Updated (9/8/2017, 6:11 p.m.) with more information about the lawsuit, including comments by Janet Napolitano at a news conference.
The University of California has accused the Trump administration in a lawsuit of violating the university system’s rights, and the rights of its students, by rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the university said on Friday in a news release.
The Obama-era program, known as DACA, allows undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children — known as Dreamers — to work, live, and study with two-year permits and without fear of deportation. The Trump administration announced plans on Tuesday to eliminate the program after a six-month delay, to give Congress time to enact a legislative alternative to the program.
This is the first lawsuit filed by a university in response to the move against DACA, the news release says. Janet Napolitano, president of the university system, devised the program in 2012, when she was secretary of homeland security under President Barack Obama. The system has about 4,000 undocumented students, and a “substantial number” of them are protected under DACA.
“Neither I nor the University of California take the step of suing the federal government lightly, especially not the very agency that I led,” Ms. Napolitano said in a written statement.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and names as defendants the Department of Homeland Security and Elaine Duke, its acting secretary.
If the Trump administration’s decision stands, the lawsuit states, “Dreamers face expulsion from the only country that they call home, based on nothing more than unreasoned executive whim.”
The university system would lose students and employees who expand both the diversity and the intellectual vitality of the institution, serving as researchers, medical residents, and student-government leaders, it adds.
During a news conference on Friday, Ms. Napolitano said ending DACA would punish hard-working students and employees for a decision in which they had no say.
“Many of them don’t even speak the language of the country to which they’d be deported,” she said.
The mixed messages the president has been delivering about the fate of DACA are confusing and distressing to Dreamers, she said. “Either the courts or Congress should act and settle this issue once and for all.”
Katherine Mangan contributed to this article.