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Houston Matters

Litigation That Could End DACA Will Unfold in Houston Court

Federal Judge Andrew Hanen will hold a hearing Wednesday regarding the Texas-led lawsuit that aims to terminate the Obama era program

Andrew Harnik/AP
This file photo from January 23, 2018, shows immigration advocates holding a pro-DACA rally in Washington, D.C.


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An important development in the litigation around the DACA program is scheduled to happen this Wednesday in Houston.

Federal Judge Andrew Hanen will hold a hearing on a lawsuit led by the state of Texas to end the program. DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, was established in 2012 during the Obama administration and shields from deportation undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States being minors.

The program also allows its beneficiaries to work legally under renewable permits. Currently, there are approximately 700,000 DACA recipients in the U.S.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the lawsuit back in May with the goal of having DACA declared as unlawful and, therefore, stopping the federal government from issuing or renewing any more permits.

Texas' argument

As noted in a news release Paxton's office sent out when the litigation started, the lawsuit argues that “the federal executive branch lacks the power to unilaterally grant unlawfully present aliens lawful presence and work authorization.”

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is representing 22 DACA recipients in the lawsuit that will unfold in Judge Hanen's court.

Photo: Elizabeth Trovall/Houston Public Media
Nina Perales is vice president of Litigation for MALDEF, which is representing 22 DACA recipients in the litigation initiated by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton back in May.

In an interview with Houston Public Media's Elizabeth Trovall, Nina Perales, MALDEF's vice president of Litigation, explained they will ask Judge Hanen “not to block DACA, but to allow it to continue as it is required to be continued by other court orders around the country.”

That's because there are other court orders requiring the Trump administration to keep processing DACA renewal applications.

At the same time, Perales noted that “DACA is not a permanent solution,” but rather “a bridge towards something else and it’s really important that Congress figure out what that next step is for this group of young people.”

Potential Supreme Court review

Regardless of potential Congressional action, the fact there are several fronts open in the litigation makes some experts think it could eventually move to higher courts and even to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That's the opinion of Rosemary Vega, a lecturer at the Immigration Clinic of the University of Houston's Law Center who spoke with Houston Matters.

Meanwhile, the Texas-led lawsuit is causing concern among DACA recipients from Houston, such as Indira Robles.

In an interview with Houston Matters, she said she is worried that the litigation and a potential ruling ending the program could prevent her from renewing her status as a DACA recipient.

Robles will soon start college and underscores that “on top of all the worries that anyone would have, having to worry about this is pretty heavy.”

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