Public Health School Student Sues Trump Over DACA

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
The Kresge Building at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

UPDATED: September 19, 2017 at 4:42 p.m.

A School of Public Health student is among a half dozen undocumented young people suing President Donald Trump over his move to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

Filed in a San Francisco federal court Monday, the lawsuit charges that the Trump administration violated the due process rights of young people protected from deportation under DACA.

Jirayut “New” Latthivongskorn, a master’s candidate at the School of Public Health and medical student at the University of California-San Francisco, is among the plaintiffs bringing the lawsuit. He is joined by five other “Dreamers”—undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children—in the case, the first to be brought against the Trump administration by DACA recipients.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs have each “achieved remarkable success through hard work, fierce determination, and incredible resilience.”

“The decision to end the DACA program is a broken promise and an unprecedented violation of the constitutional rights of Plaintiffs and other young people who relied on the federal government to honor that promise,” the lawsuit read.

Latthivongskorn, who came to the United States from Thailand at age nine, said in an interview that he didn’t realize the implications of his immigration status until he was denied financial aid as an college undergraduate. Latthivongskorn said DACA gave him “a sense of security” and a way to “give back to the community” as a doctor.

“The way that the government is taking away this program is done so without administrative procedure and will violate due process,” Latthivongskorn said. “All those goals and aspirations that I have and for the communities I work with will not be realized with this decision.”

School of Public Health Dean Michelle A. Williams also released a statement on Monday urging Congress to create a "permanent legislative solution" for DACA and voicing her support for Latthivongskorn.

"We stand behind Mr. Latthivongskorn without reservation," the statement read. "As a dedicated student of medicine and public health, Mr. Latthivongskorn offers an outstanding example of the value that immigrants—both documented and undocumented—provide to communities across this nation."

According to the complaint, Latthivongskorn said he was robbed at gunpoint while an undergraduate at UC-Berkeley, but did not report the crime out of fear of deportation. Before DACA was announced, he was initially turned down from several medical schools because “no medical school would invest their resources in training someone who might not be able to stay in the United States,” the complaint reads.

The lawsuit’s other plaintiffs include two middle school teachers who work with at-risk youth, a formerly homeless attorney, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology, and a law student. Harvard Law professor Laurence H. Tribe ’62 is on the legal team providing the Dreamers pro bono counsel.

Since the inception of the policy in 2012, DACA has granted renewable, temporary work permits to over 850,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. On September 5, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal administration will end the program in six months.

The decision prompted widespread condemnation from Harvard students, faculty, and administrators. Shortly after Sessions’ announcement, University President Drew G. Faust wrote an email to Harvard affiliates that “this cruel policy recognizes neither justice nor mercy.”

Later that day, hundreds of Harvard affiliates and Cambridge residents gathered at Memorial Church in protest of the proposed end to DACA. Two days later, 31 professors from Harvard and other Boston-area universities were arrested for blocking traffic on Mass Ave. in protest of the federal government’s decision.

—Staff writer William L. Wang can be reached at william.wang@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @wlwang20

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