DENVER – Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said Friday he is disappointed that the U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear arguments over President Trump’s decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which lower courts have already ruled the administration could not end.
Weiser and his office joined a multi-state lawsuit in March seeking to uphold DACA protections, which the administration started to undo in 2017. Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper had included Colorado in the lawsuit in September 2017, but the attorney general at the time, Republican Cynthia Coffman, declined to have her office represent the state. Hickenlooper instead used outside counsel.
Trump has asked the Supreme Court on multiple occasions to take up the case after several lower courts blocked his efforts to phase the program out, which the court had not agreed to do until Friday’s announcement.
The president has used a potential Supreme Court hearing as reason to oppose cutting a comprehensive immigration deal with Democrats and some Republicans who support DACA in Congress.
Should the Supreme Court – with two new conservative justices – side with the administration, it could wipe away protections for the around 700,000 Dreamers in the United States who came to the country when they were children. Colorado is home to about 17,000 Dreamers, the state has said.
In a statement Friday, Weiser said he believes the administration was untruthful about its reasons for ending DACA and that he hopes the Supreme Court will rule as it did in the census case Thursday – when the court blocked a citizenship question from being added to the 2020 census over concerns about the impetus for the question.
“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has decided to review the lower court ruling that stopped the federal government from ending DACA. Like the census case, the federal government did not truthfully explain its reason for ending DACA,” Weiser said. “After a full review of the administration’s action on DACA, I am confident that the Court will reach the same conclusion as it did in the census case, preventing the federal government from ending DACA based on contrived reasons.”
He said the federal government was “turning its back” on Dreamers, “many of whom who are an integral part of Colorado’s diverse communities and make valuable contributions to our economy and society.”
Weiser said the issue is personal for him, with both his mother and grandparents coming to the U.S. as immigrants who escaped the Holocaust. He also urged Congress to pass legislation to protect Dreamers. The House passed a bill earlier this year providing a pathway to citizenship for more than 1 million undocumented immigrants, but it faces an uncertain future in the Republican-held Senate.
“My grandparents and my mom came to the United States as an immigrant after fleeing religious persecution. As Attorney General, I am proud to defend our DREAMers and their right to live in the only country they’ve ever known as home,” Weiser said. “It’s time for Congress to finally pass legislation to protect DACA recipients. And despite today’s decision by the Court, we must continue the fight to uphold the long-standing values that make this country a welcoming place to pursue freedom and economic opportunity.”
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Weiser said his office is preparing for its part in the Supreme Court fight. His office plans on outlining two basic arguments. The first argument is that the Trump administration's reasoning for ending the program is not genuine.
"The second is this issue of due process. Once the federal government makes a promise that people rely on, people have a right to believe the federal government and not to have information that they give for one purpose to be used against them," Weiser said.
While Weiser said he will defend Dreamers and is hopeful for a positive outcome, if the Supreme Court does decide to end DACA, Weiser said he will respect and follow its decision.
"I absolutely am committed to the rule of law and the supreme court has the last word," he said.
More than anything, Weiser says Dreamers should not be used as pawns in a political game between Democrats and Republicans and said Congress' failure to pass the Dream and Promise Act is proof of how broken Washington is.
Weiser and Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., addressed the court's decision at a news conference Friday regarding the Colorado Compact on Immigration, where they both spoke in favor of the state's immigrant community and Dreamers. Both Gardner and Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., have worked together on bipartisan immigration legislation, which included protections for Dreamers, over the past two years. But the efforts have not advanced past the Senate due to opposition from the president or other Republican leaders.
"I’ve talked to President Trump many times about the need to pass the DREAM act, act on the dream act to allow this to happen," Gardner said. "Let’s let Congress solve this problem before the courts even have to do it."
Gardner pledged to continue to fight for bipartisan immigration reform and lauded his efforts in the "Gang of Six" with Bennet, though he lamented that they had received only 54 of the necessary 60 votes to pass their bill. He said he would again be cosponsoring the DREAM Act this Congress, as he did in 2017-18.
"I've spend each and every day fighting to find those six people, the six people that were shy, those votes to get them to vote yes and that’s what we’re going to continue to do," Gardner said. "We know this is the right thing to do."
Weiser said that the rhetoric nationally surrounding immigration has only made the situation worse for immigrants and said that only "collaborative problem-solving" would address the core issues surrounding DACA and immigration as a whole. He said "Colorado and the rule of law won" in regards to Thursday's Supreme Court decision on the citizenship question, but said that the news was different with Friday's decision to hear the DACA case.
He said that Dreamers were "unfortunately in yet another political game, being threatened with immediate deportation" and said the future of the nation depended on protecting due process for all.
"We are stronger together," he said.