Judge rules again that DACA is illegal but does not order deportations of Dreamers

A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the program that offers relief from deportation to undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children is unlawful.

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Judge Andrew Hanen ruled for a second time that a Biden administration effort to codify the program -- called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy -- was unlawful.

While Hanen ruled the program unlawful, he refrained from ordering officials to terminate deportation protections and work permits for more than 580,000 immigrant “Dreamers.”

Hanen found that a regulation issued last year by Biden’s administration did not fix the problems he said the policy had that led him to find DACA unlawful in 2021.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security can continue to renew the status of those enrolled in DACA prior to Hanen’s 2021 ruling, the ruling says.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit brought by Texas and several other states. The states have claimed they incur hundreds of millions of dollars in health care, education and other costs when immigrants are allowed to remain in the country illegally.

The states that sued are Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas and Mississippi.

The White House responded on Wednesday.

“As we have long maintained, we disagree with the District Court’s conclusion that DACA is unlawful, and will continue to defend this critical policy from legal challenges,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said in a written statement released on Wednesday night. “While we do so, consistent with the court’s order, DHS will continue to process renewals for current DACA recipients and DHS may continue to accept DACA applications.”

“The ruling preserves the stay, which means current DACA recipients will not lose their protection from removal,” Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said in a separate statement. “But this ruling does undermine the security and stability of more than half a million Dreamers who have contributed to our communities.”

In October 2022, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Hanen’s ruling against DACA but sent the case back to him for reconsideration in light of Biden’s regulation formalizing the program.

The program, aimed at a group brought illegally to this country as children, allows those who are registered to work or attend school in the United States without fear of being deported. Those in the program must renew their registration every two years.

Former President Barack Obama signed an executive order in 2021 creating the program.

It allows those eligible to request “consideration of deferred action” (on their immigration status) for a period of two years. The deferred action is subject to renewal.

Those younger than the age of 31 on June 15, 2012, are eligible for the program if they came to the U.S. before turning 16 and have lived in the country continuously since June 15, 2007.

Also, those to be considered for the program must have a high school diploma or GED certification, have been honorably discharged from the military or still be in school. DACA recipients cannot have a criminal record.

In 2016, former President Donald Trump campaigned on a promise to end the program. Then, after he was elected, his plan to end the policy was rebuffed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which said Trump’s attempt did not comply with regulatory laws.

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