Judge Again Rules DACA Illegal; outcome ‘unknown,’ says Darius Amiri, Rose Law Group Immigration Dept. Chair

The judge maintained that President Barack Obama exceeded his authority when he created the program, which has allowed thousands of young undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation and work legally.

Miriam Jordan

The New York Times

A federal judge in Texas on Wednesday rejected the Biden administration’s latest effort to save a program that has shielded hundreds of thousands of undocumented young adults from deportation, saying that it remained unlawful even after recent changes.

The judge, Andrew S. Hanen of the Federal District Court in Houston, maintained that President Barack Obama exceeded his authority when he created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, by executive action in 2012.

The decision is the latest twist in a five-year-long court saga that has left the program and its beneficiaries, known as Dreamers, hanging in the balance. While the ruling is a blow to the immigrants, the judge did not mandate an immediate end to the program. Current applicants will be able to keep and renew their protection. No new applications will be allowed.

The Biden administration initiated a rule-making procedure in 2021 to explicitly attempt to bolster DACA’s legal standing, but the rule issued by the administration did not sway the judge.

“There are no material differences,” the judge wrote in his 40-page opinion. But he added that his decision did not compel the government to “take any immigration, deportation or criminal action against any DACA recipient.”

The government is almost certain to appeal the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, experts said, and the case is likely to end up in the Supreme Court. 

“The end result here is unknown, but in the meantime, hundreds of thousands of people who have called America home for the majority of their lives must live in limbo while the judiciary decides their fate. As DACA is overwhelmingly popular in bipartisan fashion, this should be yet another catalyst for Congress to reach across the aisle and enshrine DACA into legislation to take this issue out of the courts once and for all.”

Darius Amiri. Immigration Dept. Chair

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September 2023