Ken Paxton has used his position as Attorney General of Texas to lead state-level attacks on DACA. On May 1, 2018, Texas and six other states filed a lawsuit to end DACA, seeking a nationwide injunction against renewals. In a press release announcing the actions, Paxton defended the Trump Administration, instead blaming continued renewals of the program on the nationwide injunctions to halt its dismantling. This followed Paxton’s confirmation that he had conversations with the Trump Administration, including the Department of Justice about the repeal of DACA.
- Paxton has led the charge nationally to end DACA and expel hundreds of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age, many of whom live in Texas.
- While Paxton has feigned a lack of interest in physically deporting current DACA recipients, he is aware that if the Administration were to end DACA, recipients would unquestionably be at immediate risk of deportation.
- Paxton has been vocal about his opposition to every major component of the DACA program.
- In an effort to minimize fallout over several lawsuits challenging SB 4, a harsh attrition through enforcement measure signed into law in May 2017, Paxton filed a lawsuit the very same day, requesting a federal court declare the new law constitutional. Unsurprisingly, anti-immigrant group FAIR wrote in its annual report that it had “provided anti-sanctuary bill ideas to staff for Texas State Senator Charles Perry, whose measure (SB 4) was signed into law by Governor Abbott.”
- In June 2017, The United States Department of Justice filed a statement of interest, siding with Texas on SB 4 litigation. In a press release announcing the decision, former U.S. Attorney General Sessions said that Texas had admirably followed President Trump’s lead “by mandating state-wide cooperation with federal immigration laws that require the removal of illegal aliens who have committed crimes.” Sessions said in a statement, “The Department of Justice fully supports Texas’s effort and is participating in this lawsuit because of the strong federal interest in facilitating the state and local cooperation that is critical in enforcing our nation’s immigration laws.” In his own statement Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton thanked the DOJ for its support on the case and stated: “We look forward to working with DOJ lawyers to see that Senate Bill 4 is fully honored in Texas.”
- On March 13, 2018, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the majority of the provisions of SB 4 could go into effect, only blocking a piece of the measure which did not allow elected officials to criticize or speak favorably about limiting immigration enforcement. However, the provisions that were not struck down allow local law enforcement to inquire about the immigration status of a detained person and mandates that all ICE detainers be honored.
- In the summer of 2018, Paxton refused to condemn the Trump Administration’s policy of separating families, saying it was President Trump’s job “to enforce the law, not to make it up. What he’s doing is securing the border, just like he said he’d do.”
- In an October 2018 interview on Fox News, Paxton said that he supported President Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship: “You create an incentive for somebody to cross the border, have a baby and suddenly they’re a citizen. It doesn’t make any sense and I’m glad the president’s taking a look at this and considering this option.”
- In addition to making life as difficult as possible for immigrants in Texas, Paxton has helped to lead the charge in ending DACA and deporting Dreamers.
- Texas led the opposition against President Obama’s 2014 executive actions on immigration through DHS, which in addition to expanding the DACA program would have protected the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents from deportation and allowed them to work legally.
- Just two days after President Obama’s announcement on DAPA and DACA+, The Washington Post reported that then-Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) lawyer Kris Kobach had stated at a community forum that he had “already begun drafting a suit as the lead attorney, with plans to file it in early December,” and that “Texas is interested in being a plaintiff.” On December 3, 2014, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit challenging DAPA and DACA+. From there, the newly-elected Attorney General, Ken Paxton, carried out the lawsuit.
- After the U.S. Supreme Court allowed an injunction against the DAPA and DACA+ programs to remain in place in June 2016, IRLI, the legal arm of flagship anti-immigrant group FAIR, announced it had “advised the Texas Attorney-General’s office on key facets of the case.”
- In June of 2017, Paxton lead ten Republican state attorney generals in threatening to amend their pending DAPA lawsuit to sue over DACA 2012 unless President Trump ended the program by September 5, 2017.
- During an October 2017 Justice Department Oversight Hearing, Sessions refused to deny that he had any communication with Texas AG Ken Paxton or any other attorneys general who were “threatening to bring a lawsuit to void DACA before the decision was made by Trump Administration.” Sessions claimed that these kinds of conversations were privileged; however, Paxton had already confirmed talks with the Trump Administration earlier in the month.
- According to deposition transcripts with Gene Hamilton, the then-DHS advisor acknowledged he’d been the author of the agency’s memo which repealed DACA, and had had several conversations with the Texas Attorney General’s office, including Ken Paxton himself, before and after that office led an effort threatening legal action if DACA was not repealed before September 5, 2017.
- In an op-ed for USA Today entitled: Donald Trump Should Keep his Promise to Dump DACA, Paxton again challenged the President over his decision to keep the program in place: “We’ve given the Trump Administration until September 5 to agree to phase out DACA. Otherwise, our lawsuit challenging unlawful deferred-action programs currently pending in district court will be amended to challenge the renewal or issuance of any new DACA permits in the future.”
- And in a letter to the editor addressed to the Wall Street Journal, Paxton attempted to defend his attack on DACA by drawing comparisons between DACA 2012 and DAPA: “DACA is exactly like DAPA and needs to be phased out to preserve the rule of law and constitutional separation of powers.”