Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Wednesday he wants a federal court to rule the Obama-era DACA program illegal before the end of July, hoping to nail the door shut on the controversial program before any other judges can meddle with it.
The aggressive move could upend the entire landscape of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protects some 700,000 Dreamers from deportation.
Mr. Paxton appears to be trying to head off a judge in D.C. who signaled last month that he’s prepared to force the Trump administration to revive the program in its entirety, which would force the president to process both renewal applications for the people already protected, and to accept brand-new applications from as many as 1 million people who might qualify but have yet to sign up.
“Unelected federal judges are forcing the Trump administration to leave an unlawful program like DACA in place indefinitely,” Mr. Paxton said. “Activist judges should not stand in the way of the president fulfilling his constitutional duty.”
The Republican attorney general appears to be racing a June deadline for challenging the DACA program under the Administrative Procedures Act, which allows executive branch decisions to be challenged for up to six years after they are announced. DACA was launched June 15, 2012.
He’s leading a seven-state coalition that filed a lawsuit Tuesday, and followed it up Wednesday with the demand for speedy action.
His moves have drawn the ire of immigrant rights activists and congressional Democrats.
Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, suggested Mr. Paxton had colluded with the Trump administration on the lawsuit.
Activists said Mr. Paxton and his fellow attorneys general from the other six plaintiff states are being cruel toward immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally.
“They are messing with young people who have grown up here and are Americans in every way but a piece of paper,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice.
Several groups said the legal quagmire should pressure Congress to step up and pass a bill protecting Dreamers.
But lawmakers have proved unable to find common ground. President Trump offered a generous pathway to citizenship for perhaps 1.8 million Dreamers and other illegal immigrants in exchange for funding for his border wall, new limits on the chain of family migration and an end to the diversity visa lottery.
Democrats and some Republicans balked at that, but they were unable to win approval of their own plans, which included an even more generous amnesty without the limits on chain migration and with a less robust border security package.
This is Mr. Paxton’s second time in court trying to stop and administrative deportation amnesty.
He successfully challenged Mr. Obama’s 2014 attempt to expand DACA to include perhaps 3 million more illegal immigrants in the program.
The judge who ruled for Mr. Paxton in that case, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, has been assigned to this latest go-around.
No court has conclusively ruled on the legality of the original 2012 DACA program, though Judge S. Hanen’s ruling against the follow-up DAPA program relied heavily on an analysis of DACA.
But Mr. Paxton says the case against DACA has become even stronger since 2012. One of those changes is that more than 1,000 people who’d been protected by DACA have since obtained citizenship.
The attorney general said that puts the lie to Mr. Obama’s claim that DACA wasn’t granting lawful status, but rather just a discretionary stay of deportation.
“DACA is a programmatic decision to confer benefits, including legal status, on hundreds of thousands of aliens,” the attorney general argued in the new court filing.