WATSONVILLE, Calif. - It’s a waiting game for thousands of DREAMers as the fate of the DACA program could now be in the hands of a federal judge in Texas.
There are several lawsuits involving DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Most involve challenging the Trump Administration’s plan to end the program, this one is basically doing the opposite.
President Barack Obama created DACA while still in office, allowing undocumented children who grew up in the United States to stay without fear of deportation. But now, Texas is spearheading an effort with six other states to end the program, calling it unconstitutional.
"This judge is going to decide on the lawfulness of the entire Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program because the position of these seven states that are submitting the petition to the court is that the administration of President Obama exceeded its power in creating this program without first submitting it as a bill to Congress," said immigration attorney Ariadna Rentería Torres.
The case, Texas v. Nielsen, was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on Wednesday. No one from the federal government showed up to defend the government program, rather it was pro-immigration advocates.
“Today we had an opportunity to present our arguments to Judge Hanen who is going to take these arguments under advisement,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Medical American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). “He did not issue a ruling today on the plaintiff's request to enjoin or to temporarily halt DACA. So the situation as we have it is that the judge is going to consider the arguments. He is going to issue a ruling in the future.”
Three federal judges have already ordered DACA to remain in place, but if Judge Andrew Hanen rules in favor of Texas, it could push the case to the high court.
"When there are differing opinions among federal courts, it is the role of the Supreme Court to bring about uniformity," Rentería Torres said.
Judge Hanen has a history of being critical of the program, blocking an expansion of DACA and the creation of a similar program for immigrant parents – DAPA.
For now though, DACA recipients like Rosa Sanchez, whose DACA expires in April, will just have to wait.
"This past year we've been in limbo, all DACA recipients,” Sanchez said. “Like DACA has been suspended, reinstated, so it's anxious for all these DACA recipients and myself."
According to those in court, Judge Hanen requested additional briefs by Monday. He is apparently holding off on ruling on the constitutionality for now, but would consider the request to immediately stop the program.