The American Civil Liberties Union in Tennessee and nine affiliates in other states have filed open records requests demanding communications between state and federal officials about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
The DACA program, which is a policy created by President Barack Obama’s administration in 2012, grants deportation relief to undocumented young immigrants. The program has been thought to be in serious jeopardy under President Donald Trump’s administration. ACLU-TN’s open records request also includes documents from the Tennessee Office of the Attorney General.
According to the ACLU, the organizations sent the records request following a letter from Tennessee and nine other states to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking that the DACA program come to an end.
"The DACA program is a critical lifeline for nearly 800,000 young immigrants who came to this country as children and know the United States as their home," Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-TN’s executive director, said in a press release. "Since its creation, this program has enabled over 8,300 young Tennesseans to attend school, support their families, buy homes, begin careers, contribute to their communities and pursue their dreams. The public has a right to know if our state government is coordinating with the Trump administration in an attempt to shut down this constitutional and well-regarded program."
The letter to Sessions demands that the Trump administration agree to end the program by Sept. 5 or else the 10 states — Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia — have said they’ll amend an “existing lawsuit in front of Judge Andrew Hanen in Texas to challenge the lawfulness of the program.”
In Tennessee, Republican legislators have long disagreed with the program, and as the ACLU says, officials here and in the other states asking to end DACA may have found a strong ally in Sessions. Sessions told Politico in the beginning of 2017 that the DACA program is "very questionable, in my opinion, constitutionally."
While Sessions and the Trump administration may not flat out end the program by Sept. 5, it does seem Sessions is responsive and agreeable to their request. After receiving the June 2017 letter, Sessions responded by saying, "I like it that our states and localities are holding the federal government to account and expecting us to do our responsibility to the state and locals, and that’s to enforce the law."
The open records request would potentially — among other things — make clear whether Tennessee and other states have corresponded with the Trump administration before, during and after sending their letter to Sessions. And, of course, documents could lay bare how the administration plans to handle the letter and request to end DACA.
“It remains unclear whether the United States will maintain its defense of the DACA program,” reads the ACLU’s request. “[The] statements [from Attorney General Sessions] raise serious questions regarding the United States' commitment to defending the legality of [the] DACA program against the States' threatened litigation, as well as questions about possible communications regarding the Texas litigation between the States and members of the Trump administration."