Judge Again Finds DACA Program Illegal, Blocks New Applications, Allows Renewals

Jackson Lewis P.C.
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The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program (DACA) is not legal, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen has ruled in State of Texas et al. v. U.S. et al.

Judge Hanen issued an injunction preventing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from accepting new DACA applications. However, recognizing the substantial reliance interests involved, he allowed current DACA beneficiaries to continue to renew their statuses and their employment authorization – at least while appeals are pending. The Biden Administration immediately responded that it would appeal the decision.

The case is expected to wind its way through the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (in New Orleans) and end up at the U.S. Supreme Court for a third time. The first time was when the Supreme Court heard an appeal of Judge Hanen’s earlier decision that the extension of DACA and the creation of the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents were illegal. In that case, the Supreme Court tied, leaving Judge Hanen’s nationwide injunction in place. The second time, the Supreme Court ruled on narrow technical grounds that the Trump Administration had not followed the proper procedures when it attempted to terminate the DACA program.

The question now is whether Congress will pass legislation to protect the “Dreamers” and provide them a path to permanent residence and U.S. citizenship. The American Dream and Promise Act, passed by the House in 2021, provides those paths, but the full bill is not likely to pass in the Senate. A carve-out of the DACA provision might be possible. Otherwise, the thousands of individuals who were brought to the United States by their parents before the age of 16, will remain in limbo.

DACA was put into place by the Obama Administration in 2012 and has been under attack since 2017, when the Trump Administration announced it would terminate DACA. President Joe Biden has stated that Dreamers are “part of our national fabric and make vital contributions to communities across the country every day.” President Biden recognized the Dreamers’ contributions have been particularly evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, as “[m]any have worked tirelessly on the frontlines throughout this pandemic to keep our country afloat, fed, and healthy – yet they are forced to live with fear and uncertainly because of their immigration status.”

Judge Hanen’s decision in State of Texas v. U.S. does not affect the status or employment authorization of any current DACA beneficiaries. DACA beneficiaries who have unexpired employment authorization documents do not need to reverify employment authorization as a result of this ruling (although they will need to reverify prior to the expiration of their employment authorization).

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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