Texas threatens to sue Trump Administration for program protecting undocumented immigrants
EL PASO, Texas —
Texas is once again leading the charge to end a program that defers deportation for some undocumented immigrants.
In June, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and officials from nine other states sent a letter to the Trump administration asking for it to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.
“We respectfully request that the Secretary of Homeland Security phase out the DACA program,” the letter read.
Paxton sent the letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He gave Sessions until Sept. 5 to rescindthe program or face a lawsuit.
DACA allows undocumented immigrants who were under the age of 16 when they were brought to the U.S. by their parents to legally work and study here.
“About 800,000 people have signed up for the program. They have to apply through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to get those benefits,” said Randy Capps, the director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute.
In El Paso County, nearly 9,000 people are eligible for the program. Across the country, that number is closer to 1.9 million.
There are certain requirements, however. The immigrant had to have arrived in the U.S. before 2007, be in school or have graduated from college and have a clean record, among other things.
“It's enable them to earn more money for their families and be able to get a mortgage or buy a car. Also, get a driver’s license to be able to get around some states so it's really had a lot of benefits,” Capps said.
Paxton argued that there is no legal authority for this type of deferred deportation program because it was not approved by Congress.
The letter stopped short, however, of asking the Trump administration to take away the permits of undocumented people who are already enrolled in the program.
“This request does not require the Executive Branch to immediately rescind DACA or Expanded DACA permits that have already been issued. This request does not require the Secretary to alter the immigration enforcement priorities contained in his separate February 20, 2017, memorandum. And this request does not require the federal government to remove any alien,” the letter read.
Texas led the charge against another deferred action program in 2014 in a lawsuit against the federal government
“It's possible that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could be viewed similarly,” Capps said.
Capps has been surprised by the Trump administration’s soft stance on the program and its continuation.
“It's been very interesting that the Trump administration and the president himself have continued to support DACA, not just by allowing new applications and allowing it to go forward, but also in principle,” Capps said.
He said, however, that his guess is as good as anyone’s as to whether the program will continue. He said the letter sent by Paxton could force the president’s hand.
“That's going to put more political pressure on them to reconsider their position,” Capps said.
There are a number of universities and others that have also lobbied the president to keep the program.
“If there is an indication that the Trump administration is reconsidering the program, there will be a lot of pushback and there will be a political price, I think, for ending that program,” Capps said.
The DACA program has given people such as Roberto Valadez an opportunity to attend the University of Texas at El Paso and pursue a sociology degree, get a part-time job to pay for school and get a driver’s license.
Valadez was brought to the U.S. 23 years ago from Juarez by his parents when he was just 1 year old. When he found out about the DACA program, he couldn’t believe it.
“I vividly remember seeing it at a Burger King and I read it, like, five or six times because I was in disbelief, I was, like, 'What? Yes!' My family was very excited and very happy for me and because of it I've been able to do a lot of things,” Valadez said.
He’s grateful for all of the opportunities it has provided but nervous about his future.
“You have dreams -- your plans, your visions -- but then you want to pursue them but you don't even know if you're going to be here in a year,” Valadez said. “We're here just trying to have a better life.”
Paxton gave the Trump administration until Sept. 5 to rescind the DACA program or face litigation.