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Immigration Lawyer Discusses Future Of DACA Program


All right, also in Houston for that hearing today was Nina Perales. She's vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund or MALDEF. We caught up with Perales outside of the courthouse in Houston today, and here's what she said.

NINA PERALES: I represent 22 DACA recipients from around the U.S. This is the only country that they know. So it's critically important to them that they be able to stay.

CHANG: Here now to help us take a step back to see how these latest DACA developments might play out nationally is Karen Tumlin. She's the legal director for the National Immigration Law Center, which is based in Los Angeles. Welcome.

KAREN TUMLIN: Thank you so much for having me.

CHANG: So, Karen, I know you're not litigants or your group isn't litigant - a litigant in this Texas case, but I understand you're involved in many others. So what is your take on what we heard from the court in Texas today?

TUMLIN: Yeah, absolutely. My organization is involved in a lawsuit challenging the end of DACA in New York along with 17 other states and the district of - pardon me, the District of Columbia. So my take on what happened in the courtroom today is really very simple. We have an effort which in my mind is too little by late by the state of Texas to try to challenge the lawfulness of the DACA program.

And to do so before a hand-selected forum as opposed to participating in the lawsuits that were ongoing since quite literally the day that President Trump - you know, his acting secretary Duke signed the memo terminating DACA. I think it's incredibly important what your reporter was mentioning about the questions that were put forth in court today about are states harmed, or are they benefited by the DACA program? And when you look across the cases, the avalanche of information is at every level...

CHANG: There...

TUMLIN: ...Businesses, families, DACA recipients are a benefit.

CHANG: There has been so much litigation around DACA.


CHANG: I'm curious. What are you hearing from some of the DACA recipients that you're working with? How is all of this legal back-and-forth affecting their lives?

TUMLIN: It's scary. You know, I actually was receiving text messages from DACA recipients while the hearing was ongoing. Folks were waiting anxiously, you know, so grateful for MALDEF, for their leadership and that they immediately came out of court and did a live broadcast on Facebook which I know tons of DACA recipients were tuned into because these individuals grew up in this country. This is their home. And they want security. They want to be able to plan their lives, pursue their education, raise their children without the constant threat of legal ping pong. And they deserve that.

CHANG: Is there a specific person or a case that comes to mind as you're working on these issues?

TUMLIN: All my plaintiffs...

CHANG: All your plaintiffs.

TUMLIN: ...Right? I have the tremendous privilege - I represent in the lawsuit Martin Batalla, Eliana Fernandez, literally 2,000 clients and members of Make the Road New York who have DACA. And, you know, they are members of my community. They are my loved ones. And that's the experience that I understand, that my neighbors, that my friends have with the DACA recipients in their own lives. And I want this matter put to rest for them.

CHANG: And how is the National Immigration Law Center advising people if they need to renew their DACA applications at this point?

TUMLIN: Absolutely.

CHANG: What kind of guidance are you offering?

TUMLIN: You know, we as well as United We Dream, who has a lot of information on DACA renewals, we are telling people that this is the right time to talk to legal services providers and if - to see if renewal is right for you, and if you can renew to go ahead and do so. We know how critical this protection is. There are - luckily there's assistance available through DACA renewal funds to help folks pay the fees and get renewed so that they can have that safety from deportation and the ability to work lawfully in this country.

We are trying to explain what's going on in the courts because individuals with DACA are tracking this closely, and they want to know. So we're doing our best to decode the legalese without unnecessarily inciting fear but providing clear information. And that's hard.

CHANG: All right, that's Karen Tumlin. She's the legal director for the National Immigration Law Center. She joined us on the phone from Los Angeles. Karen, thank you very much.

TUMLIN: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.