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Hundreds Of Thousands Of Additional Immigrants Could Be Eligible For DACA But Are Blocked Due To GOP Litigation

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Impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton And GOP State AGs Are Blocking Roughly 400,000 Eligible Immigrants From Work Permits, Driver’s Licenses, And Deportation Relief

While roughly 580,000 immigrants are currently protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the popular policy could have an even wider reach if it weren’t for the lawsuit launched by a slate of Republican states. Roughly 400,000 additional immigrants could be eligible to apply if it weren’t for a 2021 court decision, FWD.us says.

That ruling, issued by anti-immigrant Judge Andrew Hanen following litigation from impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and eight GOP state attorneys general, blocked all first-time applicants from applying for work permits and protection from deportation under the policy. 

But that ruling didn’t block only prospective applicants. More than 90,000 immigrants who completed their paperwork, paid their $495 fee, submitted their biometrics, and were waiting on a response from the federal government also had their applications thrown into limbo. 24-year-old San Antonio resident Aurora Lozano Chavez was among them.

“She waited a month for an approval letter that never came,” NBC News reported. “Instead, she found out through social media that DACA had been shut down for first-time applicants like her,” making it harder for Lozano Chavez to be able to pursue her higher education goals while also helping her loved ones. Her sister is currently battling leukemia, the report said. 

“Many of my friends and family members who have had DACA, they already finished school, they’ve received their bachelor’s, they’ve had promotions at their jobs, they’re able to help out their family financially,” she told NBC News. “With this whole DACA ordeal, it’s been kind of hard to be able to help my family financially and go back to school.” 

A recent analysis from FWD.us highlighted the program’s successes amid the years of GOP litigation. Of the current DACA population, nearly 80% of beneficiaries are employed, making significant contributions to their communities and states. Per the analysis, they contribute an estimated $13.3 billion to our economy annually. Nearly all DACA recipients have completed high school, while 47% have some college education. Despite the efforts to stomp on her dreams, Lozano Chavez said she’s continuing with plans to attend Texas A&M University-San Antonio later this year.

“Although current recipients are permitted to continue renewing their DACA status, the terrible reality is that DACA could be voided in further court action,” FWD.us noted. This is a possibility that only legislation at the federal level can remedy. “We deserve more than just DACA,” Lozano Chavez told NBC News. “We’ve been waiting years and years. We deserve a pathway to citizenship.”

Even if DACA were still fully in place, nearly 120,000 high school graduates from this year alone would be ineligible to apply due to DACA’s rules, adding to the need for federal legislative relief. The 2023 class is “among the first where most undocumented graduates will have entered the United States after DACA’s required arrival date of June 15, 2007, according to FWD.us,” Reckon reported. The New York Times reported last year that this group will grow by 100,000 annually.

The Times reported at the time that 22-year-old Domonick is among the ineligible immigrants, having missed the cutoff by just a couple days. “Without DACA, he cannot get a driver’s license or state identification in Florida,” the report said. “A scholarship from TheDream.US has enabled him to attend Florida International University.” 

He was on track to graduate as of last December. But since then, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed into place a cruel law attacking the state’s undocumented immigrant workforce. “Will I be able to find employment in my field, contribute to this country, ever live a regular life?” Domonick wondered last year. “Will I have to pack up and leave the only place that I call home?”

America’s Voice Campaigns Manager Mario Carrillo noted in a Twitter thread last month how the total number of people enrolled in the program has steadily declined. “At its peak, it protected right around 800K people. Now it’s around 580K.” While a number may have left the program after finding a way to adjust their immigration status, others may have let their relief expire due to continued uncertainty. Congressional inaction “has led to people being forced back into the shadows,” Carrillo continued. 

“We’ve long known that DACA was never enough, but now continuous Republican attacks on the program have led to where we are now. A popular program with a clouded future for its recipients.”