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DACA program for undocumented youth faces legal threat

Dozens of murals hang on the walls at the Northwest Detention Center. They're painted by detainees, and the designs must be approved by staff. Painting is also considered a voluntary job, and the artists are paid $1 per day for their work.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer
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Dozens of murals hang on the walls at the Northwest Detention Center. They're painted by detainees.

A federal program that gives legal status to some undocumented youth is under legal threat.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, was established five years ago under President Barack Obama. But a deadline is looming that could dismantle the program.  

Ten state attorneys general, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, vowed to sue the Trump Administration if it didn’t take any action to end DACA by September 5.

An estimated 20,000 Washington residents have benefited from the program, including Paul Quinonez. He graduated from Gonzaga University in 2015.

“This program has allowed me to legally work and work in my field with my degree in political science and economics," said Quinonez. "There’s many people like me who are also DACA recipients in similar circumstances.”

Quinonez is part of Washington Dream Coalition, an organization of undocumented immigrant youth. He and other DACA recipients are calling on the White House and Congress to protect the program.

“It’s really about the dignity of people and their ability to live freely and safe from fear,” he said.

Nationwide, there are 800,000 DACA recipients.

Paxton recently stood firm on his lawsuit threat. In a letter to Texas lawmakers, Paxton said his objection is not toward the policy itself, but to the program’s origins. DACA he wrote, amounts to an unlawful use of executive power.

Year started with KUOW: 1994