NEW ORLEANS — The National Immigration Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Texas today filed a petition for writ of mandamus before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of four people impacted by a recent order issued by a federal district court in Brownsville, Texas, demanding the personal data of tens of thousands of Dreamers. The filing was instituted to protect the basic constitutional privacy rights of those who received three-year work authorization permits under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative, announced in 2012.
A writ of mandamus allows impacted individuals to initiate a new action in the court of appeals to seek redress from a lower court order.
“Young immigrants fought for and won the opportunity to come forward and apply for the opportunity to contribute more fully to their communities,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director at the National Immigration Law Center. “The district court’s order causes tens of thousands who applied for the program to live in fear that their private information—and information about their friends and families—will be used against them. They deserve a voice in the courtroom.”
On May 19, U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen ordered the federal government to turn over the names, locations, and other identifiers of tens of thousands of DACA recipients who received three-year work authorizations between November 2014 and February 2015, and who live in one of 26 states involved in a lawsuit, United States v. Texas, currently pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. The lawsuit sought to obstruct the implementation of two Obama administration initiatives—DAPA and the expansion of DACA—announced in 2014. The DACA program announced in 2012 was not subject to this lawsuit.
"With this filing, Dreamers are standing up for themselves and their families to try to shut down an outrageous threat to their constitutionally protected privacy rights. The order requiring the federal government to turn over Dreamers' names and private information is legally unjustifiable, and should not survive this challenge," said Omar Jadwat, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Immigrants' Rights Project.
In February 2015, Judge Hanen issued an overreaching, nationwide injunction to block those two initiatives. However, the original DACA initiative, announced in 2012, is not part of the lawsuit.
“The rights embodied in our Constitution were designed to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, including young immigrants who only know this country as their own,” said Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “If their fundamental privacy protections can be nullified by the stroke of a judge’s pen in a case to which they are not parties, then everyone’s privacy rights are threatened.”
Angelica Villalobos, a 31-year-old mother of four who lives in Oklahoma, is among the four petitioners included in the petition for a writ of mandamus filed today. Villalobos applied for a renewal of DACA in the fall of 2014 and received a three-year work authorization in November of that year, shortly after the administration announced DAPA and the expansion of DACA.
“When I applied for DACA, I trusted the government to keep my personal information confidential,” Villalobos said. “Releasing that private information could put my family at risk of harassment by groups and individuals that don’t like immigrants. I am worried for the safety of my daughters.”
Juan Escalante, a 27-year-old resident of Florida, applied for a renewal of DACA in August 2014 and received a three-year work authorization in December 2014. In his application, he Included sensitive information like his social security number, financial information, and the identities of family members.
“The idea that federal government would turn this information to the district court, and that the district court might turn it over to the State of Florida or other agencies, makes me anxious and fearful, both for myself and for my family, of the possibility that the information could fall into the wrong hands,” Escalante said.
The 2012 DACA initiative allows some young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to live and work in the country temporarily if they meet certain eligibility requirements. The expansion of DACA and DAPA announced in 2014 built upon the success of that program by extending similar benefits to additional immigrant youth and certain undocumented parents of American children.
Today’s filing is available at: https://www.aclutx.org/sites/default/files/writmandamus.pdf
A recording of today’s press call announcing the filing is available at: https://soundcloud.com/nilc-nilc/nilc-press-conference-call-6316