US District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled last month that the current version of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) can continue temporarily for previously approved applicants but cannot accept new applications.
DACA is a federal policy that extends some basic rights, like in-state education fees and work permissions, to the hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the US as children, as long as they complete school and adhere to other requirements. There were 611,270 people enrolled in the program at the end of March, even though new applications have been suspended and many other would-be applicants have been deterred by revelations that application information may have been shared with immigration authorities.
During the hearing, Hanen ordered attorneys for the federal government to provide more information on the new rule and said he expects additional legal arguments related to it, but there was no timetable set for future hearings.
The case went back to Hanen after the Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said last week he should take another look at DACA following revisions adopted by the Biden administration. The new rule’s 453 pages are largely technical and represent little substantive change from the 2012 memo that created DACA. Hanen said he wanted all parties involved to initially focus on issues related to the federal Administrative Procedures Act in reviewing the new regulation.
Last year, Hanen declared DACA illegal after Texas and eight other Republican-leaning states filed a lawsuit claiming they are harmed financially. After the appeals court ruling, President Joe Biden and advocacy groups renewed their calls for Congress to pass permanent protections for DREAMers. Sonia M. Pérez, acting CEO of UnidosUS, the nation’s largest Latino civil rights organization, issued the following statement in response to the ruling:
“The court decision was as expected as it is unfortunate. For the moment, DACA recipients have a small respite, but the ruling is a clear reminder that the fate of DACA hangs in the balance. Particularly through the pandemic, when we all became witnesses to the contributions of immigrants to help our country survive, it is imperative that Congress enact legislation to provide permanent protections for our immigrant communities and deliver a pathway to citizenship for DREAMers before the end of the year.
“The safety and future of hundreds of thousands of individuals who were raised in the US and are valuable, contributing members of their local communities are at stake. These include more than 200,000 DACA recipients who worked tirelessly as frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and parents of a whole new generation of American children. It is estimated that each day, in the two years following the termination of DACA, 1,000 more US-citizen children and spouses will be at threat of family separation. Congressional action is needed to keep families together in the spirit of one of our nation’s most cherished values.”