DACA Declared Illegal Once Again by Federal Court Judge

Undocumented immigrants protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are once again having to defend the program created by former President Barack Obama in 2012


Photo: Facebook/@Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Undocumented immigrants protected by Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are once again having to defend the program created by former President Barack Obama in 2012. It was first declared illegal in court in 2013 and was  ruled illegal again on Sept. 13 by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen who sided with Texas and eight other states suing to stop  the program. His ruling is keeping DACA intact for existing recipient but has stopped the government from approving new applications, the reported. The program was developed for the children of undocumented immigrants under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012 who were 16 or under at the time they came to the U.S.

It was developed to help them obtain work permits and embark on a path toward U.S. citizenship. As of March 2023, there are about 578,680 people enrolled in the DACA program, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  DACA recipients have to re-apply every two years, but the program has  faced major opposition from Republicans who claim Obama abused his executive power. As far back as 2016, former President Trump tried to end DACA during his presidency, only to backpedal later when his actions were deemed unconstitutional by the high court. President Biden  has failed to permanently preserve it into law despite vocalizing his support for the program.

“While sympathetic to the predicament of DACA recipients and their families, this Court has expressed its concerns about the legality of the program for some time,” said Hanen in his ruling. “The solution for these deficiencies lies with the legislature, not the executive or judicial branches. Congress, for any number of reasons, has decided not to pass DACA-like legislation…The Executive Branch cannot usurp the power bestowed on Congress by the Constitution—even to fill a void.”

On the anniversary of DACA Biden released as statement in support of Dreamers and DACA stating, “My Administration is committed to providing Dreamers the opportunities and support they need to succeed. That’s why in April I announced a plan to expand health coverage for DACA recipients, and directed the Department of Homeland Security to ‘preserve and fortify’ DACA.”

Hansen’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit from nine U.S. states including Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas, and Mississippi. They claimed they’ve been financially harmed by the program because it costs them millions of dollars to offer health care and education to undocumented immigrants. Though Hansen ruled it illegal, he refused to comply with the states’ request to end the program within two years and has not called on the government to take action against Dreamers.

The ruling was met with protests from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the state of New Jersey, and the Biden administration, all of whom have urged Congress to pass DACA permanently.

“Judge Hanen has consistently erred in resolving both of these issues, and today’s ruling is more of the same flawed analysis. We look forward to continuing to defend the lawful and much-needed DACA program on review in higher courts,” Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF, said in a statement.

More than 800,000 young immigrants were granted DACA since 2012 and in total, there are 3.6 million Dreamers residing in the U.S., many of whom either did not apply for DACA or aged into the program after it stopped accepting new applicants, according to data provided by  Hispanic Federation, an advocacy organization.

The case will be taken to a higher court for the third time (the other times in 2016 and 2022) as well as the Supreme Court, which will again determine the fate of DACA and the lives of millions across the country.

“We firmly denounce U.S. Southern District of Texas Judge Andrew Hanen’s decision to declare the DACA program illegal. While the Judge’s decision will be challenged and the program remains in place, it will only cause more confusion, harm, and hate among immigrant communities,” Hispanic Federation said in a statement.

The Biden administration is expected to appeal the decision. However, the review of the ruling will go to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which already declared the initial DACA program unlawful in 2022. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas led the development of DACA in 2012 during his time as the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. He denounced the ruling in a statement and spoke in support of Dreamers.

“This ruling does undermine the security and stability of more than half a million Dreamers who have contributed to our communities. The United States is the only home they have ever known. Congress has failed to act, and now Dreamers face an uncertain future, waiting to receive the permanent protection they deserve.”

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