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Need to Know: Texas Attorney General Leads Seven-State Lawsuit to End DACA

As the fate of nearly one million American residents hangs in the balance of the federal court system, anti-immigration state attorneys are adding yet another wrench into the debate.

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Photo via Molly Adams

A new lawsuit filed against the federal government by attorneys general from seven U.S. states will attempt to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by judge’s ruling, adding another arm of instigation against the Obama-era immigration policy to President Trump’s controversial decision to end DACA protections last fall.

According to the New York Times, the federal suit is being lead by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and is supported by Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia. In court documents filed Tuesday, Paxton and his fellow prosecutors argue that the safety net for children brought to America without proper paperwork was implemented illegally by President Obama in 2012, and should therefore be overturned immediately.

“The executive unilaterally conferred lawful presence and work authorization on otherwise unlawfully present aliens, and then the executive used that lawful-presence ‘dispensation’ to unilaterally confer United States citizenship,” the lawsuit reads.

Introduced towards the end of Obama’s first term, DACA has offered some 800,000 American residents a path to citizenship, with most recipients — commonly referred to as “Dreamers” — arriving in the U.S. as young children, knowing no home outside of the States.

And while Donald Trump repeatedly promised to leave DACA alone during the early months of his presidency, Trump reneged on his pledge and signed an executive order to end DACA in September 2017.

Since then, Trump’s order has been denied or delayed by three federal courts, all of which concluded that the Trump administration’s arguments for ending the program aren’t strong enough. Just last week, a federal judge in Washington D.C. ruled that the government must come up with more sound reasoning or instruct the Department of Homeland to once again begin accepting DACA applications. Concurrently, open cases in San Francisco and Brooklyn courts are still sorting out separate challenges to Trump’s executive order.

For Paxton though, who threatened this very lawsuit if Trump didn’t end the DACA program, the lower court rulings were the straw that broke the camel’s back, leading directly to the newly filed lawsuit.

“Three activist federal judges have blocked the federal government from canceling DACA,” Attorney General Paxton said at a news conference Tuesday. “That means that unelected federal judges are forcing the Trump administration to leave an unlawful program in place indefinitely as legal challenges drag on.”

On Tuesday, the new lawsuit against DACA was presented to the Southern District of Texas and Judge Andrew Hanen, who ruled against a DACA expansion proposal in 2014. With a sympathetic judge on their side, it’s entirely possible that Texas and the six other states could be successful in their initial challenge.

But with three other federal courts affirming the program’s legality, political pundits and immigration experts are already predicting that conflicting rulings could see the DACA debate finally sent to the Supreme Court, where the country’s judicial heavyweights would once and for all rule on the future of nearly one million American residents.

“The first three courts have ruled in favor of DACA recipients," Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell Law School professor and attorney, told CNN. "If this lawsuit goes the other way, the Supreme Court may have to decide the issue."