreamers, or beneficiaries of the Obama-era programme which is set to be phased out from next March.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

United States President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw protection for people who entered the country illegally as children faces a blizzard of lawsuits, with 15 states and the District of Columbia going to court to challenge it.

On Wednesday, a group of Democratic attorneys-general filed the multi-state lawsuit to block Mr Trump's latest immigration policy and maintain the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (Daca) programme.

The plan to phase out Daca from next March, announced on Tuesday, now sits with Congress, which faces the challenge of pushing through legislation to reform an immigration system the Republicans consider too open. The fate of some 800,000 beneficiaries of the Daca programme - known as "Dreamers" - hangs in the balance.

"He (the President) has passed the hot potato," Mr Rodrigo Pimentel, a Dreamer, told The Straits Times.

"I do think there is some hope in Congress, because many Republican leaders have come out in support of Dreamers," said the 20-year-old computer sciences student from Rhode Island.

Daca recipients range in ages from 15 to 36, with the majority being adults. Most work, and well over 250 serve in the US armed forces. The largest group of Daca beneficiaries is Mexicans.

That Mr Obama bypassed Congress to pass Daca in 2012 forms the legal rationale for rescinding it. The administration also says Dreamers take up jobs that would otherwise have been filled by Americans.

Mr Trump has put his Republican colleagues in Congress in a very unusual position, says American Studies professor Glenn Altschuler,from Cornell University. "He is at once taking responsibility for an action that has a significant impact on hundreds of thousands of lives, and absolving himself but giving Congress ambiguous guidance. He hasn't made at all clear what he will sign and what he will not."

The Dreamers should not worry about their immigration status during the next six months before the programme ends, Mr Trump said yesterday.

"For all of those (Daca) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about - No action!" Mr Trump said in a post on Twitter.

Republicans are wary of the backlash against the President's decision - and the possibility that it will prompt a greater Latino turnout in the November 2018 mid-term congressional elections, in which the Democratic Party will be trying to claw back seats in the House. Latinos by and large lean towards the Democratic Party.

Mr Neil Bradley, senior vice-president and chief policy officer of the US Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business group, said roughly 700,000 Daca recipients were working in the economy.

"Terminating their employment eligibility runs contrary to the President's goal of growing the US economy," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 08, 2017, with the headline 'Flurry of lawsuits after repeal of law protecting Dreamers'. Print Edition | Subscribe