A federal judge in Texas ruled late last week that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was improperly implemented by the federal government and is, therefore, illegal.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, found that the executive branch did not have “free rein to grant lawful presence outside the ambit of the statutory scheme” when the program was originally created by former President Barack Obama in 2012.
The ruling from Hanen blocked new applicants from applying for DACA but did not revoke employment authorization and deportation relief for current recipients, until further order from the “Court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, or the United States Supreme Court.”
“To be clear, neither this order, nor the accompanying injunction requires DHS or the Department of Justice to take any immigration, deportation or criminal action against any DACA recipient, applicant, or any other individual that it would not otherwise take,” Hanen wrote in the decision.
President Joe Biden, who served as vice president under Obama when the DACA program was created, vowed to appeal the ruling.
“(The) Federal court ruling is deeply disappointing,” Biden said in a statement released last weekend. “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. The Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA. And, as the court recognized, the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue a proposed rule concerning DACA in the near future.”
The program has offered temporary protection to almost 800,000 young people since it initially took effect on June 15, 2012. DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, can receive work authorization in the United States; enroll at colleges and universities; and obtain a driver’s license. However, DACA does not provide recipients a legal pathway to citizenship.
Democrats in the United States Senate are seeking to include multiple immigration-related measures in their upcoming economic proposal. It is unclear if that package will pass both chambers of Congress to become law.
“Only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve,” Biden said in the statement. “It is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means, Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear.”
Trump’s attempt to end DACA program and Supreme Court ruling
Former President Donald Trump attempted to repeal DACA via executive memo early during his tenure in the White House.
However, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to end DACA in a 5-4 decision in June 2020, finding that the government did not provide sufficient justification for shuttering the program.
In effect, the Supreme Court ruled that the specific government action in ending the program was impermissible, without directly ruling on the overarching constitutionality of DACA or the scope of executive authority.