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Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson


New DHS policy defies Supreme Court decision upholding DACA program

SEATTLE — Attorney General Bob Ferguson today filed an amended complaint seeking to halt an unlawful Trump Administration policy that guts the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The Trump Administration’s new attempt to strip protections for Dreamers comes after a U.S. Supreme Court decision in mid-June that declared President Trump’s first attempt to rescind DACA unlawful.

On July 28, Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chad Wolf wrote a memo stating he wanted to limit DACA while he decides whether to fully rescind the program. Specifically, Wolf’s memo ordered DHS to reject all new DACA applications, change the renewal period from two years to one and prohibit current DACA recipients from traveling outside the U.S. without DHS approval. The memo is the latest of numerous efforts by President Trump to end DACA since taking office in 2016.

The amended complaint, filed in the Eastern District of New York with 16 other attorneys general, updates the states’ lawsuit against the Trump Administration’s previous attempts to end DACA — the lawsuit that prevailed before the Supreme Court in June. The amended complaint asserts that the Wolf memo is again not supported by any reasonable explanation and fails to consider the harms caused by the undue limits to the DACA program, a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

The decision illegally curtails protections for Washington’s nearly 17,000 DACA recipients, also known as “Dreamers,” and about 800,000 nationwide, Ferguson’s updated lawsuit asserts.

Ferguson’s lawsuit also asserts that Wolf cannot legally make this kind of decision because he was unlawfully appointed to his post as acting secretary. When Wolf was appointed, the administration circumvented long-standing order-of-succession laws for federal agency officers. On Aug. 14, the Government Accountability Office released a finding that the federal government improperly appointed Wolf and two other appointees to their positions.

“The highest court in the land told the Trump Administration it cannot arbitrarily end DACA,” Ferguson said. “Despite this, the Department of Homeland Security — under the leadership of an unlawfully appointed acting secretary — pushed through yet another attempt to erode the program. Our fight isn’t over yet. I will do everything in my power to protect Washington’s Dreamers.”

“DACA recipients are an essential part of the fabric of this country. Ending this program would not only disrupt our economy, more importantly, would have a devastating human toll on these students, their families and their communities,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “Attorney General Ferguson and I have actively worked to protect DACA students from the Trump administration’s actions and I am pleased to support this latest action. We will continue to fight for them as long as it takes.”

“Sometimes as a DACA recipient I feel powerless, as if everything is out of my control,” said Graciela Nunez Pargas. “The president’s erratic actions have thrown my life, and countless others, into chaos. This ongoing fight is personal for me and the uncertainty is my reality. He has caused irreparable harm in the undocumented community and, even in a global pandemic crisis, he is laser-focused on tearing us down. This latest decision on DACA is racist, desperate, and predictable.”

DACA & Dreamers

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 being in school, having graduated from school or a certificate program, being an honorably discharged veteran, and passing a background check showing that the recipient is not a threat to public safety. DACA status must be renewed every two years.

The DACA program has allowed tens of thousands of 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. Ferguson asserts those abilities not only benefit the Dreamers, but also benefit the state’s economy and communities.

One estimate cited in the original 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 Washington $258 million in lost tax revenue.

Lawsuit background

The Trump Administration announced on Sept. 5, 2017, that it would end the DACA program after six months, exposing Dreamers to deportation.

The next day, Ferguson and 16 other attorneys general filed a challenge to the administration’s decision to end DACA. Ferguson’s suit included supporting declarations from education institutions like the University of Washington and Washington State University, as well as international corporations Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks.

U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis granted the states’ motion for a preliminary injunction in February, forcing the administration to continue accepting DACA renewals until the resolution of the case.

The administration appealed several of Judge Garaufis’ rulings, including the preliminary injunction, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Eventually, the administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene and review the case. The court agreed, and heard oral argument Nov. 12, 2019. On June 18, 2020, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court rejected President Trump’s effort to end DACA.

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

Ferguson created the Wing Luke Civil Rights Division in 2015 to protect the rights of all Washington residents by enforcing state and federal anti-discrimination laws. Ferguson named the unit for Wing Luke, who served as an assistant attorney general for the state of Washington in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He went on to become the first person of color elected to the Seattle City Council and the first Asian-American elected to public office in the Pacific Northwest.


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.

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Dan Jackson, Acting Communications Director, (360) 753-2716; dan.jackson@atg.wa.gov

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