By Caden Pearson
A federal judge in Texas on Wednesday declared the revised version of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program illegal.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s ruling reiterated that the Obama-era federal policy is unlawful and should have come from Congress. DACA provides hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children with a two-year renewable shield from deportation.
"The remaining provisions of the original injunction are to remain in place and are to be applicable to Final Rule DACA," Judge Hanen wrote.
The ruling blocks the federal government from accepting new DACA applications but maintains the program for existing recipients during the appeals process. The ruling does not mandate immediate action against current DACA beneficiaries.
Texas and eight other states have been actively opposing DACA. Their central argument is that the Obama administration exceeded its authority by creating DACA in 2012, bypassing Congress. They have contended that President Joe Biden also overstepped his authority when he renewed it in 2022, bypassing Congress.
The nine Republican-led states also asked the court to phase out the program over two years, calling the Biden administration’s revised version "substantively unlawful" for the same reasons as the original Obama-era DACA Memorandum.
"The Court should declare it unlawful and unconstitutional, vacate it in its entirety, and permanently enjoin its implementation (with a prudent transition for existing DACA recipients),” their lawsuit, filed earlier this year, stated.
Around 800,000 individuals are believed to be recipients of DACA, with two-thirds of those enrolled in the program thought to be aged between 21 to 30, having lived and worked in the United States for most of their lives after illegally entering as young children.
The plaintiff states in the case also contend that they bear substantial costs, including hundreds of millions of dollars for health care and education, when immigrants are allowed to remain in the country without legal status.
In 2021, Judge Hanen, an appointee of President George W. Bush, declared the program illegal, citing its lack of compliance with required public notice and comment periods. This decision was upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2022.
Attempting to address the judge’s concerns, President Biden announced the renewal of the DACA program in August 2022, making it a federal regulation. It came into effect in October, subject to public comments in a formal rule-making process, replacing former President Barack Obama’s 2012 memo that initially established DACA.
At the time, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas said the administration was "taking another step to do everything in our power to preserve and fortify DACA."
Mr. Mayorkas said that the United States has "been enriched" by the young people on the DACA program, referred to as "Dreamers," contending that they "have known no country other than the United States as their own."
The plaintiff states, meanwhile, argued that President Biden overstepped his constitutional authority by renewing DACA without getting approval from Congress.
Judge Hanen agreed, maintaining in his ruling on Wednesday that the revised version of DACA is unconstitutional and that the policy should come from Congress.
The judge’s ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The DACA program has been overseen for the last decade by a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memorandum that established it under President Obama who described the action as a "temporary, stopgap, measure."
The Trump administration’s attempts to terminate DACA in 2017 were thwarted by the courts.
The nine states that filed the lawsuit are Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
Mimi Nguyen-ly and Naveen Athrappully contributed to this report.