Supreme Court begins hearing arguments on DACA program

by | Nov 12, 2019 | Immigration/Border, Policy

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments over President Trump’s attempt to end DACA, an Obama-era program that allows undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to stay in the country. 

Texas is home to at least 100,000 people who depend on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which requires recipients to re-apply every two years. These young immigrants, known as Dreamers, are nurses, doctors, teachers, and service members. 

With a decision by the Supreme Court expected next June months before the presidential election, it could spell turmoil for those who depend on the program and may even put them at risk for deportation.

What the Justices will hear

The litigation set to be argued at the Supreme Court is over whether the way Trump went about ending DACA more than two years ago was constitutionally legal. 

In 2017, Trump ordered the Justice Department to end the program, sparking lawsuits in courts around the country. Federal courts eventually ruled against Trump’s order to end DACA, including a federal appeals court that argued the Trump administration had acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” way that failed to “adequately account” for how ending the DACA program would affect its more than 600,000 recipients nationwide.

Immigrant rights groups fear a decision by the conservative-led Supreme Court could change the deportation status of those recipients, about a sixth of whom live in Texas. 

Sheridan Aguirre, a spokesperson with United We Dream, a nonprofit youth immigrant advocacy group, said the eventual Supreme Court decision could result in the program being terminated immediately or being slowly phased out.

“Regardless of whatever the decision is, as young immigrants, our focus going into this next year is going to be to communicate to all of our elected officials, school administrators, and even the presidential candidates, that this is our home,” Aguirre told the Signal, promising United We Dream would ramp up their involvement in electoral politics in key states, like Texas, in 2020.

“DREAMers and immigrant youth are teachers, students, doctors, members of the military, our neighbors, fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers,” said Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa in a statement. “They belong in the country they love and the only country they’ve ever truly known. Everybody deserves to live without fear and nobody should live in the shadows.”

A perfectly good bill

As the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments over Trump’s decision to end DACA, a perfectly good bill passed by House Democrats earlier this year is languishing in the Republican-controlled Senate. 

The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 aims to add 2.5 million immigrants– including Dreamers– into Temporary Protected Status and on a pathway to citizenship. 

In Texas, 380,000 immigrants would be eligible for protection under the bill, with the majority living in Harris and Dallas County. “It came as no surprise that the Republican-controlled Senate is obstructing this bill from moving forward despite the fact that the vast majority of the country– 85 percent– supports undocumented youth having a pathway to citizenship,” Aguirre said.

Despite right-wing rhetoric that suggests otherwise, a survey by the Center for American Progress found that an overwhelming majority (91 percent) of Dreamers are employed, with more than 100,000 DACA recipients working in Texas and contributing roughly $6.2 billion annually to the state’s economy. 

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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