Judge Rules DACA Unconstitutional, Blocks Approval of New Applications

A federal judge agreed with the State of Texas, ruling on July 16 that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is unconstitutional.

Judge Andrew Hanen, who presided in the lawsuit brought by the State of Texas, struck DACA down because it violated the Administrative Procedures Act and was an overreach of executive branch power. Although the ruling doesn’t currently affect the status of those already living in the U.S. under DACA, it does prevent new applicants from seeking the quasi-protected status against deportation.

If appealed, Hanen’s ruling could put DACA before the Supreme Court again. Last summer, SCOTUS ruled in a contested 5-4 decision that the Trump Administration’s plan to dismantle DACA was unconstitutional. If SCOTUS were to rule differently on other legal questions concerning DACA, it could radically affect the future of the program and those currently living under its protection.

An Obama-era policy going back to June 15, 2012, DACA provides protection against deportation for people who were children when they were illegally brought to the U.S. by their parents, relatives, or other parties. Among other criteria, the program required that applicants were 16 years old or younger before coming to the U.S. and have earned at least a high school diploma or served in the military.

DACA doesn’t confer an immigration status, but merely protects those with deferred action against removal proceedings. In essence, it acknowledges the undocumented status of the DACA recipient but allows them to live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation.

A person living with DACA must reapply every two years. Fortunately for those involved in the program before the July 16 ruling, they can continue to renew their statuses unimpeded for the time being.

In a statement issued by the White House, President Joe Biden said the federal judge’s ruling is “deeply disappointing” and said his administration would appeal it.

“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’s statement also called upon Congress to pass legislation that would protect vulnerable people living in the U.S. without documentation, like those who are protected by DACA.