Attorneys General fight for DACA

Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck, California Attorney General Rob Bonta and New York Attorney General Letitia James signed a letter Friday on behalf of 24 attorneys feneral in support of a new rule aimed at fortifying Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the policy that enables young people who arrived in the United States as children to avoid deportation and build lives in the U.S.

Established in 2012, DACA allows immigrants who came to the U.S. as children – commonly referred to as Dreamers – the opportunity to remain in the country if they meet certain criteria and renew their requests for deferred action every two years. Since its inception, DACA has protected from deportation and extended work authorization for approximately 825,000 individuals – including approximately 17,000 active DACA grantees in New Jersey.

On September 28, 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a proposed rule to codify DACA as federal regulation. The multi-state letter sent Friday and co-led by Acting Attorney General Bruck, along with the Attorneys General of California and New York, supports the proposed Biden Administration rule designed to “preserve and fortify” DACA.

The coalition of 24 attorneys general sent a comment letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in support of the federal government’s efforts to preserve and fortify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

In the comment letter, the coalition highlights the critical contributions of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers to broader public health efforts, to economies, and to communities across the country, and urges the federal government to finalize regulations strengthening DACA — ensuring that states can continue to benefit from the policy, as well as providing relief to all the Dreamers who fear deportation.

Since 2012, DACA has protected approximately 825,000 people who grew up in this country — most of whom have known no home other than the United States — from deportation and permitted them to work here.

“For years, New Jersey has been a leader in defense of DACA, and I am proud to continue that strong tradition today,” said Bruck. “New Jersey’s Dreamers are key part of our community – they are our co-workers, friends, fellow students, and neighbors, and their contributions to our state are invaluable. I am grateful to the Biden Administration for fighting for DACA, and seeking to codify the policy, and we are proud to support that work.”

Backed by strong support from New Jersey, DACA withstood persistent legal efforts by the Trump Administration and many states to end it. But arguments presented by opponents often centered on the fact DACA was issued without publication of a proposed rule or public comment period. Codification of DACA as federal regulation, preceded by the federal rulemaking process now in play, is expected to moot that argument going forward.

Today’s letter also explains the virtues of DACA and the reliance that states and individuals have built upon it. The letter notes that DACA has allowed recipients to live, study, and work in New Jersey and across the U.S. free from the fear of being forcibly separated from their families and communities, and has enabled hundreds of thousands to enroll in universities, start businesses that help improve state economies, and give back to their communities as teachers, medical professionals, engineers, and entrepreneurs.

The letter also explains recipients make “significant economic contributions,” including annually an estimated $5.6 billion in federal taxes, and an estimated $3.1 billion in state and local taxes.

These contributions by DACA recipients have been especially evident, the letter notes, as the deadly coronavirus pandemic swept through the nation and thousands of DACA recipients have been on the frontlines as essential workers. As of 2020, an estimated 27,000 healthcare workers and support staff depend on DACA for their authorization to work in the United States, including nurses, dentists, pharmacists, physician assistants, home health aides, technicians, and others.

New Jersey has been a consistent and active supporter of DACA, particularly in the face of the Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to discontinue the policy. In June 2018, New Jersey officially intervened in a federal lawsuit bought by eight states and two governors who sought an injunction halting DACA. Although a district judge in Texas ultimately granted an injunction against DACA, he has stayed that injunction in significant part pending the United States’ and New Jersey’s appeal. That appeal remains ongoing.

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