The ACLU sued Thursday to try to force the Trump administration to grant Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections to an illegal immigrant woman, in a case that will test the boundaries of the Obama-era deportation amnesty and President Trump’s bid to end it.
The move comes a day after the administration said Jessica Colotl, a 28-year-old woman who lives in Georgia, was being denied her request for a renewed permit because immigration officers have identified her as a target for deportation.
Ms. Colotl has kept a relatively clean record but had a traffic run-in that led to a charge for giving false information to police — a charge that was dropped from her record, but that still sent up red flags at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“The Trump administration is hell-bent on targeting young immigrants who have done nothing wrong,” said American Civil Liberties Union staff attorney Michael Tan, who is defending Ms. Colotl in the case.
The ACLU says Ms. Colotl was “arbitrarily” labeled a deportation priority, and said the government has gone out of its way to target the young woman, breaking its own procedures.
The challenge is a major test of DACA, which President Obama created in 2012 while saying it was purely discretionary and nobody had a right to be approved.
Trump administration lawyers cited that policy in defending their move to cut off Ms. Colotl’s access to DACA this week, saying the program has always been purely at the discretion of the government, and can’t be forced by the courts.
“USCIS determined, in its unreviewable discretion, that you did not warrant a favorable exercise of prosecutorial discretion,” an officer at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a final notice denying Ms. Colotl’s status this week.
That notice was filed as part of court documents in the months-long legal battle over Ms. Colotl.
Without DACA protections, Ms. Colotl cannot work legally in the U.S., will lose her driver’s license and some taxpayer benefits, and is supposed to leave — or she could face deportation.
Her protections run out at the end of the month, according to court documents.
The ACLU said she is “eligible” for the program, but for the Trump administration’s decision to declare her a priority for deportation.
Ms. Colotl tangled with the Trump administration earlier this year when Homeland Security tried to revoke her permit in the middle of its validity, saying she’d given false information after a traffic incident, in what amounted to a felony charge.
The government later acknowledged there was no felony case but said she was a priority for deportation nonetheless.
A federal judge rejected those arguments and ordered the department to reinstate her status in June, saying Homeland Security hadn’t followed its own procedures in revoking her permit.
Homeland Security said in new filings Wednesday that it has now gone back and followed those procedures and concluded Ms. Colotl’s status cannot be continued.
Nearly 700,000 illegal immigrant Dreamers are currently protected by DACA, but the program is being phased out by the Trump administration, and no new or renewal applications are being accepted anymore.
Current permits are good until they expire, but Mr. Trump has said it’s up to Congress to find a permanent solution.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Thursday shot down reports that he’d said a DACA solution had to be part of a year-end must-pass spending bill.
“No decision has been made about the timing and nature of DACA, how it will be structured and when it would occur,” Mr. Ryan said at his weekly press briefing.
He said Republicans have a task force working on a bill that would create legal status for Dreamers as well as stiffen enforcement to head off a future wave of illegal immigration.
That was a setback to immigrant-rights groups, who say they want to see a fix for so-called “Dreamers” approved by the new year, arguing the longer it waits the worse it is for the young adult illegal immigrants most likely to benefit from a legalization.
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