U.S. District Judge Reiterates DACA’s Illegality, Supreme Court Likely to Make Final Ruling

by Chloe Baker
DACA Ruling

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen declared that a modified version of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was unlawful. Despite this, he refrained from issuing an immediate termination of the program and the safeguards it provides to its beneficiaries.

Judge Hanen sided with Texas and eight other states that had filed a lawsuit aimed at halting the DACA initiative. It is widely anticipated that this ruling will be appealed and elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court, marking the third occasion that the fate of the program would be decided by the high court.

In his comprehensive 40-page decision, Judge Hanen articulated, “Though this Court understands the challenging situation of DACA recipients and their families, concerns have been raised for some time about the program’s legal standing. The remedy for these shortcomings lies with Congress, not the executive or judicial branches. Despite having multiple opportunities, Congress has opted not to enact legislation resembling DACA… The Executive Branch does not have the constitutional authority to substitute for Congressional inaction.”

The judge maintained the existing injunction against DACA that prevents the federal government from approving new applications. However, he allowed the program to continue for current recipients while the legal examination proceeds.

Judge Hanen also rejected the request from the states involved in the lawsuit to phase out the program within a two-year timeframe. His order does not mandate the federal government to take any punitive measures against DACA recipients, colloquially known as “Dreamers.”

Thomas Saenz, President and General Counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which represents DACA recipients in the litigation, commented that higher courts, including the Supreme Court, will have the ultimate say on the program’s legality and whether Texas and other states can prove harm inflicted by DACA. “Judge Hanen’s consistent errors in addressing these matters persist in today’s ruling. We are eager to continue defending the legal and essential DACA program as it undergoes higher court reviews,” said Saenz.

The Biden administration expressed dissatisfaction with the ruling. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated, “We profoundly disagree with the District Court in Southern Texas and its conclusion that DACA is unlawful. We will keep defending this vital policy from legal attacks. In compliance with the court’s order, the Department of Homeland Security will continue to renew current DACA statuses and may accept new applications.”

Both the Texas Attorney General’s Office, representing the plaintiff states, and the U.S. Department of Justice, representing the federal government, have not immediately responded to requests for comments.

The plaintiff states have argued that the original program, initiated under the Obama administration in 2012, lacked the legal basis as it sidestepped Congress. In 2021, Judge Hanen had ruled the program to be illegal, citing a failure to comply with federal Administrative Procedures Act requirements concerning public notice and comment periods.

The Biden administration sought to address these concerns with a revised DACA policy implemented in October 2022, which included a public comment phase. Despite this, Judge Hanen determined that the updated policy remained illegal, as it was fundamentally similar to the previous version initiated under President Obama. Hanen had earlier declared that the states had standing to bring the lawsuit, asserting they incurred substantial costs in healthcare, education, and other sectors due to the program.

As of the end of March, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reported that 578,680 individuals were enrolled in DACA.

Over the years, the program has undergone numerous legal challenges. In 2016, the Supreme Court was evenly divided on an expanded DACA and a similar program for parents of DACA recipients. In 2020, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration had incorrectly terminated DACA, allowing it to remain in effect.

In 2022, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld Judge Hanen’s earlier ruling that declared DACA illegal but remanded the case for further review of the Biden administration’s changes to the program.

Both President Joe Biden and various advocacy organizations have repeatedly urged Congress to establish permanent protections for DACA recipients, known as “dreamers.” Despite numerous attempts, legislative measures known as the DREAM Act have failed to gain traction in Congress.

Veronica Garcia, an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, stated, “We continue to press both Congress and President Biden to enact permanent solutions for all immigrants to avoid the precarious path that DACA has trodden for nearly a decade.”

For more updates, follow Juan A. Lozano on X, the platform that succeeded Twitter: [Link here].

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about DACA Ruling

What was the primary decision made by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen regarding DACA?

Judge Andrew Hanen declared a revised version of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to be unlawful. However, he did not order an immediate termination of the program, allowing existing protections for current recipients to continue.

Is the case expected to go to the U.S. Supreme Court?

Yes, it is widely anticipated that the ruling will be appealed and ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. This would mark the third time the high court will consider the fate of the DACA program.

What did Judge Hanen’s order entail regarding new DACA applications?

Judge Hanen maintained an existing injunction that prevents the federal government from approving any new DACA applications. Current recipients, however, will continue to be protected while the case undergoes further legal review.

What was the stance of the Biden administration on this ruling?

The Biden administration expressed deep disappointment with Judge Hanen’s decision. It disagreed with the court’s conclusion that DACA is unlawful and pledged to continue defending the policy against legal challenges.

Who are the states that sued against DACA?

The states that filed the lawsuit against DACA are Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas, and Mississippi.

What was the basis of the states’ argument against DACA?

The states argued that the original program initiated under the Obama administration in 2012 lacked legal authority as it circumvented Congress. They also claim to incur hundreds of millions of dollars in costs related to healthcare, education, and other sectors due to the program.

Have there been previous legal challenges to DACA?

Yes, the DACA program has faced numerous legal challenges over the years. In 2016 and 2020, the program’s fate was deliberated by the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2022, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Judge Hanen’s earlier ruling declaring DACA illegal.

What is the next step for DACA’s legal journey?

The next step is expected to be an appeal, potentially leading to a review by higher courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

What are advocacy groups and President Biden urging for the future of DACA?

Both President Biden and various advocacy organizations have repeatedly called for Congress to enact permanent legislative protections for DACA recipients, often referred to as “dreamers.”

How many people are currently enrolled in the DACA program?

As of the end of March, there were 578,680 individuals enrolled in the DACA program according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

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Alex_1990 September 14, 2023 - 7:52 am

Isn’t it about time that Congress actually does something here? It’s always up to the courts to decide but the legislative should act! What are they even doing up there?

SandraT September 14, 2023 - 8:13 am

Can’t the administration and the courts just make up their minds already? ppl are anxious and it affects their lives deeply. C’mon!

Lisa_M September 14, 2023 - 2:09 pm

well this is frustrating! They keep going back and forth on DACA. Is the supreme court gonna be the final say or what??

KevinO September 14, 2023 - 3:22 pm

States claiming they incur hundreds of millions in costs? Show the proof then! Seems like just another reason to fight against it.

Steve J September 14, 2023 - 5:03 pm

Whoa, didn’t see this coming. Looks like DACA is on shaky grounds again. What’s gonna happen to all those folks depending on it? Seriously, Congress needs to step up.

JamesH September 14, 2023 - 9:54 pm

Hanen’s ruling is consistent with his past, but the Supreme Court might think differently. Gotta say, it’s a roller coaster for everyone involved.

TaraM September 14, 2023 - 10:22 pm

578,680 people are in limbo now. Just think about that number for a sec. How many families, dreams, and lives are we talking about? Needs a fix, and fast.

Dana_R September 14, 2023 - 10:25 pm

Wasn’t the new version of DACA designed to address legal concerns? Guess it wasn’t enough. Now we’re back to square one. smh


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