HOUSTON (CN) — Having already declared an Obama-era policy that shields around 600,000 immigrants from deportation illegal, a federal judge indicated in a hearing Thursday he will also rule against a new version rolled out by President Joe Biden.
More than 580,000 undocumented immigrants from dozens of countries are enrolled in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which grants them work permits and protection from deportation for two-year renewable periods.
They range in age from their late teens to early 40s and have deep roots in the U.S., as many were brought to the country as children with their parents or became undocumented with their families when their visas expired. And now they have started families of their own. There are around 250,000 U.S.-born children of DACA recipients – kids who are U.S. citizens because they were born on American soil.
Texas is leading a challenge filed against the federal government in 2018 by nine red states who say DACA flouts the Immigration and Nationality Act by allowing people to stay in the country who should be removed.
The Lone Star State claims a new version of DACA enacted by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last October, after President Biden tasked him with fortifying the policy, is “substantively identical” to the original regime.
Attorneys for the state Thursday urged U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who in July 2021 declared DACA unlawful and barred DHS from approving any new applications, to issue a judgment that winds down the program and blocks the government from renewing any applications two years from the date of the judgment.
But Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which represents 22 DACA recipients who intervened in the case to try to save the program, urged Hanen to keep it going based on the “significant reliance interests” of those who have come to depend on it.
She said many are still students and others are in the early stages of their careers in various fields including nursing, teaching, technology and the legal profession.
New Jersey has also intervened to defend DACA.
Mayur Saxena, a New Jersey assistant attorney general, echoed Perales’ statements about reliance. He said if Hanen grants Texas’ proposal, it would start a two-year “ticking clock untethered to what is happening” in DACA recipients’ lives.
If they are in school, graduation could take two to four years, Saxena noted. The countdown could also short-circuit their military service or prevent them from completing medical treatments essential to their health, he said.
President Barack Obama started the program in 2012 as a workaround of Congress’ failure to pass legislation overhauling the nation’s immigration laws.
It speaks to an underlying predicament: While an estimated 11 to 22 million people are living in the country without papers, the government lacks the resources to detain and deport all of them.
At bottom, the case centers on the age-old nativist grievance that undocumented immigrants take jobs that could go to U.S. citizens and residents. And Texas claims it is very costly.
Attempting to establish standing, Ryan Walters of the Texas Attorney General’s Office told Hanen the roughly 100,000 DACA recipients living in the state cost it $250 million per year in education, medical and social services costs.
“Do I even need to address standing?” Hanen asked Walters early in the three-hour hearing on dueling summary judgment motions before a packed gallery at the Houston federal courthouse.
The George W. Bush appointee observed he already found Texas had established standing based on its alleged economic harm in the July 2021 order in which he declared DACA unlawful. And a panel of the Fifth Circuit, known as the nation’s most conservative federal appellate court, agreed with him three months later.