As courts hear arguments for and against DACA, the program hangs in the balance


On August 17, U.S. District Judge John Bates ruled that the Trump administration could not stop current DACA holders from renewing their status while the fate of the program continues to be adjudicated, but that the government is under no obligation to accept initial DACA applications or grant advance parole. The Washington D.C. judge’s decision follows similar rulings in California and New York federal courts, forestalling the termination of DACA at least while the cases are appealed by the hostile Trump administration. All three courts found the administration’s reasons for terminating the program were “inadequate.”

A fourth lawsuit, brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton along with six other states, is set to be argued in federal court in front of U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, a potentially sympathetic ear who previously blocked Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) from being implemented in 2014. The suit claims that DACA is unconstitutional, as it “rewrote federal law over the objections of Congress,” and exemplifies “a dangerous view of executive power.”

Paxton’s opponents in the lawsuit, such as the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, argue that DACA has on balance benefited the states in question, and that the program causes no “great harm or identifiable injury” to the plaintiff states. They also question why it took the states six years to file the lawsuit. In other words, if DACA is causing no harm urgent enough to act on for six years, what claim do the states really have against it? Nevertheless, this case may have severe consequences for DACA. If these states win their lawsuit, in seeming contradiction to the other three courts, it could very well mean the fate of DACA would soon be decided by the Supreme Court.

Because of this uncertainty, DACA advocates across the board are encouraging those who have not renewed their DACA recently to do so as soon as possible. The Center for American Progress has found that renewal rates are slowing, and over 64,000 individuals whose DACA will expire by end of 2018 still haven’t submitted renewals. Fear and uncertainty about DACA, which appears to be the goal of the Trump administration and Ken Paxton, unfortunately seem to be the cause.

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