A federal judge on Wednesday declared illegal a revised version of a federal policy that blocks deportation of thousands of immigrants brought to the US as children.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hannon agreed to a lawsuit by Texas and eight other states to halt the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program. The judge’s decision was ultimately expected to be appealed to the US Supreme Court, sending the fate of the program before the high court for a third time.
Hannon stopped the government from approving any new applications, but kept the program intact for existing recipients during the expected appeals process. Henen said his order does not require the federal government to take any action against DACA recipients.
States have argued that the Obama administration did not have the authority to create the program in the first place in 2012 because it bypassed Congress.
In 2021, Heinen declared the program illegal, ruling that it was not subject to the public notice and comment period required under the Federal Administrative Procedure Act.
The Biden administration tried to satisfy Heinen’s concerns with a new version of DACA that took effect in October 2022 and was subject to public comments as part of a formal rule-making process.
But Henen, who was appointed in 2002 by then-President George W. Bush, said the updated version of DACA is still illegal. He has previously said that DACA is unconstitutional and that it would be up to Congress to enact legislation to protect people under the program, often known as “Dreamers.”
Heinen had previously ruled that the states had standing to file their lawsuit because they had suffered harm from the program.
States have claimed that immigrants incur millions of dollars in health care, education and other costs when they are allowed to remain in the country illegally. The states suing are Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas and Mississippi.
Those defending the program – the federal government, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the state of New Jersey – had argued that the states failed to present evidence that any of the costs they incurred were linked to DACA recipients. . He also argued that Congress has given the Department of Homeland Security legal authority to set immigration enforcement policies.
Despite previously declaring the DACA program illegal, Hannon left the Obama-era program intact for those who were already benefiting from it. But he had ruled that there could be no new applicants while the appeal was pending.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, there were 578,680 people enrolled in DACA at the end of March.
The program has faced court challenges over the years.
In 2016, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4–4 on expanded DACA and a version of the program for parents of DACA recipients. In 2020, the high court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration improperly ended DACA, allowing it to remain in place.
In 2022, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld Henen’s earlier ruling declaring DACA illegal, but sent the case back to him to review changes made to the program by the Biden administration.
President Joe Biden and advocacy groups have called on Congress to pass permanent protections for “Dreamers.” Congress has failed several times to pass a proposal called the DREAM Act to protect DACA recipients.