President Donald Trump’s administration must defend a lawsuit targeting his plan to end a program offering protection from deportation for hundreds of thousands of children of undocumented immigrants.
U.S District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn, New York, narrowed but didn’t dismiss the suit on Thursday, finding that there was a “plausible inference” that it was illegally aimed at Mexicans. He previously blocked the U.S. government from ending the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, and from halting the renewal process, but hadn’t decided whether to allow the case to proceed.
On Thursday, Garaufis said those suing the U.S may proceed with a claim that Trump’s policy was driven by unlawful racial animus against Latinos, and in particular, Mexicans, who make up about 78 percent of the program. He also said that ending the program violates Constitutional protections because it disproportionately affects them.
The Trump administration has argued there wasn’t any evidence of bias. However, a coalition of plaintiffs, including New York State and 15 state attorneys general as well as the District of Columbia, cited statements Trump made during his campaign describing Mexicans as “thugs,” “animals” and “bad hombres,”
Garaufis said while government lawyers had urged him to ignore Trump’s statements because they made before he took office, they couldn’t be overlooked.
“Although the use of racial slurs, epithets, or other racially charged language does not violate equal protection,” Garaufis wrote, “it can be evidence that official action was motivated by unlawful discriminatory purposes.”
New York State and 15 state attorneys general filed the suit in September after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Obama-era policy would end on March 5. Sessions described Obama’s initiative as an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch.”
“We’re pleased the court ruled that our substantive Equal Protection and APA claims can proceed,”Amy Spitalnick, a spokeswoman for New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, said in an email. The Justice Department didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Thursday’s ruling also pertains to a 2016 suit filed by Martin Batalla Vidal, a Queens student who was brought to the U.S. from Mexico at age six and is challenging the rescission of his work permit in 2015. Several other undocumented immigrants have joined his suit.
“The court again has acknowledged that our brave plaintiffs present important claims, including that the decision to terminate DACA was rooted in Trump’s bias against Latinos, especially Mexicans,” according to a statement by a group supporting the immigrants, Make the Road New York.
In January, a federal judge in San Francisco issued an order blocking the government from rescinding the DACA program and in a second ruling, suggested Trump may have “racial animus towards Mexicans and Latinos.”
The Justice Department had argued the suits should be dismissed because no federal court could review the decision to rescind the program after Sessions determined DACA was “unlawful,” and that the Obama administration had created it “without proper statutory authority.”
Garaufis previously granted a preliminary order directing the government to accept renewal applications from DACA recipients and concluded the government improperly terminated the program. Discovery, or the exchange of evidence, was halted in January by a federal appeals court in Manhattan until it could review all of Garaufis’s decisions.
The judge narrowed claims brought by immigrants who said they’re requests to renew the DACA protection were rejected because of mailing irregularities. However, he said some DACA recipients could pursue claims that their renewal applications were rejected because their documents arrived by the Oct. 5 deadline, but weren’t transferred to the appropriate “lockbox” until the next day.