A federal judge has once more ruled that a program designed to shield undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation is illegal.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled against on Wednesday, is a setback for the Biden administration, which tried to codify the policy into federal statute last year. Additionally, it further jeopardizes the legal standing of thousands of illegal American citizens.
In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated, “We are very disappointed in today’s DACA verdict. The Biden administration rejects the decision and has stated that it would continue to support DACA in the face of legal challenges.
Hanen, a Republican appointment, stated that people who “received their initial DACA status prior to July 16, 2021” can “continue to administer the program,” despite the fact that the decision implies no new applications would be accepted. He added that they also have the option to renew their DACA applications.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund’s Thomas A. Saenz applauded Hanen’s choice to permit “current DACA recipients to continue to renew their DACA” applications. However, higher courts, such as the Supreme Court, would ultimately have to make a decision about DACA, he said.
DACA was established in 2012 by President Barack Obama through executive order rather than a congressional statute, drawing numerous legal challenges from Republicans.
President Donald Trump declared the program would be discontinued in 2017, declaring it unlawful and urging Congress to take up the matter. However, the Supreme Court rejected the attempt in 2020, ruling that the administration had failed to offer adequate legal reasons for the program’s termination. The high court permitted legal challenges against DACA to proceed without making a ruling on the program’s legality.
Hanen declared that DACA was unlawful in July 2021, claiming that Obama had exceeded his jurisdiction. Soon after, the DACA program was codified into federal law in an effort by the Biden administration to “preserve and fortify” it.
The following year, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hanen’s decision but remanded the matter to the district court for more consideration in light of impending changes to the administration.
The Biden administration’s attempt was contested in January by the Republican attorneys general of nine states, who claimed that it potentially violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The states claimed that the Biden administration’s approach “was materially the same as the 2012 DACA Memorandum” drafted by the Obama administration.
Hanen agreed in his decision on Wednesday, stating that even while the amended Biden administration policy “may have used somewhat different wording in a few places, the substantive portions are materially the same as the 2012 DACA Memorandum.”
“This Court has indicated its doubts about the validity of the program for some time,” Hanen said, “while sympathetic to the circumstances of DACA recipients and their families. Not the executive or judicial branches, but the legislature must address these shortcomings.
More than 578,000 active recipients of DACA, popularly known as “dreamers,” were being shielded from sudden deportation as of March while simultaneously receiving educational and employment possibilities. Additionally, it has enabled them to access their social security numbers and apply for a driver’s license.
According to the Migration Policy Institute, a neutral Washington, D.C. think tank, the majority of DACA beneficiaries are from Latin America, but they are also from Asia, Africa, and Canada.
A Los Angeles-based organization called the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights called the most recent decision “political, pathetic, and cruel.” In a statement, the group’s political director Fatima Flores-Lagunas stated that the decision “is an infuriating reminder of Congressional cowardice.”