Federal Judge Rules DACA Unlawful, Blocks New Applicants

In a ruling issued on July 16, a federal judge in Texas has blocked new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Under DACA – an Obama-era immigration policy – undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children could receive protection against deportation under certain circumstances. That changed when Judge Andrew Hanen decided in favor of the State of Texas and struck down the policy.

Hanen was convinced by Texas that DACA violated the Administrative Procedures Act and posed as an overreach of the executive branch’s power. The judge dealt a serious blow against DACA, which had won a 5-4 battle at the Supreme Court last summer when the Trump Administration attempted to dismantle the program entirely. Any challenges to the federal court’s ruling in Texas, however, could bring DACA back before the SCOTUS justices.

Although no new DACA applications will be approved while the injunction is in effect, nothing is expected to change for those already protected by DACA. Undocumented immigrants who are enrolled in DACA will continue to benefit from protection against deportation and they can continue to renew their status as normal.

Importantly, though, DACA doesn’t confer an immigration status for any DACA recipient. This means that although those under DACA can’t be deported for not having immigration documentation, they are neither considered lawfully residing in the U.S. nor automatically placed on a path toward earning a green card or citizenship.

U.S. President Joe Biden expressed that he was “deeply disappointed” in a statement issued by the White House shortly after Hanen issued his ruling.

“While the court’s order does not now affect current DACA recipients, this decision nonetheless relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future,” the statement reads. “The Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA. And, as the court recognized, the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue a proposed rule concerning DACA in the near future.”

Biden also took an opportunity to call upon Congress to pass legislation that would help DACA “dreamers” and other vulnerable immigrants.