- Chuck Lindell American-Statesman Staff
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton Thursday threatened to sue the Trump administration unless it rescinds a program that offers protection from deportation for unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children.
In a letter joined by Republican officials in nine other states, Paxton gave U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions until Sept. 5 to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program, created by then-President Barack Obama in 2012 to protect people he said were “Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”
Paxton said the program, commonly known as DACA, was improperly created without approval by Congress.
“The Executive Branch does not have the unilateral power to confer lawful presence and work authorization on unlawfully present aliens simply because the Executive chooses not to remove them,” Paxton told Sessions in the letter.
State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, an Austin Democrat and policy chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, blasted Paxton’s action as a mean-spirited and ill-advised attack on an a largely Latino population.
“Most of these young people really only know the United States. To just rip them away from this country is hurtful,” Rodriguez said. “This is a very hateful, harmful thing to do to a lot of people who don’t deserve this kind of treatment.”
The Obama-era policy offers deportation protection and renewable, two-year work permits to an estimated 1 million people who were brought to the United States before their 16th birthday, have lived in the country continuously since mid-2007, are in school or graduated, and have no felonies or significant misdemeanors.
Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston and head of the Senate Hispanic Caucus, said Paxton was attacking immigrant youths who “have done nothing but go to school, pay taxes, attend college and work to better their lives.”
“There is no justification to end the DACA policy, except to perpetuate fear and hatred towards all immigrants,” Garcia said. “Without DACA, these students would be forced back into the shadows with no employment authorization, no access to identification, and it would undermine the Texas investment in their education.”
In his letter, Paxton asked Sessions to ensure that Obama’s DACA order is rescinded and that no DACA permits be issued or renewed in the future.
The request does not require federal officials to “immediately rescind” already issued permits or require Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to alter immigration enforcement priorities, Paxton wrote.
“This request does not require the federal government to remove any alien,” the letter added.
Joining Paxton on the letter were Idaho Gov. Butch Otter and the attorneys general of Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho and West Virginia.
The letter said the threatened lawsuit against DACA would follow the same legal reasoning that prompted the federal courts to block Obama’s 2014 attempt to expand DACA and add protections for unauthorized immigrants who were parents of U.S. citizens and legal residents.
Texas led a 26-state coalition that successfully challenged that order — known as DAPA, or Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents — arguing that the Obama administration did not have the legal authority to issue an order protecting about 4 million people from deportation.
Kelly formally rescinded a Homeland Security memo that implemented the DAPA policy on June 15 but kept the DACA memo in place, prompting Paxton’s letter Thursday.