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Arguments over the legality of DACA will be heard in a federal court in Texas


In Houston today, a federal judge is again hearing arguments about the legality of DACA. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program provides temporary legal status to immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. Texas is among the states challenging DACA, first started by the Obama administration more than a decade ago. We spoke earlier with immigration reporter Stella Chavez of member station KERA in Dallas.

Stella, what can we expect in court today? What are the attorneys going to be arguing?

STELLA CHAVEZ, BYLINE: So basically, the attorneys for the civil rights group MALDEF, and that's the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, they're going to focus on two main issues. The first is that neither Texas nor the other states in this multi-state lawsuit have standing to sue. And so what that means is that the states haven't shown that DACA has caused their state any injury, for example, that DACA recipients aren't a financial burden. And the second issue they'll argue is that DACA is, in fact, lawful. So in other words, the federal government has the right to allow DACA recipients to stay in the country, receive work permits, attend college, basically live here lawfully.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. And this isn't the first legal challenge for the program. I know that Judge Andrew Hanen ruled nearly two years ago that DACA was unlawful.

CHAVEZ: Yes, that's right. But it's complicated. It's been a very long legal battle going back several years. And after Hanen's ruling, it was appealed to the fifth court, which agreed with Hanen. The Biden administration then fortified some DACA protections by finalizing a rule, and then the case was kicked back to his court. So here we are again, basically with Texas and the other states still challenging the legality of the program.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah. Now for the 600,000 active DACA recipients, what does this all mean or what it - could it all mean for them?

CHAVEZ: Well, a lot of them were kids when they were brought to this country. I mean, the oldest recipients are now in their early 40s. Some are married with families. They have jobs. They're actually teachers, health workers. They're in social services. And many of them have lived in the U.S. longer than in their home countries, and they actually feel more connected to this country. So some may not even speak their parents' language or speak it well, and it's been really stressful. A lot of people I've talked to have said that they are constantly worried about their future.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So when might there be a ruling in this case?

CHAVEZ: So observers say they don't expect the judge to rule right away. And when he does, it won't necessarily mean the end of DACA. So if he rules against it, it'll likely be challenged. We can expect more court dates. And, in fact, most people expect the case to end up back at the U.S. Supreme Court. And so while all of this is happening, current DACA recipients would likely get to keep their status, but new applicants would still be denied. So there's still a lot of uncertainty.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, until Congress decides to act. That's Stella Chavez of member station KERA. Stella, thanks.

CHAVEZ: Yeah. Thank you, A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Stella Chavez