Nebraska is among seven states suing the federal government to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program protecting undocumented immigrants brought into the country as children from deportation.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, "is about the rule of law, not the wisdom of any particular immigration policy," according to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading the multi-state coalition.
Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, who last summer was among 10 state attorneys general who signed a letter asking President Donald Trump to end the program, said Tuesday the lawsuit against the federal government seeks "to prevent the unconstitutional use of executive order to create immigration rights."
"This lawsuit is about protecting the constitutional separation of powers," Peterson said. "As we have stated from the outset, the executive branch possesses no authority to ignore laws duly enacted by Congress.
"The rule of law must be upheld," he added.
Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, South Carolina and West Virginia joined Texas and Nebraska as plaintiffs in the lawsuit against several federal agency chiefs leading the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the U.S. Border Patrol.
The states have asked the court to declare the 2012 Obama administration executive order creating the DACA program unlawful, or to prevent the federal government from renewing or issuing new permits to so-called Dreamers in the future.
Peterson noted the states are not asking the government to deport any DACA youth, nor are they asking the Trump administration to rescind any permits already issued.
The latest lawsuit comes eight months after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the administration's plan to end DACA by March 5, 2018, calling it unconstitutional and a circumvention of Congress' role to enact legislation pertaining to immigration.
Under the administration's plan, DACA enrollees could apply to renew their permits by Oct. 5, 2017, for the March end date, giving Congress time to pass a law keeping protections for those youth in place.
Congress failed to act, however, and in the meantime, federal courts have halted the administration's plan to end the program, with one judge ordering the Department of Homeland Security to resume processing renewals and applications.
That leaves more than 3,000 undocumented Dreamers living, working and attending school in Nebraska hanging in the balance, among an estimated 690,000 undocumented persons in the U.S. protected from deportation through DACA.
Nebraska state lawmakers have incrementally provided more benefits to the undocumented youth living in the state.
In 2006, the Legislature overrode Gov. Dave Heineman's veto of a bill allowing undocumented youth to pay in-state tuition to Nebraska's universities and colleges if they graduated from a Nebraska high school.
DACA youth have also been granted the opportunity to obtain driver's licenses, as well as professional and occupational licenses from the state, through 2015 and 2016 bills voted into law over vetoes by Gov. Pete Ricketts.
And last year, the Legislature adopted a resolution opposing any federal action to rescind the Obama order creating DACA, with 24 of the 49 senators approving the resolution, and only Sen. John Murante of Gretna opposed. Seventeen others were "present not voting."
Peterson later announced his support for a previous lawsuit to end DACA, leading to 20 state senators signing a letter asking the attorney general to reconsider.