A federal judge on Wednesday declared illegal a revised version of a federal policy that prevents the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the United States as children, refused to order an immediate end to the program and protections. offers to recipients.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen agreed with Texas and eight other states that sued to stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. The judge's ruling was expected to eventually be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, sending the program's fate to the high court for the third time.
“While understanding the plight of DACA recipients and their families, this Court has expressed concerns about the legality of the program for some time,” Hanen wrote in his 40-page ruling. “The solution to these deficiencies lies in the legislative branch, not in the executive or the judiciary. Congress, for various reasons, has decided not to pass legislation similar to DACA…The Executive Branch cannot usurp the power granted to Congress by the Constitution, even to fill a void.”
Hanen's order extended the existing court order against DACA, which prohibited the government from approving new applications, but left the program intact for existing recipients during the ongoing legal review.
Hanen also rejected a request from the states to order the program to end within two years. Hanen said his order does not require the federal government to take any action against DACA recipients, known as “Dreamers.”
Thomas Sáenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, or MALDEF, which represents DACA recipients in the lawsuit, said it will ultimately be up to higher courts, including the Supreme Court, to rule on the legality and whether Texas demonstrated that it had been harmed by the program.
“Judge Hanen has consistently been wrong in resolving both issues, and today's ruling is more of the same flawed analysis. We look forward to continuing to defend the legal and much-needed DACA program under review in higher courts,” Sáenz said.
The Biden administration criticized the judge's ruling.
"We are deeply disappointed by today's DACA ruling from the South Texas District Court," press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement Wednesday evening. “…As we have long maintained, we disagree with the District Court's conclusion that DACA is illegal and will continue to defend this critical policy from legal challenges. As we do so, consistent with the court order, DHS will continue to process renewals for current DACA recipients and DHS (the Department of Homeland Security) may continue to accept DACA applications.”
The Texas Attorney General's Office, which represented the states in the lawsuit, and the U.S. Department of Justice, which represented the federal government, did not immediately return emails and calls seeking comment.
States have argued that the Obama administration did not have the authority to first create the program in 2012 because it bypassed Congress.
In 2021, Hanen stated illegal and ruled that it had not been subject to public notice or comment periods required by the federal Administrative Procedures Act.
The Biden administration attempted to satisfy Hanen's concerns with a new version of DACA which went into effect in October 2022 and was subject to public comment as part of a formal rulemaking process.
But Hanen, who was appointed by then-President George W. Bush in 2002, ruled that the updated version of DACA was still illegal since the Biden administration's new version was essentially the same as the previous version, started under the Obama administration. . Hanen had previously said that DACA it was unconstitutional .
Hanen had also previously ruled that the states had standing to sue because they had been harmed by the program.
States have claimed they incur hundreds of millions of dollars in health care, education and other costs when immigrants are allowed to remain in the country illegally. The states that sued are Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas and Mississippi.
Who They defended the program (the federal government, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the state of New Jersey) had argued that the states failed to present evidence that any of the costs they claim to have incurred were tied to DACA recipients. They also argued that Congress has given the Department of Homeland Security the legal authority to set immigration enforcement policies.
There were 578,680 people enrolled in DACA at the end of March, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The program has faced a rollercoaster of court challenges over the years.
In 2016, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 over an expanded DACA and a version of the program for parents of DACA recipients. In 2020, the high court ruled 5 to 4 that the Trump administration improperly ended DACA, allowing it to remain in effect.
In 2022, the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans upheld Hanen's earlier ruling declaring DACA illegal, but sent the case back to him for review. changes made to the program by the Biden administration .
President Joe Biden and advocacy groups have called on Congress to pass permanent protections for “ dreamers ”. Congress has failed several times to pass proposals called the DREAM Act to protect DACA recipients.
“We continue to urge Congress and President Biden to create permanent solutions for all immigrants to ensure that none are left on the dangerous path that DACA has been on over the past decade,” Verónica García, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, an advocacy organization . she said in a statement.