Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


Lawsuit seeks to reverse the president’s decision to end DACA program

SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today filed a multi-state lawsuit co-led by Washington, New York and Massachusetts, seeking to halt President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

The president’s decision to end protections for nearly 18,000 so-called “Dreamers” in Washington state, and about 800,000 nationwide, is both unconstitutional and illegal, Ferguson’s lawsuit alleges.

In 2012, President Barack Obama created the DACA program to allow Dreamers — who were brought to the country as children — to remain in the country as long as they meet certain criteria. Those criteria include that they don’t have a criminal record or otherwise pose a threat to public safety.

The administration announced on Tuesday that it would end the DACA program in six months, exposing Dreamers to deportation.

The lawsuit, filed in the Eastern District of New York with 15 other attorneys general, alleges that the President’s decision to end DACA not only causes immediate harm to hundreds of thousands nationwide, it also directly injures colleges and universities, employers and state economies by removing the protections that allowed Dreamers to study and work legally without fear of deportation.

“Allowing nearly 18,000 Dreamers to live and work in Washington makes our communities stronger and better places to live,” Ferguson said. “I will do everything in my power to ensure that they can continue to feel secure in what is, for many of them, the only home they have ever known.”

"As states like Washington step up to defend the young men and women who call this nation home and are working hard to contribute to our communities and economy, it is imperative that Congress steps up as well,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “There is no justification for inaction, indecision or equivocation. The time has come for each and every member of Congress to take a stand, demand a vote, and pass the Dream Act."

The DACA program has allowed more than 17,800 Washington Dreamers to work legally, acquire driver’s licenses, open bank accounts, access lines of credit, purchase homes and cars and receive in-state tuition at public universities, among other benefits. Those abilities benefit the Dreamers, but also benefit the state’s economy and enhance its diversity.

One estimate cited in the lawsuit found that DACA-eligible residents contribute approximately $51 million annually in state and local taxes in Washington. Another estimate suggests that ending DACA would, over a 10-year period, cost the Washington economy $258 million in lost tax revenue.

Dreamers work for some of Washington’s largest companies as software engineers, financial professionals, customer service representatives and more. DACA recipients also work for state agencies, which also spent time and resources to train them.

Many Dreamers attend Washington colleges and universities. For example, more than 100 dreamers currently attend the University of Washington, and more than 150 are enrolled at Washington State University.

Washington state businesses Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks have written declarations supporting Ferguson’s lawsuit, as have representatives for the University of Washington, Washington State University, Columbia Basin College and Big Bend Community College. The state departments of Social and Health Services and Ecology, as well as the office of the State Treasurer have also contributed declarations detailing the value of Dreamers in their workplaces.

Legal arguments

Today’s lawsuit challenges President Trump’s decision to end DACA on several Constitutional and legal grounds.

Among them, Ferguson alleges that President Trump’s action violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution because his decision is in part motivated by discriminatory animus.

The President has made numerous statements on the campaign trail and in office disparaging Mexicans — among them, calling them “criminals,” “thugs” or “bad hombres.” Nearly 80 percent of Dreamers are of Mexican descent.

Trump’s decision to end DACA also violates Dreamers’ Constitutional due process rights, the complaint alleges, with the possibility that personal information Dreamers have provided to the federal government could be used against them and their families for immigration enforcement purposes.

Ferguson’s suit also alleges that the President’s action violates the Administrative Procedure Act and the Regulatory Flexibility Act.

State attorneys general have already successfully sued the Trump administration under the APA.

The Regulatory Flexibility Act protects small businesses, non-profits local government jurisdictions. When a decision impacts small businesses, the Act requires that the Executive Branch allows businesses to give their input.

Washington business and jurisdictions invested resources into hiring Dreamers, but were not provided the opportunity to comment on the President’s decision to end DACA.

Joining Washington, New York and Massachusetts in filing the lawsuit are Connecticut, Delaware, New Mexico, Illinois, Iowa, Hawaii, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Wing Luke Civil Rights Unit Chief Colleen Melody and Assistant Attorney General Marsha Chien are leading the case for Washington.

In 2017, the Attorney General’s Office has prevailed in four times against the Trump Administration. Every court to have issued a decision has ruled in favor of the Washington Attorney General’s Office in cases it has brought against the Trump Administration.


The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.


Brionna Aho, Interim Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; brionna.aho@atg.wa.gov