In a recent development, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew S. Hanen ruled that the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is illegal, despite the Biden administration's efforts to bolster the program.
The Legal Battle:
The legal battle stems from Texas and eight other states suing to stop the DACA, arguing that it violated federal regulatory law and imposed additional costs on them with education, healthcare, and law enforcement costs. Judge Hanen’s order extends the injunction already in place against DACA, which prevents the government from processing new applications. However, it maintains the program for current beneficiaries as the legal review continues.
DACA has been a critical issue in U.S. politics, with President Biden prioritizing its defense. Former President Donald Trump sought to end DACA during his tenure, but the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his efforts. Currently DACA, which began in 2012 under the Obama administration, offers deportation relief and work permits to immigrants who were brought to the United States illegally as children. Under the program, these people, often called "Dreamers," have been protected from deportation and granted work authorization for the past 11 years. Therefore, the ruling is a significant setback for DACA, impacting its 579,000 enrollees.
The judge's decision prolongs the uncertainty that has surrounded the DACA program for the past two years. Existing beneficiaries will not lose their protection from removal; they can still pursue the renewal of their protections. However, potential new applicants remain ineligible to apply.
Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, issued a statement assuring current DACA beneficiaries the program’s protections are still in place, saying:
"The ruling preserves the stay, which means current DACA recipients will not lose their protection from removal.”
The Biden administration criticized the judge’s ruling and vowed to continue fighting to protect DACA. The administration released the following statement:
“As we have long maintained, we disagree with the District Court’s conclusion that DACA is unlawful, and will continue to defend this critical policy from legal challenges. While we do so, consistent with the court’s order, DHS [the Department of Homeland Security] will continue to process renewals for current DACA recipients and DHS may continue to accept DACA applications.”
This ruling undoubtedly adds another chapter to the ongoing legal saga surrounding DACA. Though the ruling poses a setback for DACA, it does not immediately impact current DACA beneficiaries. The DHS can continue extending the status of current holders, ensuring those already benefiting from the program remain protected from deportation.