Janet Napolitano is the president of the UC school system -- and was the homeland security secretary in 2012 who established the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that has protected nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from deportation and gave them the ability to work and study in the US.
Now, the university and its president are joining the legal battle to try to save that very program, arguing that President Donald Trump's decision Tuesday to end it failed to follow procedures mandated by law and violated constitutional due process rights.
"Dreamers face expulsion from the only country that they call home based on nothing more than unreasoned executive whim," the lawsuit argues. "It is hard to imagine a decision less reasoned, more damaging, or undertaken with less care."
Napolitano foreshadowed the move earlier this week, when the Trump administration announced it would stop allowing new applications to DACA and allow a six-month window for renewals before letting permits expire beginning March 6, 2018.
The former secretary sent an email
, obtained by CNN, to former colleagues at DHS that expressed her dismay at the end of DACA and encouraged others to join the effort to save it.
The UC lawsuit
joins at least two others already filed since Trump announced his decision on Tuesday. Sixteen democratic state attorneys general sued
on Wednesday, and an undocumented immigrant filed another lawsuit
All of the suits base some arguments on a federal law that requires specific procedures for making regulations, saying those weren't followed. Legal scholars believe those arguments are an uphill climb, but could be viable in court.
UC also focuses on the fact that the administration pinned its decision on an anticipation that DACA could be overturned in court, responding to an ultimatum from 10 conservative state attorneys general that threatened legal action if the administration did not act.
Attorneys for UC argue that that justification is not enough of a "reasonable explanation" for ending the program. The university also cites its own due process rights, in addition to those of the recipients, that it says were violated by removing a program that is already in effect.
There are approximately 4,000 undocumented students in the UC system, the university said, many of whom are protected under DACA, in addition to teachers, researchers and health care providers protected under the program. California has the most DACA recipients of any state.
"To arbitrarily and capriciously end the DACA program, which benefits our country as a whole, is not only unlawful, it is contrary to our national values and bad policy," Napolitano said in a statement.
The Department of Justice on Friday said it stands ready to defend the government's action.
"As the attorney general said on Tuesday: 'No greater good can be done for the overall health and well-being of our Republic, than preserving and strengthening the impartial rule of law,'" DOJ spokesman Devin O'Malley said. "While the plaintiffs in today's lawsuit may believe that an arbitrary circumvention of Congress is lawful, the Department of Justice looks forward to defending this administration's position."