Ropes & Gray and MALDEF Win Ruling Preserving DACA in Texas Litigation
On August 31, Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a 117 page memorandum opinion and order denying a motion filed by Texas and nine other states and state governors (the “Plaintiff States”) seeking a preliminary injunction to enjoin the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy. DACA allows certain individuals who came to the United States as children, commonly known as Dreamers, to receive deferred action from deportation and become eligible for a work permit in the United States.
Ropes & Gray and its co-counsel, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), represent 22 DACA beneficiaries who intervened in the case to defend DACA. Because the Plaintiff States and the Federal Defendants, reflecting the Trump Administration’s position, agree that the Obama Administration acted unlawfully in issuing DACA, the task of defending DACA against the Plaintiff States’ preliminary injunction motion fell to Ropes & Gray and MALDEF. On August 8, Ropes & Gray appellate & Supreme Court partner Douglas Hallward-Driemeier and Nina Perales, Vice-President for Litigation at MALDEF, argued in opposition to the motion in a hearing before Judge Hanen.
Judge Hanen concluded that the Plaintiff States could not meet their burden on establishing three of the four elements necessary to justify preliminary injunctive relief. First, because the Plaintiff States delayed nearly six years in bringing their challenge to DACA—despite having timely challenged a related program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA)—they could not prevail on the legal element of irreparable harm. Furthermore, Judge Hanen concluded that both the hardship to the parties and the public interest elements favored denying the motion. In particular, he concluded that enjoining DACA “with only a preliminary injunction record, and perhaps at great risk to many, does not make sense nor serve the best interests of this country.”
Judge Hanen’s decision follows several decisions from other district courts that have enjoined the Trump Administration from rescinding DACA. The purported basis for rescinding DACA was that DACA was promulgated in violation of law, but those courts have concluded that this was a legally flawed premise. Although Judge Hanen disagreed with those other judges on the merits, he agreed that there was no basis to immediately halt DACA while the litigation proceeds. The decision to deny an injunction in Texas case avoids the prospect of the Federal Defendants being subject to conflicting injunctions, which likely would have led to fast track review in the United States Supreme Court.
Ropes & Gray’s team in the case was led by Mr. Hallward-Driemeier and included litigation & enforcement associates Mark Cianci, Emerson Siegle, Raishay Lin, Paul Bennetch, and Andrew Todres.