Tennessee, one of 10 states whose attorneys general had sued to stop the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, pulled out of the lawsuit Friday — a victory for immigration advocates who have been pressuring states to stand down.
In a letter to Tennessee’s two Republican senators, Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III said that his state would leave the lawsuit out of consideration of “the human element,” referring to the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients whose lives would be thrown into chaos. Some 800,000 young people who are in the United States illegally are protected from deportation under the program.
“Many of the DACA recipients, some of whose records I reviewed, have outstanding accomplishments and laudable ambitions, which if achieved, will be of great benefit and service to our country,” Slatery wrote. “They have an appreciation for the opportunities afforded them by our country… our Office has decided not to challenge DACA in the litigation, because we believe there is a better approach.”
That approach, wrote Slatery, was the Bridge Act, a bipartisan bill designed to make the deferred action program permanent for people who had arrived in the United States as children and had otherwise obeyed the law.
“Whether this particular legislation is a viable solution is a matter for congressional debate,” wrote Slatery. “It is not a comprehensive answer to our immigration policy challenges, but it would be a very good start. As I have admired your careers over the years, I have perhaps been most impressed at how you take on difficult problems and lead us to a better place. I encourage your serious consideration of this proposed legislation.”
Unlike most states, where voters elect the attorney general, Tennessee’s chief law enforcement officer is appointed by the state’s Supreme Court. The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition was quick to congratulate Slatery.
The White House said on Friday that President Trump would announce whether he plans to keep his campaign pledge to end the program on Tuesday, which is the deadline set by the states to file a lawsuit against DACA unless the president rescinds it. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other Republican leaders in Congress on Friday urged Trump not to terminate it.