DACA Appeals Hearing Begins in Pasadena’s 9th Circuit Court, Draws Protesters

Controversial case may ultimately end in Supreme Court

Published : Wednesday, May 16, 2018 | 4:45 AM

Pasadena’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Tuesday regarding the Trump Administration’s decision last year to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, popularly known as “DACA.”

Protesters from The Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) and DACA Youth held a protest and press conference outside the courthouse before the afternoon hearing.

“I know we have a difficult time ahead of us,” said Melody Klinglenfuss of CHIRLA to a group of supporters, “but if we are to be prepared for it, we must shed our fear of it.”

DACA, established by President Barack Obama in 2012, has protected youth who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families that overstayed visas. The program has allowed them to apply for delay of deportations, and for authorization to work, which is renewable every two years.

In September 2017, the Trump administration announced it was canceling the program incrementally, beginning in March. About a dozen lawsuits challenging the cancellation of DACA have since been filed in federal courts around the country.

In January, U.S. District Judge William Alsup, in San Francisco, disagreed with the government’s argument that President Barack Obama exceeded his power in implementing DACA, and said the Trump administration failed to consider the disruption that ending the program would cause. He blocked the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA, reinstating the program.

Tuesday’s hearing is based on a September 2017 federal lawsuit filed by the University of California Regents. There are more than 1,700 DACA students in the UC system. The lawsuit includes plaintiff and University President Janet Napolitano as a plaintiff. Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security from 2009 to 2013, helped create the DACA program in 2012.

Department of Justice attorney Hashim Mooppan, argued Tuesday before the three-judge panel that the Department of Homeland Security was within its rights to stop administering the program.

“It’s a question of an agency saying ‘We’re not going to have a policy that might well be illegal,’” Moopan said. “That is a perfectly rational thing to do.”

But Judge Jacqueline Nguyen asked him whether courts would have that power if they didn’t agree with the administration’s claim that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was implemented illegally.

Mooppan said the Administration acted “at its discretion.”

The Trump Administration has been ruled against three times in the matter, including the San Francisco decision. Federal judges in New York and Washington, D.C. have ruled against the Trump administration’s decision, and the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York will likely hear appeal arguments this summer. The DACA battle may very likely be decided in Supreme Court.

“The fate of DACA is partially in the hands of the court system,” said Pasadena activist Pablo Alvarado Tuesday. “Given the fact that the President made an arbitrary decision without taking into considering all the elements. So those are the arguments of the law of the litigation and that he didn’t follow the ‘rules of engagement.’”

Alvarado, who has advocated on behalf of undocumented workers, and helped introduce a higher minimum wage in Pasadena last year, continued, “The advocates and the folks that are impacted by the elimination of DACA have decided to use the court system to protect what they’ve achieved, –what they have protected in this case, in the case of the youth is DACA.

“So obviously,” added Alvarado, “if there’s litigation as part of the struggle, that’s part of the process, because the courts in the history of this country have often times fostered white supremacy. In other moments, it has fostered racial justice. So it’s always a gamble, but litigation is the only tool that we have.”

Los Angeles Attorney Liz Mateo, herself undocumented, said Tuesday, “I think that if the administration really wanted to create a permanent solution, the administration could’ve done so without putting the young people in danger of deportation. I think that they did it because there was a lot of pressure from the base of their political party, or at least the Trump administration.

“The Trump administration’s campaign platform was to build the wall,” added Mateo.

“‘I’m going to end DACA,’ is what (the president) said. And he just had to make his comments because he was receiving a lot of pressure from attorney generals in certain states, and people who wanted to see something done.”

With the fight over Obamacare and other things that he had promised to do, he really needed to get a win,” Mateo continued, “and he thought that ending DACA was going to be an easy win, and now he’s realizing that people are going to fight; they’re going to fight to keep this program.

Meanwhile, Mateo and her group have been advocating throughout Southern California for an immigration solution.

“We have made calls to Congress, we have tried to create awareness in the community on this issue. We just did it in different ways. We’ve done it in a more traditional way, and also when the program was ending in September, we actually had a clinic and provided free legal services with the help of attorneys to provide some legal services and organization for dreamers who wanted their DACA renewed.

Continued Mateo, “All of the people that we were able to help, they’ve all been able to get their work permit. So we tried to do as much as we can. And in terms of finding a permanent solution, we continue to push our elected officials. I think that in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, we’re lucky to have people that do support this issue.”