Courts Immigration

Federal District Judge Rules DACA Illegal and Blocks New Applications

Judge Andrew Hanen, a federal district judge in Texas, ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program was unlawful on Friday.

While the decision will not immediately affect current DACA recipients, it will temporarily prevent new applicants from being admitted to the program.

Former President Obama created the DACA program in 2012 by executive order. It has since protected over 800,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. when they were children from being deported. DACA was meant to be a temporary program used in the absence of concrete legislation that would provide a pathway to citizenship for such immigrants. However, Congress has yet to pass any legislation that would offer undocumented immigrants the same protections that DACA affords.

Although current DACA recipients can still live and work in the U.S., Hanen’s ruling once again calls into question the program’s legality and thus the fate of these recipients, as well as hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who have applied for DACA. 

“I was banking on this to start my career,” said Sarahi Magallanez, a first-time DACA applicant, to the New York Times. “Now there is a chance I can’t. DACA is not safe, and we are at the mercy of whoever is in power.”

Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginia all filed a lawsuit against DACA, arguing that it forced them to pay burdensome benefits for immigrants in their states and gave the Executive Branch too much power. Judge Hanen ruled in favor of the states, saying that the program is unlawful because the Department of Homeland Security had never been authorized by Congress to create the program. Hanen was appointed by former President George W. Bush.

In a statement, President Biden said, “Yesterday’s Federal court ruling is deeply disappointing. While the court’s order does not now affect current DACA recipients, this decision nonetheless relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future.”

President Biden has also said that the Department of Justice will be appealing Hanen’s decision. The ruling has sparked increased calls for Congress to implement a permanent way for undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship.

“The dreams of hundreds of thousands of young people who are contributing to the American economy will be put on hold for no good reason,” wrote Representative Joaquin Castro (D-TX) on Twitter. “Congress must pass a pathway to citizenship this year. We can’t wait.”

“Dreamers’ futures shouldn’t be in the hands of the courts,” said Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “It is absolutely urgent that Congress acts now through the budget reconciliation process to provide Dreamers and other undocumented members of our communities with reliable status and a pathway to citizenship.”

Former President Obama said of the ruling on Twitter, “For more than nine years, DREAMers have watched courts and politicians debate whether they’ll be allowed to stay in the only country many of them have ever known. It’s long past time for Congress to act and give them the protection and certainty they deserve.”

Sources: CNN 7/17/21; New York Times 7/16/21; NPR 7/17/21

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