For Texas DACA recipients, court ruling is a small win — but a bigger fight remains

Texas immigrants and their advocates said they're pleased that a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction keeping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in place. But they said they remain focused on the push in Congress to make the program permanent.

Tomas Martinez, with GLAHR, a grass roots organization from Atlanta, chants to excite the crowd in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday, April 18, 2016.  Lexey Swall

Like many other immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, Carolina Ramirez celebrated this week after a federal judge moved to temporarily preserve a program that protects immigrants like her.

But the Houston resident and her allies were cautious with their joy. The fight for the program remains on Capitol Hill, Ramirez said. 

“I just need Congress to get things together,” she said. “They just need to really hold the line and make sure the deportations don’t continue to happen.”

Ramirez, 28, has called Texas home for 20 years. She's a recipient of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA. The program, which awards its recipients with renewable, two-year work permits and deportation reprieves, has been targeted for elimination under the administration of President Donald Trump. But those plans were at least paused thanks to a nationwide preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge William Alsup on Tuesday.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Alsup ordered the program to remain in place during a lawsuit filed by the state of California that argues that the current administration failed to follow the law when Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the announcement to rescind DACA on Sep. 5.

“[The injunction] shows the courts agree with protecting immigrant youth,” Ramirez said. “DACA is more than a paper to me.”

There are nearly 690,000 recipients in the United States. More than 120,000 live in Texas, meaning the program is especially important for the state. 

Ramirez stressed that the court’s decision was a temporary solution, rather than a permanent one for DACA recipients. The real fight, she said, will be in Washington, where members of Congress need to “feel the pressure” to make a deal before the Jan. 19 deadline for a government funding bill.

On Tuesday, Trump met with Democratic and Republican lawmakers to discuss the future of DACA, and said he wanted a “clean bill” to protect DACA recipients. Later, he added he still wanted an overhaul of immigration policy, which includes his much-desired border wall. Leaders of both parties agreed they'd like to reach a deal that protects undocumented childhood arrivals and strengthens border security. 

A bipartisan bill "will provide a discreet solution to the crisis that Trump created when he ended DACA on Sept. 5th,” said Marielena Hincapie, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.“The communities want it, the majority of Americans want it — even legislators on both sides of the aisle have said that they want it and they understand and recognize it needs to get done in January. Congress has a real solution in front of them.”

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Adrian Reyna, DREAM Act campaign director of the national advocacy group United We Dream, is also a DACA recipient. Reyna said he received a call from his sister Wednesday morning. She asked him if everything was fixed because of the injunction.

Unfortunately, he said, it wasn’t. There was still work left to do.

“The devil is in the details — of course not everything is fixed,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Raymund Paredes, Texas commissioner of higher education, told reporters in a phone call Wednesday morning that DACA remains a critical issue for students in the state.

"We have tens of thousands of students who fit in the DACA category," Paredes said. "The United States is their country. A lot of these kids, these young people, don't remember living anywhere else."

In June, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, along with officials from nine other states, wrote a letter to the Trump administration urging officials to end the DACA program.

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn told reporters Wednesday morning that the federal injunction wouldn’t impact the bipartisan negotiations. Still, he said Tuesday’s court decision was wrong.

“If President Obama can create the deferred action program, then certainly President Trump can un-create it, or end it. It just makes sense," Cornyn said, according to The Hill.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Ramirez will be watching closely. She said the past several months have brought a surge in young people coming together to help save DACA. Her personal fight won’t stop because of the recent ruling.

“I’ve been able to dedicated my time fully to the future of my community,” Ramirez said. “I feel a lot of energy and a lot of love for my community." 

Disclosure: Raymund Paredes has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.