(NewsNation) — On Wednesday, a federal appeals court could decide the fate of thousands of immigrants brought into the U.S. as children.
A New Orleans judge will determine the legality of the Obama-era program that protects young migrants from deportation.
Last year, a federal judge in Texas declared the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program illegal — although he agreed to leave the program intact for those already benefiting from it while his order is appealed.
The U.S. Justice Department is defending the program, allied with the state of New Jersey, advocacy organizations such as the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund and a coalition of dozens of powerful corporations — including Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft — which argue that DACA recipients are “employees, consumers and job creators.”
Texas, the lead plaintiff with eight other Republican-leaning states, argues that DACA was enacted without going through proper legal and administrative procedures, including public notice and comment periods. Additionally, the states argue that they are harmed financially by allowing immigrants to remain in the country illegally.
“DACA imposes classic pocketbook injuries on the States through social services, healthcare, and education costs,” Texas attorneys argued in a brief, estimating that the state spends tens of millions of dollars on Medicaid services on those in the country illegally.
DACA proponents argue the state hasn’t proven that ending the program would decrease its costs. They argue that DACA is a policy that falls within federal authorities’ power to decide how best to spend finite enforcement resources and that Texas diminished its claims of financial injury by waiting six years to challenge the program. They also argue the state ignores evidence that DACA recipients decrease Texas’ costs because many of them hold jobs with health insurance benefits and many own homes and pay property taxes that support schools.
“Texas and the other states cannot point to an injury that is traceable to DACA,” MALDEF attorney Nina Perales said in a news conference last week. “Without injury, there’s no jurisdiction for the federal courts to hear this case.”
The damage to DACA recipients would be grave, immigrant advocates argued in one brief, exposing them to removal from the only country many of them have known and disrupting the lives of established families.
This decision will come at the same time mourners are gathering in San Antonio to remember the 53 migrants who lost their lives just over a week ago.
“The patients that we saw were hot to the touch,” San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood said during a press conference after the discovery.
53 people have died and 20 others have been recovering at local hospitals after being found inside a tractor-trailer on June 27 in San Antonio. A city worker who heard crying found the group who police believed were migrants being smuggled into the U.S.
“Came out to investigate. Found a trailer with the doors partially open, opened them up to take a look and found a number of deceased individuals inside,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said.
Police said the tractor-trailer had a refrigeration unit but it was not working. In addition, there was no water and temperatures hit a high of 103 degrees on that Monday with lots of humidity. Those still alive could barely move.
“They were conscious and alert, but just again, very weak. None of these people were able to extricate themselves out of the truck.” Hood said.
A federal investigation is being led by Homeland Security, but officials have asked for compassion during their investigation.
“We’re not supposed to open up a truck and see stacks of bodies in there. None of us come to work imagining that, so we’re working through the behavioral health for our folks right now,” Hood said.
San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg called the event a “horrific human tragedy,” saying he believes those who died were likely families trying to find a better life.
“These people are in desperate situations that this is their last resort,” investigative journalist and author John Carlos Frey said.
Frey made the journey for himself. He put himself in the back of a semi-truck with 90 other people from Central America to the U.S. He said, “It is what you would think it would be: a windowless, hot cargo space. It’s not supposed to carry people; it’s supposed to carry boxes or cargo. And so it’s, it’s a harrowing journey.”
One of the 20 survivors, 20-year-old Yenifer Yulisa Cardona Tomás told the Associated Press she made the decision to stay near the door of the trailer after her friend has cautioned her, saying it would be cooler.
“The people were yelling, some cried. Mostly women were calling for it to stop and to open the doors because it was hot, that they couldn’t breathe,” Cardona Tomás said.
The truck would continue stopping occasionally, but just before she lost consciousness it was moving slowly. She woke up in the hospital.
Tuesday night in San Antonio, people joined together for a prayer service vigil and procession to honor those who had died.
The dead included 27 people from Mexico, 14 from Honduras, seven from Guatemala and two from El Salvador, said Francisco Garduño, chief of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute.
The Mexican government said it will pay for the funerals for most of the migrants and will assist U.S. authorities to determine the criminal organization behind the smuggling.
Federal prosecutors say four people have been arrested and charged in connection with the deaths after the discovery of the truck, including the driver. Mexican officials said the driver tried acting as one of the migrants when police arrived.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.