On Tuesday, the future of DACA will once again be up in the air thanks to the efforts of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
Oral arguments in Texas v. United States will be heard by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas. Paxton is leading a multi-state challenge to DACA. Several Latino civil rights organizations, including MALDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund), will argue on behalf of DACA.
The hearing is just the latest legal drama surrounding the Obama-era program known as the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). In 2012, the Obama administration announced the program, which would permit young immigrants brought to the United States as children to remain temporarily in the U.S. with two-year work visas.
In June 2017, Paxton, along with several other state attorneys general, threatened to file an amended lawsuit against the already-terminated DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) if the Trump administration did not also end DACA. In September 2017, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that DACA was rescinded. The announcement from Sessions spawned a flurry of lawsuits, with several injunctions keeping DACA legal.
In May 2018, Texas led a seven-state lawsuit against DACA. Ultimately, Texas v. United States was stayed in the Southern District of Texas, as the Supreme Court took up the case in its last session.
The Supreme Court, in June 2020, decided in a 5-4 ruling that the Trump administration’s reasoning for terminating DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act. That ruling kept in place legal protections for more than 650,000 young immigrants.
After acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf instructed the agency to limit DACA renewals and reject new applications, a federal judge ruled that Wolf did not have the authority to pursue such an action, since he is improperly serving as an acting secretary. That federal judge also ordered the Trump administration to begin processing new DACA renewals and applications, which they have been doing since December.
A ruling from Hanen could impact DACA less than a month before President-elect Biden takes office. Biden has pledged to protect DACA, and called the Trump administration’s efforts to terminate the program “cruel and counterproductive.”
In a comment to Texas Signal, Thomas Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF, specifically called out Paxton’s role in trying to end DACA. “This litigation should never have been commenced. The state of Texas has benefitted enormously from the DACA initiative and the provision of work authorization to so many young Texans, who are bettering the state every day through their vision and their labors. Paxton is more interested in making a dubious political statement than in vindicating the law or protecting the state that elected him.”
This has been a busy year legally for Paxton. In addition to spearheading the efforts to end DACA, he also led a multi-state lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act (though several justices appeared skeptical).
Paxton is also allegedly being investigated by the FBI for abuse of office and bribery over his connections to a wealthy donor. Paxton is currently facing a lawsuit from several whistleblowers who witnessed his alleged abuse of office and bribery.Perhaps looking for a presidential pardon, Paxton, a co-chair of Lawyers for Trump, also filed a questionable challenge in the Supreme Court against the election results from four swing states. That case was summarily thrown out. Five years ago, Paxton was indicted by a state grand jury on felony securities fraud, but that cannot be pardoned by a president.