"These young people are, in every sense but one, as American as those whose relatives arrived in this country on the Mayflower."
Those words belong to former Arizona governor and secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano who penned an op-ed in defense of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for NBC News.
Napolitano served as Homeland Security secretary in the Obama administration and helped implement the DACA program.
The program protects about 800,000 people brought to the United States illegally as children -- many of which are now college-age students.
Now, as president of the University of California, Napolitano wrote here faith in DACA has only grown stronger.
"I know who these Dreamers are and who they want to become," Napolitano wrote. "Losing them would represent a massive loss for our country — and the huge costs of a deportation process."
In her op-ed piece, Napolitano told the stories of several DACA recipients including Lizbeth Nuñez, who just weeks before starting classes at UC Berkeley, Napolitano wrote, was picking grapes with her mother in Bakersfield.
They are students such as Lizbeth Nuñez, who was born in Sinaloa, Mexico and arrived in California strapped to the back of her mother, who came to work the fields of the state’s agriculturally rich Central Valley. Now Nuñez studies molecular and cell biology with an emphasis in neurobiology at UC Berkeley. She hopes to become a psychopathologist — a brain scientist who studies the physical and physiological causes of mental illness.
In announcing plans to end DACA, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the Obama administration's decision to implement such a program was an "unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch."
Napolitano, in turn, said the Trump's administration's plan to end it was "illegal, unconstitutional, and anathema to our national ethos." It also "defies common sense," she said.
"The Department of Homeland Security’s reasoning for rescinding DACA is based solely on the alleged illegality of a separate program that was never implemented," she wrote. "This is unreasoned and this is wrong."
She said the administration's actions "clearly violated" the due process rights of students and employees at the university.
It's why she and the University of California filed suit against the administration in September.
"On behalf of the university and our DACA students, we have asked the court to overturn the rescission of this program I helped create," she wrote.
Napolitano said the university would present its case against the Department of Homeland Security in November.
She said until Congress can pass immigration reform that provides a clear path to citizenship, "we must fight this shortsighted and unlawful move."
"I believed in the importance of DACA five years ago," she said, "and I will fight for it now."
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