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Attorney General James Fights To Protect DACA

Effort by AG James Continues Ongoing Commitment to DACA and Dreamers,
Including Historic SCOTUS Win Defending the Program

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James co-led a coalition of 22 attorneys general, in pushing back against the ongoing effort by Texas to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. In the amicus brief filed before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, the coalition asserts the critical importance of DACA for states across the country and the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers and their families who depend on the program. This action is part of Attorney General James’ ongoing effort to protect DACA, including her defense of the program in the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Every American, no matter their immigration status, deserves a chance to achieve the American Dream,” said Attorney General James. “For thousands of New Yorkers who have known no other home than our welcoming state, DACA has meant they are able to stay with us and contribute to our communities. When other states try to tear down this successful program, they are trying to rip families apart and remove New Yorkers from our state, and that I will not allow. I will continue to fight for all New Yorkers, and I am proud to lead my colleague attorneys general in this must-win effort.”

DACA has allowed recipients to live, study, and work across the United States free from the fear of being forcibly separated from their families and communities. Since 2012, more than 825,000 young immigrants have been granted DACA protections after completing applications and passing a background check, including nearly 41,000 New Yorkers. Dreamers come from almost every country in the world, but many have never known any home other than the United States. The program has enabled hundreds of thousands of grantees to enroll in colleges and universities; start businesses that help improve our economy; serve in the military; and give back to our communities as teachers, medical professionals, engineers, and entrepreneurs. These contributions became even more evident during the COVID-19 pandemic as tens of thousands of DACA recipients continued to serve their communities as essential workers and frontline healthcare professionals.

DACA plays a vital role in supporting our economies at the national, state, and local level. DACA recipients and their households are estimated to contribute approximately $9.5 billion in federal, state, and local taxes each year. A full rollback of DACA — as being pushed for by Texas and its allies — is projected to result in a loss of an estimated $280 billion in national economic growth over the course of a decade. It would also lead to an estimated loss of $33.1 billion in Social Security contributions and $7.7 billion in Medicare contributions — funds that are critical to ensuring the financial health of these national programs upon which people across the country rely. In addition, the spending power of DACA recipients — estimated at $25.3 billion annually — contributes substantially to the overall economic health of the nation. DACA recipients own homes, make mortgage payments, own small businesses, and help support the creation of new jobs.

In the amicus brief, Attorney General James and her colleagues assert that DACA recipients are vital to their communities, public universities, and economies. The attorneys general also note that DACA enhances public safety and reduces the strain on social safety net programs. They raise the concern that any abrupt termination of DACA would harm recipients and their communities, and any remedy ordered by the court must account for the fact that DACA recipients, and their states and communities, have relied on the program for over a decade. 

Attorney General James has been at the forefront of the fight for the preservation of DACA and to support the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who rely on it. In 2017, former President Donald Trump ordered his administration to terminate the DACA program. This resulted in a prolonged legal battle with the issue landing at the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2019. In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Attorney General James' arguments that the Trump Administration’s attempt to cancel the DACA policy was unlawful. In August 2020, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 17 attorneys general in a lawsuit to vacate a memo from the then-Trump Administration U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that sought to make harmful changes to DACA. In December 2020, a federal district court issued a remedial order granting Attorney General James’ request for DHS to reopen DACA to first-time applicants, restore protections to a two-year period instead of one year, and make Advanced Parole available to DACA recipients again without restrictions. At the same time, Attorney General James has supported DACA in the present and ongoing lawsuit filed by Texas and several other States in 2018. In December 2021, Attorney General James co-led a coalition of 23 attorneys general to support DACA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

Joining Attorney General James in filing today’s amicus brief are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.

This matter is being handled by Assistant Solicitor General Grace X. Zhou, Deputy Solicitor General Ester Murdukhayeva, and Solicitor General Barbara D. Underwood — all of the Division of Appeals and Opinions.