DACA ruled illegal by federal appeals court, but program continues for now

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court upheld an earlier ruling that the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is illegal, sending the case back to a lower court to decide the program’s legality. which includes more than 600,000 undocumented people.

About 20,000 of these undocumented immigrants live in Georgia.

The decision means the program remains for now and those on it are still protected, but the future of DACA is on hold pending the next legal step. No new participants are registered.

President Joe Biden released a statement that he was “disappointed” with Wednesday night’s decision, and said “the decision is the result of continued efforts by Republican state officials to strip DACA recipients of the protections and work authorization that many have held for over a decade.”

The president also called on Congress to “adopt permanent protections for Dreamers, including a pathway to citizenship.”

Nine Republican-led states challenged DACA, arguing that the White House had gone too far in creating a program that should have been left to Congress. States also said they suffered financial harm by incurring costs for the health care and education of DACA recipients.

These states are Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas, and Mississippi.

Lower court decision

Wednesday’s ruling upholds a lower court ruling in the Southern District of Texas by U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, who ruled in July 2021 that the program was illegal and blocked the government from accepting new applications for DACA, but allowed the program to remain for current participants. .

Hanen decided that because the program was not subject to public comment or notice, it violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

In Wednesday’s ruling, a three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, headquartered in New Orleans, said the Obama administration had no authority to create the program in 2012. The panel returned the case to Hanen, asking the judge to review the new version of a rule on the program released by the Biden administration in August, which is expected to take effect Oct. 31.

“A district court is in the best position to review the administrative record in the rule-making process and determine whether our findings regarding the 2012 DACA memorandum fully resolve the issues regarding the final rule,” the judges said. one nominated by President George W. Bush and two by President Donald Trump, wrote.

In July, the US Department of Justice, allied with the state of New Jersey, immigration advocacy groups and companies like Amazon and Google, argued in favor of the program, saying dreamers were there. grown and had become vital to the American economy.

DACA was established a decade ago to provide temporary assistance to children brought into the country illegally, enabling them to obtain driver’s licenses and work permits and protecting them from deportation.

Most of the children in the program are now adults and their future remains uncertain.

FWD.us Georgia State Immigration Director Jaime Rangel condemned the decision and urged Congress to provide the Dreamers with a pathway to citizenship.

“I came to the United States with my family when I was six months old and since then I have been able to build a career and start a family,” Rangel said in a statement. I am beyond grateful to DACA for allowing me “to follow my passion and work diligently with lawmakers and state representatives in Congress to bring about real change to our immigration system in a way that prepares all Georgians for success”.

US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a statement that he was deeply disappointed with the decision and that the agency is “currently reviewing the court’s decision and will work with the Justice Department on a response.” appropriate legal system”.

He said DHS will continue to accept new and renewal DACA applications, but will only process renewal applications.

“It is clear, however, that only passage of the legislation will provide full protection and a well-deserved path to citizenship for DACA recipients,” Mayorkas said.

“Hanging by a thread”

U.S. House Democrats and immigration advocates fear the program could end, leaving hundreds of thousands of Dreamers unprotected.

Sergio Gonzales, executive director of the Immigration Hub, a group that lobbies for immigration and migration policy, said in a statement that DACA is “hanging by a thread”.

“The only question is when will this end,” Gonzales said of DACA. “The only realistic way to protect the 610,000 young people with CADD is for Congress to act by the end of the year.”

Congressional action to create a permanent path to citizenship for Dreamers has stalled and is unlikely to change despite Democrats controlling both chambers. An evenly divided Senate would need all Democratic lawmakers on board as well as 10 additional Republicans to reach a 60-vote threshold to overcome the filibuster.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rep. Raul Ruiz, a California Democrat, called on 10 Republican senators to pass legislation providing a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

“Our Dreamers can’t wait,” he said in a statement. “We must modernize our broken immigration system, keep families together, strengthen our economy, provide pathways to citizenship, and live up to our nation’s values ​​of hope, opportunity, and the American dream. .”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Republicans for continuing to block bills passed by the House that would provide a permanent path to citizenship for dreamers.

“Shamefully, extreme MAGA Republicans in the Senate blocked this bill, playing political games with families’ futures while embracing an extreme anti-immigrant cruelty agenda,” she said in a statement. . “Senate Republicans must join us in immediately passing this urgent and necessary legislation passed by the House and sending it directly to President Biden’s desk.”

Georgia Recorder editor John McCosh contributed to this report.

Ryan H. Bowman