Back in March, 25-year-old Jose Manuel Santoyo spoke of waking up and checking the news, fearful that the Obama-era program known as DACA would be caught in President Trump’s crosshairs. DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, is a 2012 executive order that offered a legal avenue for many young undocumented immigrants like Santoyo to be able to move and exist in this country without fear of deportation. Philosophically, the order refuses to punish children for being brought over illegally. It allows them to get a work permit, driver’s license, and Social Security number. It isn’t a path to citizenship, but it is a ticket for a better life—no more low-wage, under-the-table jobs. No more fear of driving without a license. The ability to rent an apartment.
On Thursday afternoon, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took to his letterhead to ask U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to spike the program. Attorneys general in nine other states—Arkansas, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia—lent their offices in support. If the order is not removed, the states say they’ll follow through on a lawsuit that’s already been filed in federal court in the Southern District of Texas. Paxton is arguing that he has precedent in a district court’s ruling in a program known as DAPA, which would’ve extended the DACA protections to parents of the so-called “Dreamers.” An appellate court upheld that district court’s rescinding of DAPA, and the Supreme Court split on its own decision, which means the appellate ruling stuck.
“For these same reasons … the original June 15, 2012 DACA memorandum is also unlawful,” the letter reads. “We request that the Secretary of Homeland Security rescind the June 15, 2012 DACA memorandum and order that the Executive Branch will not renew or issue any new DACA or Expanded DACA permits in the future.”
The letter notes that eliminating the program won’t “require the federal government to remove any alien.” The states are giving the Trump administration until Sept. 5 to get rid of the program, or they’ll keep going with the lawsuit.
A repeal would likely have a significant economic impact on the state: 271,000 of the nation’s 1.9 million DACA-eligible applicants were living in Texas as of last year, according to the Migration Policy Institute. Of those, 69,000 live within Dallas, Denton, Collin, and Tarrant counties. I think it’s important to put a face on the folks who receive DACA, who spent years struggling to exist in America often after fleeing violence abroad. Here’s one of the things Santoyo told me earlier this year:
“Just knowing that that was going to be something I could apply for, that obviously took a huge weight off my shoulders and the burden and expectation that I wasn’t going to be able to do much with my life,” he said. “I’ve seen how much (immigrants) have been able to accomplish because of DACA and how much they’ve been able to contribute, not only to their families and for their own survival, but to the movement in general because of the positions we can be in now.”