Updated at 4:37 p.m.
Immigration attorneys and recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are lashing back at Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton the day after he filed a federal lawsuit in Brownsville to kill the Obama-era program.
Paxton threatened to sue the Trump administration if it did not end the DACA program. He said the program was not created by Congress and therefore should be declared unconstitutional.
Lance Curtright, a San Antonio immigration attorney, said it is easy to see why DACA recipients and their families feel under attack.
“I think it will further solidify the notion that there is a major political movement against DACA recipients and their families. It all just kind of cumulates into this feeling that they’re not wanted, that they’re targeted,” Curtright said.
And Curtright believes the lawsuit will also engender more fear and anxiety among DACA recipients, like Melissa Garcia, who was brought to the U.S. legally as a child by her parents, who were in the country on a tourist visa. Garcia remained in the U.S. illegally after the visa expired and enrolled in DACA when the program first began in 2012.
“I recently put in my renewal a couple of weeks ago, and I just recently got my biometrics appointment this following Monday; you know — go in and do all my fingerprinting before someone actually looks at my case, and it kind of puts me in a place where I actually get nervous,” Garcia said.
The federal DACA program was created to provide work authorization and protection against deportation for someone who was brought into the U.S. illegally.
A federal court in Washington D.C. blocked President Trump’s efforts to end DACA if Congress could not come up with a more permanent program on its own.
Garcia, as nervous as she is, said she’s given up on Congress finding a permanent DACA solution.
“There was a time where there was no DACA and I was fine. I was making it work. So I think if DACA is one day not here anymore and I’m not, I don’t know, not allowed to live in the U.S. anymore, I think I’ll figure it out,” Garcia said.
And Garcia is not alone. Immigration attorneys believe many DACA recipients fear they will be separated from their families if the federal program ends.
Paxton also filed a preliminary injunction Wednesday to stop the federal government from issuing or renewing any DACA applications while the lawsuit is pending.
CORRECTION: Melissa Garcia's immigration status was incorrect. The story was updated to say she told TPR she was brought to the country legally on a tourist visa, and remained in the country after it expired.