Save DACA now!

The egg can­not be un­scram­bled on young, un­doc­u­mented ‘Dream­ers.’

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

Fix it, a Dreamer urges Congress. Fix it, a fed­eral judge urges.

If there’s a go-to ju­rist whose court­room light is al­ways on for the Trump White House, for Texas At­tor­ney Gen. Ken Pax­ton and for other elected of­fi­cials ea­ger to thwart sen­si­ble and hu­mane im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy, it’s An­drew S. Ha­nen, a Brownsville fed­eral judge who sits on the U.S. Dis­trict Court for the South­ern Dis­trict of Texas.

With Ha­nen on the bench, Pax­ton, for one, has be­come a bla­tant court­room shop­per. He’s con­fi­dent that the Waco na­tive and first-in-his-class Bay­lor Law School grad­u­ate will find some le­gal ra­tio­nale for anti-im­mi­grant poli­cies that come be­fore his court.

It was Ha­nen who blocked the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s 2015 at­tempt to shield thou­sands of fam­i­lies with mixed im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus from de­por­ta­tion through a pro­gram then known as DAPA, De­ferred Ac­tion for Par­ents of Amer­i­cans. Thanks to Ha­nen, thou­sands of cit­i­zens and le­gal res­i­dents faced the prospect of dis­rupted lives at home and see­ing their par­ents de­ported to coun­tries left long ago. The death of its suc­ces­sor, DACA (De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals) was pretty much as­sured once Ha­nen got his hands on it. But then, sur­prise! On Aug. 31, the im­mi­gra­tion hard­liner re­fused a re­quest from nine states, led by Texas, to de­stroy DACA, the Obama-era pol­icy that grants tem­po­rary law­ful sta­tus and work per­mits to thou­sands of young mi­grants brought to this coun­try through no choice of their own. Ha­nen wrote that he agreed with a fed­eral court in Mary­land that said the ques­tion of whether to al­low DACA re­cip­i­ents to “con­tinue con­tribut­ing their skills and abil­i­ties to the bet­ter­ment of this coun­try is an is­sue cry­ing out for a leg­isla­tive so­lu­tion.”

It’s not that Ha­nen liked DACA any more than he liked DAPA — he ex­pects the U.S. Supreme Court even­tu­ally will de­clare it un­law­ful — but, un­like Pax­ton and young Stephen Miller, the cru­elly anti-im­mi­grant na­tivist who has Don­ald Trump’s ear in the White House, the judge was will­ing to ac­knowl­edge re­al­ity. DACA has been in ef­fect for six years, he pointed out, and those young peo­ple the pol­icy pro­tects are even more rooted than they were be­fore its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

“Here, the egg has been scram­bled,” he wrote. “To try to put it back in the shell with only a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion record, and per­haps at great risk to many, does not make sense nor serve the best in­ter­ests of this coun­try.”

Ha­nen’s rul­ing of­fered a bit of breath­ing room to young dream­ers like Linett Isela Lopez, a stu­dent­teacher who serves “the best in­ter­ests of this coun­try” — and our com­mu­nity — by work­ing with bilin­gual first-graders at John­son Ele­men­tary School.

“I’m re­lieved by last month’s rul­ing,” Lopez wrote in the Chron­i­cle, “but the over­all un­cer­tainty per­sists. De­spite a lot of talk, Congress has failed to take ac­tion on this is­sue, leav­ing Dream­ers like me feel­ing help­less and over­whelmed. Will I be able to keep teach­ing? Will I be sub­ject to de­por­ta­tion? What will hap­pen to my young stu­dents and their par­ents, many of whom are DACA re­cip­i­ents, too?”

Fix it, a Dreamer urges Congress. Fix it, a fed­eral judge urges.

Ap­prox­i­mately three-quar­ters of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, ac­cord­ing to most polls, echo their call. So does a coali­tion of bor­der may­ors and busi­ness groups, in­clud­ing South­west and United Air­lines. Fil­ing an ami­cus brief in the case be­fore Judge Ha­nen, the coali­tion ar­gued that end­ing DACA and forc­ing thou­sands of young work­ers out of the econ­omy could cost $460 bil­lion in eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity dur­ing the next decade.

Mean­while, a craven Congress dithers — and, we hate to say, will con­tinue to dither un­til vot­ers de­cide, per­haps in a few weeks, that enough’s enough.

As­sur­ing the le­gal sta­tus of Dream­ers and al­low­ing them to get on with their lives in this coun­try is a rel­a­tively easy task, par­tic­u­larly if a new crop of con­sci­en­tious law­mak­ers ar­rives in Wash­ing­ton next Jan­uary. It may be a dream too far, but re­solv­ing the Dreamer dilemma might even clear the way for a new Congress to tackle the more com­plex task of com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form. We can hope, although fix­ing DACA is the more im­me­di­ate task.

“DACA is a pop­u­lar pro­gram and one that Congress should con­sider sav­ing . . . . If the na­tion truly wants to have a DACA pro­gram, it is up to Congress to say so.”

So wrote Judge Ha­nen. So say we.

Jon Shap­ley / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

A man dis­plays a sign at the Mickey Le­land Fed­eral Build­ing calling for ac­tion to help DACA re­cip­i­ents.

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