Texas Employers Head to Federal Court to Oppose AG Ken Paxton on Dismantling DACA

In an unprecedented move, seven Texas chambers of commerce, two pro-business consortiums and four prominent companies – including Southwest Airlines and Marek Brothers Construction – have filed a brief in federal court asking a judge to reject state Attorney General Ken Paxton’s lawsuit to scrap a program that shields certain young undocumented immigrants from deportation.

The program is known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. Paxton filed suit earlier this year in South Texas to end it. 

Now, lawyers at Vinson & Elkins, representing the business coalition including the Texas Association of Business, argue Paxton’s lawsuit would damage their clients’ operations, deprive them of much needed work expertise and cost the state tens of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues.

Among other things, the business leaders say that if Paxton's lawsuit is successful, it would cause Texas' economy to lose more than $6 billion in gross domestic product – roughly $2 billion of that from the Houston area alone.

This coalition also includes the Hispanic chambers of commerce in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Midland, Brazoria County and the Rio Grande Valley, as well as United Airlines and Laredo-based International Bancshares Corp. All told, the groups and companies represent employers of tens of thousands of Texans.

“Granting young immigrants deferred action under DACA brings them out of the shadows and gives them the ability to participate fully in the Texas economy, which benefits Texas, in part, through higher tax revenues,” the V&E lawyers argue. The brief also notes that DACA recipients are projected to contribute about $244.7 million in Texas taxes this year.

“Enjoining the DACA initiative would damage the Texas economy by forcing Texas’s Dreamer consumers to the sidelines and reducing the revenues of Texas businesses,” the V&E lawyers said. “The instability of life as an undocumented immigrant who might be subject to deportation at any time discourages those Texans from spending their money freely.”

“In the face of DACA rescission and other recent developments in immigration enforcement, immigrant communities in Texas are increasingly holding back from economic activity, focusing instead on saving to protect their families from the economic trauma (in the form of job loss and legal fees) that comes with deportation proceedings,” the attorneys for businesses said.

In unveiling his lawsuit earlier this year, General Paxton said he would “urge the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to declare DACA unlawful and stop the federal government from issuing or renewing any DACA permits in the future.”

The suit was filed in Brownsville, where a federal judge previously agreed with Paxton about an executive order protecting the parents of young undocumented immigrants.

“Our lawsuit is about the rule of law, not the wisdom of any particular immigration policy," Paxton said. 

“Texas has argued for years that the federal executive branch lacks the power to unilaterally grant unlawfully present aliens lawful presence and work authorization,” Paxton said. “Left intact, DACA sets a dangerous precedent by giving the executive branch sweeping authority to ignore the laws enacted by Congress and change our nation’s immigration laws to suit a president’s own policy preferences."

When asked if he’s frustrated with President Trump for not making progress in canceling out the executive order issued by then-President Barack Obama, Paxton said “our frustration is with three activist judges.”

“Last September, President Trump sided with the rule of law. He agreed to phase out DACA after I led a coalition requesting his administration do so or face a court challenge,” Paxton said. “Since then, three activist federal judges have blocked the federal government from cancelling DACA,” he said. 

Business leaders are not alone in scratching their heads over Paxton's lawsuit. 

When it was originally filed, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the Senate’s number two Republican and a former Texas Attorney General, said he didn’t get what Paxton was trying to accomplish.

“I honestly don’t understand what the state is asking for,” Cornyn said. “Right now, the issue looks like it’s going all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. They’re gonna decide whether DACA can be ended.”

We’ll continue to track developments about this lawsuit.

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