Trump under the gun as Dreamers deadline looms


President Donald Trump has been unusually cautious about his plans for so-called Dreamers, but he’s running out of time to make up his mind.

Ten conservative states have threatened to sue the administration in order to kill off the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a 2012 initiative that has granted work permits to nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants. They’re trying to replicate their legal tactic from more than two years ago, when a broader coalition of GOP-led states successfully stopped a more expansive program for millions of undocumented immigrants before it even began.

That means DACA, which President Barack Obama began five years ago this month, is confronting its gravest danger yet. And one of the biggest questions — will Trump defend the program in court — is still anybody’s guess.

Trump is facing pressure from his conservative allies to kill the initiative, but the hard-liner-in-chief has said that he wants to approach Dreamers “with heart.” Meanwhile, it’s also not clear how Trump would fare in court if he does defend the program, even as an early September deadline to act looms.

Legal experts believe if Texas and the nine other states do file a lawsuit to halt DACA, they’ll win — particularly if the same federal judge that blocked the broader immigration program under Obama, Judge Andrew Hanen, oversees the latest legal challenge.

Stephen Legomsky, who was chief counsel at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services when the Obama administration launched DACA, said Hanen’s “extreme, extreme hostility” to Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration “was a matter of public record.”

“If Judge Hanen allows them to tack on a DACA challenge, no doubt he will enjoin DACA,” said Legomsky, now a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. “It is more difficult to disrupt an ongoing successful program. … All that said, given the judges they’re likely to have, I think they have a very tough challenge.”

“This isn’t difficult on the merits. Hanen already said DACA is unlawful,” said Josh Blackman, a libertarian-leaning professor at South Texas College of Law Houston. “If they sue on the merits, they should win in district court.”

The sudden legal threat, which the states — Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Nebraska, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Idaho, West Virginia and Kansas — outlined in a June 29 letter, have left lawmakers and immigration advocates scrambling to shield the program for Dreamers.

The initial lawsuit that had challenged the 2014 executive actions is still pending before Hanen. Texas and the other states say if the Trump administration doesn’t begin phasing out DACA by Sept. 5 by not renewing permits nor granting new ones, they’ll sue to stop it by amending the existing lawsuit.

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