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AG Healey: Massachusetts will join lawsuit to defend DACA

Attorney General Maura Healey said that Massachusetts is uniting with other states to protect young immigrants.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Nicolaus Czarnecki/Metro

Joining with unidentified other states, Massachusetts will go to court to defend protections for young immigrants that the Trump administration rescinded Tuesday, Attorney General Maura Healey told the News Service.

Rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals was "illegal" and "undercuts" American values, the Charlestown Democrat said Wednesday morning.

"We'll be suing to defend DACA," Healey said after an event with the National Attorneys General Training and Research Institute.

Ending the program, initiated by President Barack Obama in 2012, would affect about 800,000 people in the United States.

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In Massachusetts, Healey said, about 20,000 young people and their families are affected by DACA.

Hours after announcing the program would end in six months unless Congress comes up with an alternative, Trump Tuesday night suggested he would "revisit" the issue in six months, if necessary. "Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue!" the president tweeted.

Healey on Monday previewed her plans to defend DACA by declaring, "As Attorney General, I will use all the legal tools at our disposal to protect Dreamers."

It's unclear whether Congress, which is under Republican control but remains bitterly divided, will be able to achieve a consensus on the issue.

"At the heart of this issue are young people who came to this country through no fault of their own, and for many of them it's the only country they know," U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement. "Their status is one of many immigration issues, such as border security and interior enforcement, which Congress has failed to adequately address over the years. It is my hope that the House and Senate, with the president's leadership, will be able to find consensus on a permanent legislative solution that includes ensuring that those who have done nothing wrong can still contribute as a valued part of this great country."

Obama's election-year move to extend protections to young unauthorized immigrants was controversial at the time and seen by many as an end-run around Congress. This week there was a bipartisan chorus of support for the goals of the program - protecting those who had little say in their families' decision to enter the country illegally - after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was rescinding it.

Sessions contended that the program "contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences" and "denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens."

On Boston Herald Radio on Wednesday, Healey said DACA is "one program that's working," noted it has withstood legal challenges, and said those benefitting from DACA now serve in the military and other important positions.

"We need everybody speaking up right now in support or DACA," Healey told the News Service. She said, "While these young people may not be citizens, they are Americans."

The protections under DACA were offered to youths and young adults who came to the United States before their 16th birthday, lacked lawful status and have lived in the country constantly for several years. DACA recipients had to file numerous personal documents with the federal government to qualify, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

When asked what she thought was unlawful about rescinding DACA, Healey said, "Basically it's a program that was put in place that provides certain rights and protections that encouraged people, young people, to come forward, out from the shadows to seek this protection. So we have concerns about due process and the turning back of rights and protections that have been extended by our federal government. We also have concerns about their safety and the use of their information."

In July Healey joined a coalition of 20 attorneys general urging President Donald Trump to retain the program begun by his predecessor in 2012.

Healey said there will be "one perhaps two lawsuits in different venues" and said Massachusetts "will be joined by other states in that process."

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will reportedly announce the filing of a multistate lawsuit on Wednesday. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra reportedly said he would sue over the rescission of DACA.

Healey has sued the Trump administration numerous times on various issues, and before Trump took office she emailed supporters, saying she "won't hesitate to take Donald Trump to court if he carries out his unconstitutional campaign promises."

The attorney general, who has said she plans to seek re-election next year, has drawn two Republican challengers. Sandwich resident Dan Shores claims he would de-politicize the office, and Jay McMahon, of Bourne, criticized Healey for suing the Trump administration over his travel ban.

 
 
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