Professor Wadhia co-authors letter to Trump on the legality of DACA

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On the eve of the fifth anniversary of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), more than 100 law professors have signed on to a letter to President Donald Trump co-authored by Penn State Law professor Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia that explains the legal foundation for DACA and its implementation by the executive branch.

The letter, which Wadhia penned in collaboration with Michael A. Olivas, William B. Bates Distinguished Professor in Law at the University of Houston Law Center, and Jill E. Family, Commonwealth Professor of Law and Government at Widener University Commonwealth Law School, was published today (Aug. 14) as a public statement to the president, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke.

DACA is a form of prosecutorial discretion that provides individuals who arrived in the United States as a minor, are currently in school or have graduated, and are otherwise low priorities for immigration enforcement to receive a temporary form of protection known as deferred action. The policy was announced by President Barack Obama in June 2012, and the Department of Homeland Security began accepting applications on Aug. 15, 2012.

Wadhia’s letter explains the constitutional, statutory and regulatory legal authority for DACA and provides a history of prosecutorial discretion as a whole.

“Prosecutorial discretion exists because the government has limited resources and lacks the ability to enforce the law against the entire undocumented population,” the authors write. “Recognizing this resource limitation, Congress has charged the Secretary of DHS with ‘establishing national immigration enforcement policies and priorities.’”

With the legality of DACA settled, the professors argue that any decision by the president to alter or end the program would not be based on the law.

“As the administration decides how best to address DACA 2012, we hope that the legal foundation and history for this policy is addressed wisely and that decisions on the future of DACA 2012 are made humanely,” they conclude.

Wadhia is the Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar, clinical professor of law, and director of the Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic at Penn State Law. She is an expert on immigration law and is one of the nation’s leading scholars on the role of prosecutorial discretion in immigration law. Much of her work in this area serves as a foundation for scholars, advocates and government officials seeking to understand or design policy in prosecutorial discretion. Her book, "Beyond Deportation: The Role of Prosecutorial Discretion in Immigration Cases," was published by New York University Press, and is the first on the subject. It was released in paperback in 2017.

Last Updated August 14, 2017