The previous administration had in December 2020 been forced by a New York to fully reopen the DACA program by a New York judge, ruling that unlawfully appointed acting Department of Homeland Security Sec. Chad Wolf lacked legal authority to limit the program. It opened up the policy to brand-new applicants for the first time since 2017 (it actually should have been open months before the December ruling, when the Supreme Court ruled the administration had unlawfully ended the program, but officials defied that ruling).
But then last year, a notoriously anti-immigrant judge ruled against the program, following a lawsuit from corrupt Texas attorney general Ken Paxton. Tens of thousands of young immigrants who had their first-time applications backlogged due to government delays then saw their applications ground to a complete halt when Paxton won in a Texas court. One day after the New Orleans hearing, affected individuals and their advocates were again in court to fight for justice.
“We’re telling a judge that there’s space in between these two orders, that government can do more,” NILC staff attorney Jessica Hanson told Spectrum News. “It can process applications up to the point of granting because this can help in the future if DACA is reopened even for a brief time.” Among plaintiffs fighting for justice for the 80,000 excluded applicants was Johana. “Most of all, I want to be a DACA recipient so I can live without fear of being separated from my two young children,” she told a crowd outside the New York courthouse.
Not only did these roughly 80,000 applicants lose out on work permits and deportation relief following the Texas ruling last year, they reportedly never got back their $495 application fees from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. “This is beyond cruel,” DACA recipient Reyna Montoya tweeted at the time. “I personally know many young people who saved up their money to apply for #DACA with the hope of a resolution.”
“I funded my first #DACA application by saving the money I was making while sweating and grinding out long hours in the hot, humid Miami weather teaching tennis under that beaming FL sun,” Adrián Escárate tweeted at the time. “My own initial DACA application was funded by hours and hours working at a sushi takeout place as a cashier,” Tony Choi wrote. “I know intimately what the human cost of this application is.”
Oral arguments in the Texas litigation Wednesday were heard at the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is as conservative as it gets. Two of the three judges who heard arguments that day were appointed by the insurrectionist former president, and a negative ruling is widely expected later this year. But this reality did not stop nearly 100 DACA recipients and their allies from traveling to Louisiana to make their voices heard, including Montoya. “Growing up in AZ has taught me that we can hold pain & hope,” she tweeted.
Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream, said “we need the courts to do the right thing and find DACA legal, and our elected leaders to pass permanent legislation so that we are no longer living court case to court case.”
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