Federal Appeals Court Hears Arguments on Challenge to DACA

A federal judge in Texas last year declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program illegal

Los activistas escuchan durante una conferencia de prensa que marca el décimo aniversario de la aprobación de la Acción Diferida para los Llegados en la Infancia (DACA), en Capitol Hill el miércoles 15 de junio de 2022 en Washington, DC.
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Immigrant advocates head to a federal appeals court in New Orleans on Wednesday in hopes of saving an Obama-era program that prevents the deportation of thousands of people brought into the U.S. as children.

A federal judge in Texas last year declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program illegal — although he agreed to leave the program intact for those already benefitting from it while his order is appealed.

Dozens of DACA proponents carried signs, beat drums and chanted in support of beneficiaries of the program prior to Wednesday's hearing at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where judges heard arguments over whether the Texas judge's ruling should be reversed or altered.

The U.S. Justice Department is defending the program, allied with the state of New Jersey, advocacy organizations such as the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and a coalition of dozens of powerful corporations — including Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft — which argue that DACA recipients are “employees, consumers and job creators.”

On June 15, 2012, the Obama Department of Homeland Security announced DACA, a policy stating the U.S. would no longer deport some undocumented young people who arrived here as children, and allow them to get two-year work permits. But DACA allows no path to permanent status like citizenship, and immigration activists like Jose Munoz from United We Dream are urging Congress to work on a "long overdue" solution.

Texas, the lead plaintiff with eight other Republican-leaning states, argues that DACA was enacted without going through proper legal and administrative procedures, including public notice and comment periods. Additionally, the states argue that they are harmed financially by allowing immigrants to remain in the country illegally.

“DACA imposes classic pocketbook injuries on the States through social services, healthcare, and education costs,” Texas attorneys argued in a brief, estimating that the state spends tens of millions of dollars on Medicaid services on those in the country illegally.

DACA proponents argue the state hasn't proven that ending the program would decrease its costs. They argue that DACA is a policy that falls within federal authorities' power to decide how best to spend finite enforcement resources and that Texas diminished its claims of financial injury by waiting six years to challenge the program. They also argue the state ignores evidence that DACA recipients decrease Texas' costs because many of them hold jobs with health insurance benefits and many own homes and pay property taxes that support schools.

“Texas and the other states cannot point to an injury that is traceable to DACA,” MALDEF attorney Nina Perales said in a news conference last week. “Without injury, there's no jurisdiction for the federal courts to hear this case.”

The damage to DACA recipients would be grave, immigrant advocates argued in one brief, exposing them to removal from the only country many of them have known and disrupting the lives of established families.

“Collectively, they are parents of over a quarter-million U.S. citizens, and 70% of DACA recipients have an immediate family member who is a U.S. citizen,” advocates stated in one brief.

DACA has faced numerous court challenges since then-President Barack Obama created it by executive order in 2012. Former President Donald Trump moved to end the program. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision determined that he had not done it properly, bringing it back to life and allowing for new applications. That was followed by the Texas-led lawsuit.

Assigned to hear arguments at the 5th Circuit were Chief Judge Priscilla Richman, an appointee of President George W. Bush; and two Trump appointees, judges James Ho and Kurt Engelhardt.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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