Texas Federal District Judge Disallows DACA
But Current Recipients Are Safe for now
A Texas federal district judge has struck down DACA, the Obama-era scheme that has shielded over 800,000 young unauthorized immigrants from deportation since 2012.
The judgment leaves the destiny of thousands of DREAMers in the hands of US Congress, the Biden administration, and a conservative-majority Supreme Court.
Because DACA is illegal, District Judge Andrew Hanen sided with nine conservative-led states, including Texas.
According to report in the NPR.org, the verdict allows current program beneficiaries to preserve their status while the issue is appealed. The Biden administration has committed to protect DACA or a similar program.
According to Hanen’s opinion, “a complete and immediate termination of DACA will not serve equity because the Government has stated that it is prepared to try to repair the legal deficiencies of the program.”
DACA supporters are anticipated to appeal to the Fifth Circuit.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which represents the 22 DACA participants who are defendants in the case, anticipated such a finding in a March letter.
All parties agree that DACA should continue for now while the court evaluates the appropriate remedy, even if the 2012 memo is declared illegal.
DACA began in 2012, under Obama. It allows certain young immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as minors to reside and work for two years, renewable.
To be eligible, applicants must be under 30 and have lived in the US continuously since June 2007. They must be a current student, high school graduate, GED holder, or a US veteran. and must not “endanger national security or public safety.”
According to a 2020 Pew Research Center poll, 74 percent of Americans approve a measure that would offer permanent legal status to immigrants who entered the country illegally as children.
The benefits of DACA are quantifiable, according to Roberto G. Gonzales, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education who has spent two decades studying undocumented youngsters.
“The proof is undeniable,” he stated. “DACA has had a huge influence on the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people.”
Still, the program has been dogged by legal issues virtually from the start. Former President Donald Trump, who had promised to protect DREAMers without providing details, declared in 2017 that his administration would end the program, prompting lawsuits from federal district courts across the country.
The Supreme Court sided with the DREAMers in 2020, barring the Trump administration’s intention to abolish the program for procedural rather than substantive reasons.
In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said the administration’s decision to terminate DACA was “arbitrary and capricious.”
“We do not decide whether DACA is a good policy or not,” Roberts stated. In this case, the Administration must comply with procedural standards in the law that require ‘a reasoned explanation for its action.’
It eased the immediate prospect of deportation for thousands of people, but it left the door open for a president to abolish the program through normal procedure.
When asked about making DACA permanent, then-presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he would strive to make it so if elected. President Biden has announced a plan to safeguard DREAMers, but it appears to lack Congressional support.
Many feared Trump would defund DACA if re-elected. Despite legal experts’ consensus that he did not have enough time left in his term, administration officials continued to roll back the program, refusing to accept new applicants and reducing renewal permits from two years to one.
A federal judge revoked those limits in December 2020, restoring the program’s parameters to those prior to the 2017 attempted cancellation.
Meanwhile, in the US, DACA was being directly challenged. Southern District of Texas
Six years after its inception, Texas and six other states filed a lawsuit contesting the program’s legality.
A US case was transferred. DACA expansion would have included 330,000 more people, and safeguards for undocumented parents would have been comparable. (A 4-4 Supreme Court decision in 2016 upheld the lower court’s injunction.)
Desperate to stop DACA renewals, ten states, led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, petitioned Hanen for a preliminary injunction in 2018.
Attorneys for Texas said DACA recipients drained the state’s resources, an allegation denied by immigration supporters because DREAMers contribute to local economies by working, paying taxes, and raising families in the US.
Hanen ruled at the end of August that DACA was likely illegal because it exceeded executive branch jurisdiction. He refused to impose a preliminary injunction, stating that the plaintiffs had waited too long to file suit, equating the situation to re-tapping toothpaste or unscrambling an egg.
“The egg is scrambled here,” Hanen wrote. It is not in the national interest to try to put it back in with only a preliminary injunction record and maybe putting many at risk.
Two years later, after the Supreme Court decision and several motions and debates in the Texas case, Hanen ordered the parties to re-present their allegations.
DACA violates the Constitution by evading Congress’ authority on immigration laws, and it should have been implemented through federal regulations rather than a memorandum, state attorneys said in December 2020.
DACA recipients in Texas cost the state an estimated $250,000,000 per year in social services, according to the report.
A group of DACA applicants represented by MALDEF and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office said Obama had jurisdiction to create the program, and the states had not demonstrated injury from it.
Since only Texas had attempted to allege injury based on program costs, a nationwide injunction would be inappropriate. Defendants maintained the states lacked standing to sue over DACA.
Both sides asked Hanen to dismiss the lawsuit. He didn’t rule at the time.
After a second hearing in late March, Hanen ordered both sides to furnish more information by early April. As MALDEF points out, a lot has happened in Washington since they last met.
One, the Oval Office has a new tenant. President Biden directed the DHS to “preserve and fortify” DACA on his inauguration day in January.
In accordance with the president’s order, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said shortly before the March hearing that the department would issue a “notice of proposed regulation.”
A bill must be passed to fully safeguard and provide a path to citizenship for the Dreamers who call the US home.
The American Dream Act was passed by the House of Representatives.