DACA recipients rally for program's survival as Houston judge hears oral arguments in lawsuit

Rosie Nguyen Image
Friday, June 2, 2023
Houston judge hears arguments on revised DACA program
The future of DACA recipients remains in limbo as they anxiously await a decision by a Houston judge who heard arguments on the revised program.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The future for hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients remains in limbo, as they anxiously await a decision by a federal judge who heard oral arguments Thursday in a hearing about a revised version of the program.

DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era policy that protects undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children from deportation.

Damaris Gonzalez, who is a DACA recipient, described how painful it was to sit through the hearing. She and other "Dreamers," said they're tired of all the legal back-and-forth that's been taking place since 2012, when the program was created.

"It was very dehumanizing. The other side called us 'illegal aliens.' I heard them say we're taking so much money from the government, and that's a completely huge lie. We are human beings who have always deserved to have a better life for us and our families," Gonzalez said.

Thursday's hearing was about a lawsuit filed by multiple states, including Texas, challenging the Biden administration's new DACA rule that went into effect last October. It allows the Department of Homeland Security to continue accepting and processing DACA renewal applications.

The states' attorneys argued their clients have suffered "harm" by the DACA program through impacts to their labor market, as well as costs for emergency Medicaid and public education. They did not make themselves available to the media for interviews after the hearing.

On the defense's side, attorneys representing DACA recipients argued the plaintiffs' claims are baseless and said they are contributing members of society, who help the local economy thrive.

Dozens of these Dreamers were joined by organizations like FIEL, NAKASEC, Woori Juntos, and Texas Organizing Project for a march around the courthouse. Some of them traveled from out of state, representing groups like the Center for Popular Democracy, CHIRLA, Community Change the Road, and Arizona Dream Act.

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

"This case should not be in court at all. Texas and other states challenging DACA have not been able to point to a single dollar of spending that hurt them on DACA recipients," Nina Perales, vice president of litigation at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), said.

Judge Andrew Hanen, who is presiding over this case, previously ruled against DACA back in 2021. Perales hopes he'll review this lawsuit with a fresh perspective.

Hanen can take all the time he wants to consider arguments from both sides and release a written opinion on his own timeline. Ultimately, what Gonzalez and other DACA recipients want is a clear pathway to citizenship.

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

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