NJ joins other states in DACA lawsuit against federal government

BY Brenda Flanagan, Senior Correspondent |

It was almost an act of defiance, an unauthorized immigrant, a 27-year-old ‘Dreamer’ who could be deported if Congress can’t fix the DACA program, was sworn in Wednesday by New Jersey’s attorney general and congratulated by the governor. Parthiv Patel is perhaps the first New Jersey ‘Dreamer’ admitted to the New Jersey bar.

“Today, I stand here with one message: Dreamers are Americans. We are fifth graders alongside your children in the school play. We are your friends and your colleagues. We are your doctors, your accountants, and now, in New Jersey, your lawyers,” said Patel.

“Your story stands as a shining example of what it is we’re fighting for. You are as much an American as my four kids, or frankly anyone in our state,” Murphy said. “And with this oath, we will also lay bare the hypocrisy of the Trump administration’s policies, policies which would prevent some of our best and brightest from living their dreams and contributing to our communities and our society.”

Murphy announced two more measures by his administration. First, it will join 15 other states and the District of Columbia, in a lawsuit to prevent the Trump administration from ending protections for New Jersey’s 22,000 ‘Dreamers’ of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“We’re making it absolutely clear today that we will use all of the tools of the Attorney General’s Office to protect the rights of Dreamers like Parthiv. … By working in collaboration with like-minded states on litigation challenging what we consider to be unlawful federal efforts to violate the rights of hardworking immigrants like Parthiv and their families,” said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal.

Murphy said he will also establish a state Office of Immigrant Protection and Defense against a chaotic federal backdrop that saw the government shut down briefly last weekend as Congress, once again, couldn’t agree on a DACA fix. The president has linked any reforms to a border wall, and all bets are off.

“We’re going to have to start on a new basis, and the wall offer’s off the table,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Trump tweeted back, “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer fully understands, especially after his humiliating defeat, that if there is no Wall, there is no DACA.”

Another congressional showdown looms Feb. 8 and DACA faces a March 5 expiration. The political turmoil roils ‘Dreamers’ lives. Patel, who lives in Mt. Laurel and came here from India as a 5 year old, asked for help from the ACLU to overcome doubts raised by the bar’s character committee, which evaluates applicants.

“I don’t know for sure if other Dreamers have been turned away, but I know Parthiv is among the first to be admitted,” said Amol Sinha, executive director of ACLU-NJ.

“For Dreamers like myself who want to be a lawyer, it’s a clear vision that it’s possible now in New Jersey,” said Sara Mora, a ‘Dreamer’ from Hillside.

The governor stopped short of declaring New Jersey a sanctuary state, but ‘Dreamers’ say this administration is moving in a positive direction.