Litigators & Stakeholders in DACA Legal Battles Discuss Strategy and Human Impacts Ahead of Texas Hearing

August 6, 2018

Hayley Burgess, NILC, [email protected], 202-384-1279
Bruna Bouhid, UWD, [email protected], 202-850-0812
Sandra Hernandez, MALDEF, [email protected], 310-386-5768

Litigators & Stakeholders in DACA Legal Battles Discuss Strategy and Human Impacts Ahead of Texas Hearing

WASHINGTON — Legal experts and immigrant youth leaders today discussed what is next in the legal defense of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and the enormous impact the cases will have on the lives of immigrant youth and their families.

Following a ruling Friday by the D.C. federal district court and ahead of a key federal court hearing in Houston this week, litigators explained the status of several DACA-related cases moving through the courts and the potential for ground-shifting developments on the horizon.

DACA recipients spoke about the importance of partial relief — now under threat — obtained through various legal victories, and the continued urgency for a permanent solution for immigrant youth following President Trump’s efforts to eliminate their DACA protections.

A recording of today’s call is available here.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said, “Thanks to the leadership of courageous DACA recipients, lawyers, and organizations who challenged Trump’s cruel and unlawful termination of DACA, more than 100,000 DACA renewals have been approved since January 2018, and tens of thousands more are in the pipeline. The relief provided by the courts so far — although limited and likely temporary — has been crucial, especially in the face of Congress’s failure to enact permanent protections for Dreamers. But now, even that limited relief has come under threat. The next weeks and few months could see developments in the courts that significantly alter the landscape for DACA recipients. It’s a critical time for DACA recipients, our communities, and members of the media to stay informed.”

Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, “MALDEF is proud to represent the 22 courageous leaders and DACA recipients who have intervened to defend DACA in the Texas case because the federal government cannot be trusted to do so adequately. This is a significantly different case than the challenge to DAPA from two years ago, so we expect the courts to continue to protect DACA until the Congress selects leadership who will actually lead by acting to permanently protect these hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth who contribute so much to our country.”

Donald Verrilli, a partner and founder of the D.C. office of Munger, Tolles & Olson, and the U.S. Solicitor General from 2011 to 2016, said, “The government is hiding behind a weak and insubstantial legal rationale because it is unwilling to embrace the reality that it is abandoning DACA for reasons of policy, not reasons of law. This seems quite consistent with what the government is doing, for example, in the case — also filed by Texas — challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The government is unwilling to own its position that it is trying to use the courts to achieve. It is very hard to see that as anything other than a misuse of the judicial process to try to achieve policy objectives that once again the administration is not willing to affirmatively embrace.”

Greisa Martinez, deputy executive director of United We Dream and a DACA recipient, said, “Last week, D.C. federal district judge John Bates ruled that Trump’s decision to kill the DACA program was wrong — and we agree. When immigrant youth and our allies fought to create DACA to protect us, we knew that it was the right thing to do. From the start, the program and this idea that immigrants should be protected and not deported came under harsh attack from those who want to see mass deportation. In spite of this, the courts and common sense have shown that DACA works. As Trump tries everything he can to kill protections and feed more immigrants to his deportation force, Congress must vote to defund the deportation agencies and pass legislation to protect immigrants in a way that is permanent and clean from enforcement. In the face of uncertainty and danger, immigrant youth and our allies are determined to #LiveUnafraid and continue our fight to defend our communities.”

Eliana Fernandez, a DACA recipient and plaintiff in Batalla Vidal v. Nielsen and an immigration case manager at Make the Road New York, said, “I joined the lawsuit against Trump’s decision to end DACA to fight for my family and community. As a result of the injunctions obtained, more than 100,000 Dreamers like me have been able to continue renewing DACA, which provides us protection from Trump’s deportation force. As a mother, having been able to renew my DACA this past July means — for now — that I can continue to be with my children, have a job, pay for my mortgage, and continue to fight for my community.”

A recording of today’s call is available at