Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Thursday that he and a 10-state coalition will sue the federal government over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protections if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security refuses to phase out the program.
DACA, established by President Barack Obama in 2012, protects certain undocumented individuals from deportation and allows them to work in the United States, provided they were younger than 31 in June 2012 and were brought to the U.S. when they were younger than 16.
The state of Texas, through Paxton, wants the federal government to stop issuing and renewing DACA permits.
Earlier this month, the Department of Homeland Security issued a memo rescinding another Obama-era program — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents — that would've allowed the parents of American citizens or children legally in the United States to gain legal status. That program, which Obama signed off on in 2014, never went into effect. Paxton led a lawsuit against DAPA that is still hung up in the federal court. On Thursday, he tied the two programs together.
“We respectfully request that the Secretary of Homeland Security phase out the DACA program,” Paxton wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Just like DAPA, DACA unilaterally confers eligibility for work authorization and lawful presence without any statutory authorization from Congress.”
In its memo cancelling DAPA, the Department of Homeland Security indicated that DACA recipients would be allowed to apply for two-year extensions to their work authorizations when their current authorizations expired. President Donald Trump has wavered on the issue, promising during his campaign to end DACA but telling ABC News shortly after his election that DACA recipients "shouldn’t be very worried."
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While Paxton is willing to sue to stop extensions, the attorney general is not asking to "remove any alien currently covered by DACA," he said in statement Thursday.
Since 2012, more than 750,000 undocumented U.S. residents have received work permits or deportation relief, according to the Pew Research Center. More than 400,000 of those DACA recipients are eligible to have their statuses renewed during the 2017 fiscal year, according to Pew. Michelle Tremillo, the executive director of the Texas Organizing Project, a workers' rights and immigration advocacy group, called Paxton's threat callous Thursday.
“The level of cruelty exhibited today by Attorney General Ken Paxton and nine other Republican attorney generals is astonishing," she said. "DACA has allowed so many young people to finally realize their professional and personal dreams, and in doing so have made our state and country better."
If the federal government accedes to the demands of Paxton and the nine other states that joined him in asking that DACA be phased out, the state of Texas will drop its DAPA suit, the attorney general said. If the Trump administration does not end DACA, Paxton will simply amend the state's complaint to include both programs.