Texas and nine other states are on a collision course with President Donald Trump over a de facto amnesty program for illegal immigrants who were brought to America as children.
Trump promised to eliminate the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which former President Barack Obama created in 2012. But Trump reversed course after taking office.
Now Texas is taking matters into its own hands, threatening to sue unless the administration kills the program by Sept. 5. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton noted in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that a federal judge blocked Obama from expanding DACA to a larger group of people and blocked implementation of a different program known as Deferred Action for the Parents of Americans (DAPA).
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“For these same reasons that DAPA and Expanded DACA’s unilateral Executive Branch conferral of eligibility for lawful presence and work authorization was unlawful, the original June 15, 2012, DACA memorandum is also unlawful,” the letter states. “The original 2012 DACA program covers over one million otherwise unlawfully present aliens.”
The attorneys general of nine states — Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia — signed on to the letter.
Under DACA, qualifying applicants are protected from deportation unless they commit crimes, and they receive permits allowing them to work legally in the United States.
The federal judge, in a decision upheld by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled that Obama likely exceeded his authority to create a similar scheme under DAPA and put the program on ice while litigants battle in court. Trump this month formally rescinded DAPA.
But he left DACA in place. From January through March, the government renewed the permits of 107,524 recipients and issued 17,311 new permits.
A group of federal immigration agents had initially tried to block DACA, but a judge dismissed the suit on procedural grounds. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor expressed agreement with the agents’ argument but ruled that they had not exhausted remedies under collective bargaining laws.
Legal experts have argued that a state — at least one in the jurisdiction of the 5th Circuit, such as Texas — would be on firm ground to challenge DACA now, given the DAPA precedent.
“We don’t think the DACA program is lawful,” said Christopher Hajec, director of litigation at the Immigration Reform Law Institute.
Hajec declined further comment.
Trump’s reversal on DACA prompted the Americans for Legal Immigration political action committee to retroactively rescind its 2016 endorsement. The group’s president, William Gheen, praised the move by Texas.
“DACA makes a mockery of our elections and our laws,” he said. “There is no doubt DACA is unconstitutional according to the most basic understanding of the U.S. Constitution.”