By Andrew Chung and Mica Rosenberg
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A group of young immigrants asked a U.S. federal court on Tuesday for permission to have a judge consider their interests in a lawsuit filed last week by Texas and six other states to force an end to the program that protects some immigrants who arrived illegally as children from deportation.
The 22 immigrants, all of whom were granted protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), said in the court filing that they were not represented in the lawsuit, since both the plaintiffs, the seven states, and the defendant, the federal government, want to end the program.
They filed a motion to intervene in the case, which if granted means the judge will have to weigh their concerns.
President Donald Trump announced in September 2017 that he intended to phase out DACA, whose recipients are often referred to as “Dreamers,” which was established by his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama. Since then, however, courts have enjoined the government from withdrawing the protections until lawsuits challenging the administration’s action are resolved.
The Texas lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Brownsville, argues that the Obama administration exceeded its authority by creating the program without congressional action. The lawsuit attempts to force the issue by asking a different court to order the government to implement its plan to scrap DACA.
A ruling in favor of Texas and the other six states has the potential to complicate earlier legal victories won on behalf of DACA recipients in other courts.
Texas said it does not oppose the DACA recipients’ motion to intervene, which was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund on their behalf. A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.
Trump said in September he would terminate DACA but gave the Republican-controlled Congress until March 6 to replace it. The legislators were unable to agree on a plan to save the program.
The states – Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia – all of which have Republican attorneys general, have asked for a nationwide injunction to stop the federal government from issuing or renewing any DACA permits in the future.
Such an order would directly oppose the ruling of District Court judges in California and elsewhere who have directed the Trump administration to continue processing renewal applications until lawsuits challenging the program’s end are resolved, legal experts said.
The federal judge hearing the Texas case, Andrew Hanen, in 2015 blocked Obama’s plan to expand some benefits to parents of DACA recipients, so the states arguing the program is unlawful may have a sympathetic ear.
The judges in these cases could try to avoid conflict by modifying their injunctions or placing them on hold, but dueling orders would likely produce quick appeals, including up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
(Reporting by Andrew Chung and Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Leslie Adler)