A federal judge in Houston is not a fan of protections for young undocumented immigrants but, for now, has rejected a request from the State of Texas to shut down a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
DACA, created under an executive order issued by former President Barack Obama, shields certain young undocumented immigrants from deportation while they pursue their educations or enter the workforce. Here are the requirements to apply for protections under DACA.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who filed suit to end DACA, points out that Judge Andrew Hanen thinks the program is "likely" unlawful and believes the plaintiff states are irreparably harmed by it. If it was the policy itself – and not the deferral – in court last week, Hanen would probably kill it. Hanen considers DACA a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act; he has already struck down the Deferred Action for Parental Arrivals, or DAPA, program.
Paxton has been accused of venue shopping in this case, by the way, filing it at the same courthouse in South Texas where Judge Hanen previously ruled against DAPA. The suit was filed in South Texas but recent hearings were held in Houston for the convenience of the interested parties.
“We’re now very confident that DACA will soon meet the same fate as the Obama-era Deferred Action for Parents of Americans program, which the courts blocked after I led another state coalition challenging its constitutionality,” Paxton said in a written statement. “President Obama used DACA to rewrite federal law without congressional approval.”
The Texas lawsuit is vital to restoring the rule of law to the nation’s immigration system, Paxton argued. “The debate over DACA as policy is a question for lawmakers, and any solution must come from Congress, as the Constitution requires.”
But Mexican-American Legislative Defense and Education Fund, or MALDEF, President Thomas Saenz said the judge’s decision is not a win for Paxton.
“The Attorney General of Texas is a politician,” Saenz said. “He makes his decisions based on his political impulses, not what the law says.” When asked by reporters about Paxton's comments, Saenz said “What you are quoting is simply the overconfident statements of someone with nothing to back them up."
Saenz said Paxton has on many occasions mischaracterized the state’s lawsuit by denying that the state is interested in taking benefits away from those already receiving protections. Paxton says he is only interested in blocking additional requests for protection under the program.
“That is absolutely false,” Saenz said. “The only potential effect of the injunction the state of Texas sought – and it was denied – would be to prevent renewal by existing recipients.”
Paxton has also argued DACA recipients are an economic burden on the state. Attorneys representing business groups, however, point out that DACA recipients are projected to contribute about $244.7 million in Texas taxes this year alone.
“Granting young immigrants deferred action under DACA brings them out of the shadows and gives them the ability to participate fully in the Texas economy, which benefits Texas, in part, through higher tax revenues,” the Vinson & Elkins lawyers argue.
“Enjoining the DACA initiative would damage the Texas economy by forcing Texas’s Dreamer consumers to the sidelines and reducing the revenues of Texas businesses,” the V&E lawyers argued in a brief filed with the court. “The instability of life as an undocumented immigrant who might be subject to deportation at any time discourages those Texans from spending their money freely."
The spin from Attorney General Paxton aside, there is no doubt that the ruling is a setback for him as well as the Trump Administration despite the president’s claim that DACA recipients should not have to live in fear of deportation.
“They shouldn’t be very worried. I do have a big heart,” Trump said in January of 2017. “We’re going to take care of everybody. We’re going to have a very strong border. We’re gonna have a very solid border. Where you have great people that are here that have done a good job, they should be far less worried. We’ll be coming out with policy on that over the next period of four weeks,” Mr. Trump said.
Make no mistake, the legal challenge to DACA is alive and well so the program is anything but safe. The fight is expected to go all the way to the United States Supreme Court.