Law & the Courts

Texas Attorney General Sues to Halt the DACA Program

Texas AG Ken Paxton (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and six fellow attorneys general complicated the existing legal entanglements surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program Tuesday by following through on a previous threat to challenge the Obama-era immigration directive in court.

The lawsuit — filed by Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia — alleges president Barack Obama exceeded his constitutional authority in unilaterally creating the DACA program, which provides temporary legal status to immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. The plaintiffs are demanding that the federal government rescind the roughly 800,000 existing DACA permits and block all new requests.

“Our lawsuit is about the rule of law, not the wisdom of any particular immigration policy,” Texas Attorney Gen. Ken Paxton said in a statement. “Texas has argued for years that the federal executive branch lacks the power to unilaterally grant unlawfully present aliens lawful presence and work authorization.”

“Left intact, DACA sets a dangerous precedent by giving the executive branch sweeping authority to ignore the laws enacted by Congress and change our nation’s immigration laws to suit a president’s own policy preferences,” he added.

Paxton, and what was originally a group of nine other state attorneys general, initially threatened to sue the Department of Justice in August if they did not discontinue DACA but relented when the administration announced they would roll back the program in September.

Paxton made good on that initial threat after a federal judge last week ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reopen DACA applications for new applicants, pending a 90 day period for an appeal. The decision — handed down by a circuit court judge in Washington, D.C. — surpassed three previous rulings blocking the DACA rollback, all of which held that DHS must continue renewing the two year applications typically granted to recipients.

Trump advocated for a legislative solution to the uncertainty he thrust upon DACA recipients when announcing the rollback of the program in September, but one has not yet materialized. Absent that firmly constitutional solution, the suit brought by Paxton and his partners may likely force the issue to the Supreme Court, bringing an end to the three ongoing legal challenges currently making their way through lower courts.

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