Immigration news: DACA recipients rally for program survival as Texas federal judge hears oral arguments in lawsuit

Houston, Texas (KTRK) – The future of hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients remains in limbo, as they anxiously await a decision from a federal judge who heard oral arguments Thursday at a hearing on a revised version of the program.

DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era policy that protects illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation.

DACA recipient Damaris Gonzalez described how painful he was sitting during the hearing. She and the other “Dreamers” said they were tired of all the legal translations happening since 2012, when the program was created.

“It was very insulting to humanity. And the other side called us ‘illegal aliens.’ I heard them say we take a lot of money from the government, and that’s a completely big lie. We human beings always deserve to have a better life for us and our families,” Gonzalez said.

Thursday’s hearing was about a lawsuit brought by several states, including Texas, challenging the Biden administration’s new DACA rule that went into effect last October. The Department of Homeland Security is permitted to continue accepting and processing DACA renewal applications.

State attorneys have argued that their clients have suffered “harm” through the DACA program through effects on the labor market, as well as the costs of emergency Medicaid and public education. They were not made available to the media for interviews after the hearing.

On the defense side, attorneys representing DACA recipients have argued that the plaintiffs’ claims are unfounded and have said that they are contributing members of the community, helping the local economy thrive.

Dozens of these dreamers were joined by organizations like FIEL, NAKASEC, Woori Juntos, and the Texas Organizing Project to march around the courtroom. Some have traveled from out of state, representing groups like the Center for Grassroots Democracy, CHIRLA, Community Change the Road, and Arizona Dream Act.

They spoke to reporters at a press conference with attorneys representing DACA recipients.

Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), said.

Judge Andrew Hennen, who is presiding over this case, previously ruled against DACA in 2021. Perales hopes to review this lawsuit with a fresh perspective.

Henein can take all the time he wants to consider the arguments from both sides and issue a written opinion on his own schedule. In the end, what Gonzalez and other DACA recipients want is a clear path to citizenship.

“This is the country we call home because we came here as children. We don’t know anything else about our countries of origin, and for some of us, deportation can mean death,” Gonzalez said.

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