Mayes and Democratic AGs Alert Court to Potential ‘Serious Harm’ from DACA Ending

Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes joined nearly two dozen other Democratic attorneys general in opposing the effort to end the DACA program, warning a federal court that doing so would be devastating for the states that have come to rely on the economic and social benefits its recipients provide.

On Thursday, Mayes and 22 other attorneys general filed an amicus brief in support of DACA with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to rule on whether the president has the authority to protect migrants who arrived as children from deportation.

Nine Republican states, led by Texas, contend that he does not. So far, the courts agree.

President Barack Obama started the Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals program with an executive order in 2012. A collection of Republican states promptly challenged the program in a Texas federal court, and Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that the program was illegal because it did not follow the legally needed comment period.

Mayes and Democratic AGs Alert Court to Potential 'Serious Harm' from DACA Ending

However, while Hanen suspended DACA and closed it to new applicants, he permitted current participants to continue receiving the work permit and protection from deportation that the program guarantees.

Since then, more than 44,000 undocumented Arizonans have become eligible for the program, but they have been stuck in limbo, with the federal government unable to process fresh applications.

In an effort to address the court’s concerns, the Biden administration revised the program as an administrative rule in 2022, including adequate time for public participation.

But the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which agreed with Hanen that the 2012 executive order was illegal, remanded the matter to Hanen to assess whether the new rulemaking process was proper. Hanen was unconvinced, stating that there were no “material differences” between the two measures and that immigration law is solely the responsibility of Congress.

An appeal of Hanen’s most recent ruling is now before the 5th Circuit Court, and advocates worry the appellate court will rule in favor of the Texas judge again. From there, the legal process leads to the United States Supreme Court. And, while the courts upheld the DACA program in 2020, the bench’s ideological majority is now substantially more conservative and willing to overrule precedent.

In the hopes of persuading the federal appeals court, Mayes and the other Democratic AGs emphasized the critical contributions DACA beneficiaries make to their states, claiming that risking those contributions would be extremely damaging.

“(Dreamers) are part of the fabric of our nation and state,” Mayes stated in an emailed press statement accompanying the amicus brief. “Dreamers have contributed to our economy, paid taxes, served in our military, and worked in important sectors of our economy because of the protections provided by DACA. Attempts to remove children of these safeguards are morally wrong and would devastate families across the country, including in Arizona.”

Since the program’s inception in 2012, more than 800,000 people have been granted DACA status after meeting a slew of requirements, including a guarantee that they have not been convicted of a felony or significant misdemeanor, as well as proof that they are enrolled in school, have graduated or received a GED certificate, or have been honorably discharged from the military.

In Arizona alone, about 30,000 DACA recipients live there.

Mayes and Democratic AGs Alert Court to Potential 'Serious Harm' from DACA Ending

Furthermore, DACA beneficiaries’ ability to work lawfully improves the economic and labor-force outlook in the states where they dwell. The attorneys general stated that users of the program and their households contribute $9.5 billion in federal, state, and local taxes each year.

The population also has a yearly spending power of $25.3 billion, and around 54,000 recipients work in the education and healthcare sectors, all of which are facing severe shortages.

“The benefits of DACA extend far beyond the lives of DACA recipients and their families,” the brief goes on to say. “DACA recipients bolster the tax bases and economies of the amici States, work in our essential industries, and enrich the student bodies and faculties of our public universities.”

According to a 2022 study, nine out of ten DACA beneficiaries work or attend school.

The AGs cautioned the appellate court that removing the DACA safeguards would have severe effects on their states. Up to 70,000 DACA recipients are homeowners; removing their right to work could result in foreclosures, which would have a severe influence on property prices in the surrounding area.

Furthermore, more than 300,000 children born in the United States have at least one parent in the DACA program; putting them in jeopardy of deportation puts a load on the foster care system when children have no other option.

The attorney general noted that when deciding whether the DACA program is legal, the appeal court must consider reducing the impact of harm.

“Any remedy must account for the serious harm that terminating DACA would cause to all who have relied on the policy in structuring their affairs over the past decade,” the lawsuit states. “They are hundreds of thousands of individuals who know no home other than this country, as well as their families, communities, employers, and the States in which they reside.”

Mayes and a coalition of Democratic attorneys general urged the court to uphold DACA, arguing that the program is a lawful activity by the country’s executive branch and that Hanen’s decision to declare it illegal should be reversed.

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