Colorado announced Wednesday that it plans to join more than a dozen other states in a lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects young immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from deportation.
“President Trump's decision to end the DACA program is outrageous and risks the futures of more than 17,000 Coloradans," Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a written statement. "Colorado benefits when (DACA recipients) have the opportunity to thrive in our communities and the only country they've ever known. These young people should not have to suffer because of our broken immigration system."
Hickenlooper added that while the legal action is "no substitute for the sort of comprehensive immigration reform that can only come from Congress, it sends a necessary message that the rule of law and basic notions of fairness still matter in this country."
The Democrat also urged Congress to pass legislation to protect DACA.
New York, Washington, and Massachusetts are leading the lawsuit.
Colorado is joining the lawsuit even though state Attorney General Cynthia Coffman's office declined to represent the state on the case, according to Jacque Montgomery, a spokeswoman for the governor. A special attorney general will represent Colorado in the legal action, she said.
Coffman, a Republican, last week suggested she wouldn't join the other state attorneys general in suing to block Trump from dismantling DACA, saying the immigration debate “belongs in Congress."
The governor's office announced the decision to join the lawsuit, and a spokeswoman for Coffman did not immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday.
In the past, Hickenlooper has publicly bucked Coffman on other politically charged legal disputes, interceding in a lawsuit over federal methane regulations in July when Coffman declined to take the case.
Conversely, Hickenlooper lambasted the attorney general in 2015 over her decision to join other Republican attorneys general in suing the Environmental Protection Agency to block implementation of the Clean Power Plan. He went as far as to seek the Supreme Court's opinion on the legality of her joining a lawsuit against his wishes.
“This notion of everyone suing all the time every time you disagree with a specific remedy, a specific statute, is part of what makes people so frustrated with government,” Hickenlooper said at the time during a meeting with The Denver Post editorial board.
Coffman is considering a run for Colorado governor in 2018, and Hickenlooper has been mentioned as a potential 2020 presidential bid.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced last week that the Trump administration would be ending DACA, a policy directive formed in 2012 by former President Barack Obama. Some 800,000 young immigrants living in the nation unlawfully and brought to the U.S. as children have protections under the program.
Both Democrats and Republicans have criticized Trump for his decision to unwind the program, including many of Colorado's top politicians.
Legislative protections for DACA are being floated by Congress.