A federal judge in Texas ruled Friday that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program ― a policy that lets undocumented immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as minors stay in the country ― is illegal and must be suspended.
In his ruling, Judge Andrew Hanen ordered President Joe Biden’s administration to stop approving new DACA requests from such immigrants, referred to as “Dreamers,” once again upending the Obama-era policy Biden had just revived in January.
The decision by Hanen, an appointee of former President George W. Bush known for his harsh rulings on immigration matters, does not have any bearing on current DACA recipients, nor does it affect their ability to renew their DACA grants.
In his ruling, he deemed DACA an “illegally implemented program” and stated that “the public interest of the nation is always served by the cessation of a program that was created in violation of law and whose existence violates the law.”
Hanen also writes that the presence of DACA recipients “contributes to a more competitive labor market, which makes it more difficult for legal residents of Texas to obtain work.” But economists have long said there’s no evidence of such a problem, and DACA recipients may even provide a boost to the economy, as they are likely be employed in higher-skilled jobs.
President Barack Obama created DACA in June 2012, and the program has withstood multiple legal challenges and President Donald Trump’s attempt to kill it in the time since. It is open to undocumented young people who came to the U.S. before they turned 16 and were under age 31 as of June 15, 2012, when the program was created.
There are more than 616,000 current DACA recipients. While they will not be affected by the decision, many others in their same situation will ― those who are already eligible but have yet to apply, and those who are aging into the program.
DACA has been life-changing for recipients, who were newly eligible for work permits and deportation reprieve under the program. DACA recipients were able to get better jobs, start their own businesses, buy cars and houses, and more as a result of the policy, according to studies.
Immigration activists spoke out against Friday’s decision and said DACA protections must be enshrined in law, not left to the judicial system.
“This ruling is wrong and is subject to appeal. But Dreamers’ futures shouldn’t be in the hands of the courts,” Omar Jadwat, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said in a statement. “It is absolutely urgent that Congress acts now through the budget reconciliation process to provide Dreamers and other undocumented members of our communities with reliable status and a pathway to citizenship.”
The president of FWD.us, another immigration group, echoed that sentiment.
“Today makes absolutely clear: only a permanent legislative solution passed by Congress will eliminate the fear and uncertainty that DACA recipients have been forced to live with for years.”