A federal judge in Texas has ruled
as illegal a program that has protected hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen said then-President Barack Obama overstepped his authority when he created the program, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, by executive order in 2012.
Hanen ordered the Biden administration to stop approving new applications, although he said the more than 600,000 young people currently in the program could keep their status, allowing them to stay in the U.S. to work or go to school. Current recipients, or “Dreamers,” may also be approved for renewal.
This is the latest upheaval in the decade-old program. President Donald Trump tried to terminate DACA, but he was blocked last year by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled his action “arbitrary and capricious
But the court’s decision didn’t address the question of whether DACA was legally created. That opened the door to the current case, brought by Texas and other states.
In his ruling, Hanen said Congress had not granted the Obama administration the authority to adopt DACA. He stopped short, however, of immediately ending the program:
“Hundreds of thousands of individual DACA recipients, along with their employers, states, and loved ones, have come to rely on the DACA program. Given those interests, it is not equitable for a government program that has engendered such a significant reliance to terminate suddenly. This consideration, along with the government’s assertion that it is ready and willing to try to remedy the legal defects of the DACA program indicates that equity will not be served by a complete and immediate cessation of DACA.”
President Biden called the decision “deeply disappointing” and said his administration would appeal it. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement that his department would continue to process DACA renewals and would engage in rulemaking to “preserve and fortify DACA.”
But the ruling increases the pressure for a legislative solution. On his first day in office, Biden strengthened protections
for DACA recipients, and he has proposed legislation that would give them a pathway to citizenship. But like other immigration and visa measures, the proposal has gone nowhere. Even before the judge’s ruling, some congressional supporters had said they would try to include DACA language in the budget bill: