Federal Judge Rules DACA is illegal

Norma Gonzales, United We Dream Texas, lead organizer speaking at rally in Houston, July 19.

In a slap in the face to hundreds of thousands of immigrants, a federal judge in Houston ruled July 16 that President Barack Obama had no authority to establish the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This ruling bars the government from approving any new applications.

Judge Andrew Hanen, appointed by George W. Bush in 2002, ruled in favor of Texas and eight other conservative states that sued to halt DACA, which currently provides limited protections to about 650,000 Dreamers (DACA participants). Fortunately, those Dreamers will not be affected but will have to continue to annually renew their status.

The ruling is Hanen’s final judgement on a 2018 lawsuit filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and eight other states’ officials against the federal argument. The complaint argues that Texas and the other states face irreparable harm because they bear extra costs from providing health care, education and law enforcement protection to DACA recipients.

Following the cruel and vindictive ruling from Judge Hanen, the response of United We Dream, the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country, was swift.

“The moment we are in is urgent. This court ruling on DACA, the continued detention, deportation and expulsion of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, mostly Black immigrants, should be a blaring siren to Democrats to act or face the political consequences. We need bold and transformative leadership,” stated Greisa Martinez Rosas, Executive Director of United We Dream Action.

“While we have always known that DACA is right, Judge Hanen’s decision to side with Republicans, who have been hell-bent on deporting immigrants, is a reminder that DACA has never been enough. Only citizenship can protect immigrant youth, TPS [Temporary Protected Status] holders, farm workers and other essential workers from the looming threat of deportation,” Martinez Rojas continued.

At a hearing last December, a group of DACA recipients represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office asked Hanen to dismiss the lawsuit. They argued Obama had the authority to institute DACA.

Nina Perales, a lawyer for MALDEF, told Hanen that the states lack standing to sue, because they weren’t harmed by DACA, as benefits such as work authorization for recipients were not given by DACA but authorized under other programs and regulations that had previously been created.

MALDEF President and General Counsel Thomas A. Saenz reacted to the July 16 ruling: “This case should never have been filed and should never have progressed beyond its filing. Current DACA recipients remain fully protected, but the decision threatens hundreds of thousands of others, who should also be protected as they continue to contribute to the betterment of our nation.” (tinyurl.com/3pktbf4d)

MALDEF explained that this decision all but ensures the matter will be settled either by the U.S. Supreme Court or Congress. The issue of DACA is not resolved.

RAICES, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, responded immediately to the ruling: “Today’s decision by Federal District Court Judge Andrew Hanen to permanently enjoin the DACA program for undocumented youth is regressive, abhorrent and utterly despicable. RAICES supports thousands of DACA recipients and helps hundreds of undocumented youth file new applications in Texas every year. Many of our staff members are DACA recipients. This decision will spread fear and confusion throughout our workforce and our community, a community that has already been devastated by the impact of COVID-19, xenophobia and the decision-making paralysis in Congress.” (tinyurl.com/82snjz7u)

United We Dream Texas rally in Houston

In Houston, United We Dream Texas held a July 19 demonstration outside of the federal courthouse where Judge Hanen’s courtroom is housed. “Enough is enough,” Houston resident and DACA participant Susie Lujano said at the protest. She said she was “heartbroken” by the decision. “I was brought here when I was two and love my home.” 

Speaking through tears, Lujano explained that she is pregnant, and both she and her fiancé are Dreamers. “We are scared and do not want to go back to living in fear and worrying that we could be separated from our children.”

Another Dreamer militantly told the media, “Let me remind Judge Hanen and the rest of the Republican Party that it was DACA recipients who were and are still fighting on the front line trying to save lives during this horrible pandemic. We are essential to this country,” Demaris Gonzalez said. She is an immigrant rights activist with the Texas Organizing Project.

Representatives with the Workers Defense Project and F.I.R.E. (Fight for Im/migrants and Refugees Everywhere), participated in solidarity with United We Dream. Both Spanish and English-language news media covered the protest extensively.

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