Appeals Court Hears Case Arguments That Will Determine DACA Program's Fate

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Immigration rights activists took part in a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on November 12, 2019
Immigration rights activists took part in a rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on November 12, 2019

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans began hearing arguments Wednesday about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) legality. A coalition of Republican-led states headed by Texas is arguing that Obama-era policy is costing their states hundreds of millions in health care and other costs, NPR reports.

In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the DACA program against a Trump administration challenge with a 5-4 vote. Last year, a Texas judge blocked the Biden administration from accepting any new DACA applications declaring the program unlawful. However, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen allowed the Department of Homeland Security to process current DACA renewals.

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The Biden administration is very limited in how it can act to preserve the program, so this requires some action from Congress. However, we know the Republicans are not on board with any of it, as Democrats have introduced legislation. Recently, the Biden administration has made a new push for Congress to pass an immigration program that would protect up to 700,000 people from deportation. The Republican-state coalition is trying to argue that DACA was done without going through “through proper legal and administrative procedures, including public notice and comment periods. Texas also states the program comes with a significant financial expense to taxpayers.

As NPR notes, The Justice Department countered those arguments that the program falls within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s power to prioritize enforcement. “It’s unable to remove 11 million people in the country. It has to decide who it will target first, said the Justice Department’s Brian Boynton.” The DOJ also points out Texas waited six years to challenge the program on financial grounds.

The Center For American Progress notes that 1.3 million participate in the DACA program and hold $25.3 billion in household spending power. 343,000 DACA recipients are said to be in essential jobs, and they pay $6.2 billion in federal taxes and $3.3 billion in state and local taxes each year. The DOJ says that Texas willfully ignores the benefits of DACA recipients in their state to decrease Texas costs because many of them hold jobs with health insurance benefits, own homes, and pay property taxes that support schools.

From Bloomberg:

“A full decade later, eliminating DACA would cause extreme disruption to recipients, employers, their citizen children and to the states,” State Solicitor Jeremy Feigenbaum said. “We could have a DACA recipient serving in the military on Monday, who no longer will be able to serve there on Tuesday.”

The appeals court is due to render a decision in the coming months. Whatever happens, this will most certainly be appealed potentially to the Supreme Court, which has generated an onslaught of conservative-favoring decisions.