Earlier this month, the Trump administration made the surprising announcement that undocumented immigrants allowed to remain in the country under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program “will continue to be eligible” to renew their participation in the program and that “no work permits will be terminated prior to their current expiration dates.”
It was an unexpected moment of mercy from an administration whose leader campaigned for the presidency with openly racist attacks on immigrants.
Nine state attorneys general and one governor, however, apparently believe that Trump is not being harsh enough to undocumented immigrants. In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, these state officials demand that the administration rescind the Obama-era memorandum establishing the DACA program and “order that the Executive Branch will not renew or issue any new DACA or Expanded DACA permits in the future.”
The letter also ends with a threat: If the Trump administration does not comply with this demand, the state officials will amend their complaint, in a lawsuit that effectively killed a related Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents or DAPA, to add a challenge to DACA.
That case, Texas v. United States, is presided over by Judge Andrew Hanen, a judge with a hardline record on immigration. In addition to issuing a nationwide injunction preventing the Obama administration from implementing DAPA, Hanen once ordered a dox attack on tens of thousand of immigrants (although he later backed down). At some points while the DAPA litigation was pending, Hanen appeared to manipulate the rules of civil procedure in order to prevent higher courts from reviewing his decisions.
If the state officials follow through on their threat and amend their complaint to bring DACA before Judge Hanen, he will almost certainly do everything in his power to kill the program.
Of course, Hanen will not have the final word on DACA, but the Supreme Court split 4–4 on the DAPA litigation. Now that Neil Gorsuch occupies the ninth seat on the Court, it is likely that there will be five votes to support Hanen’s position on DACA as well.