U.S. Judge Weighs Future Of Deportation Relief Program For ‘Dreamer’ Immigrants

(Reuters) -A Texas-led coalition of nine states urged a federal judge on Tuesday to invalidate a program that grants hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the United States as children the ability to live and work in the country.

During a court hearing in Houston that lasted more than three hours, the states argued that the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), was not created lawfully by former President Barack Obama in 2012.

The case could upend the lives of the nearly 650,000 people, often called “Dreamers” here, who are beneficiaries of the program. DACA protects them from deportation, allows them to work, grants access to driver’s licenses, and in some cases improves access to financial aid for education.

The program has withstood a number of challenges since its creation, including a move by Republican President Donald Trump in 2017 to end it. The U.S. Supreme Court in June found that his administration’s efforts were “arbitrary and capricious” and did not follow proper procedures.

The Supreme Court, however, did not rule on the overarching legality of DACA. A decision on the challenge brought by Texas and the other states, which is being heard by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, could address that question.

Hanen did not issue a ruling from the bench on Tuesday and did not set a timetable for a decision, which could come at any time.

The judge did ask lawyers what should be done for DACA recipients if, hypothetically, he found the program unlawful.

Jeremy Feigenbaum, an attorney for the state of New Jersey, which is defending DACA, argued that immediately ending the program would radically disrupt the lives of enrollees, including medical workers contributing to the coronavirus pandemic response. He said Hanen should send the policy back to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to make any needed changes.

By Mimi Dwyer, Ted Hesson for REUTERS
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