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DACA Immigration Program Struck Down by Federal Judge

Updated: Sep 1




The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program has been a hot topic in national news and legal circles over the past several years. People on both sides of the aisle have very strong feelings about this program and have not been hesitant to express their opinions loudly in recent years. Today, we’ll take a quick look at what DACA actually is and what this newest ruling means to current and potential future recipients of the program’s benefits.


What Is DACA?

In 2012, President Barack Obama created DACA. Initially, President Obama attempted to pass a broader bill he called his Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. This is why DACA recipients are referred to as Dreamers to this day. But when that Act did not pass in Congress, Obama issued DACA via executive order.


Essentially, DACA is a program that protects people who illegally entered the US as children. There are currently over 600,000 DACA recipients throughout the country who depend on DACA protections that include:

  • Protection from deportation for non-documented immigrants;

  • The ability to obtain a work permit to work in the US; and

  • The ability to obtain travel authorization, which allows immigrants to travel outside of the US without the fear that they will not be allowed back into the country when they return.

This program is renewable, but certain requirements must be met in order to qualify. When DACA was originally instituted, the requirements included:

  • AGE — the applicant must have been under 31 years of age as of June 15, 2012;

  • ARRIVAL — the applicant must have entered the country when they were less than 16 years of age; and

  • LENGTH of TIME — The applicant must have lived in this country since 2007.


DACA recipients enjoyed these protections until September of 2017 when President Trump announced his intention to repeal or phase out the program. And although several lawsuits stopped him from fully repealing the program, Mr. Trump still managed to strip away some of the protections previously enjoyed by these young Dreamers. He also stopped the acceptance of any new applications. In June 2020, the US Supreme Court struck down Trump’s attempt to completely end the DACA program. The Court stated that the Trump administration had not used the correct process to properly terminate the program. Then, when President Biden took office in January 2021, he formally reinstated the program through another executive order. And that brings us to this most recent ruling.


Struck Down By Federal Judge


After the Supreme Court blocked Trump’s attempt to end DACA, Texas and several other states joined forces and sued to overturn the original DACA program. This suit based its request on the assertion that DACA itself was an illegal program. This case made its way to Judge Andrew Hanen, a Texas federal judge.


On July 16, 2021, Judge Hanen threw quite a big wrench into the works by essentially agreeing that DACA was an illegal program. He ruled that Obama had not followed proper procedure in creating the program and that the program itself was illegal. Judge Hanen is an appointed, republican judge who used a good deal of “anti-immigration talking points” throughout his decision. Many of these points have no basis in fact, such as the contention that undocumented immigrants take jobs away from Americans and that they are a burden on the states — when the truth is that DACA recipients grow the economy and benefit the country.


Nevertheless, Judge Hanen handed down his ruling, and we all await the final outcome as the case makes its way up the judicial ladder. In the meantime, it is useful to take note of a few things.


Other Courts Disagreed


We’d like to note that Judge Hanen’s decision flies in the face of multiple previous federal court rulings. Cases in New York and California — just to name two — had already examined the assertion that the original DACA law was illegal. All of these previous rulings were in favor of DACA and declared that Obama properly used his presidential authority to grant these protections to young immigrants.


Saving Grace


We’ll briefly outline what this new ruling means to current DACA recipients. But it’s important to note here that in his ruling, Judge Hanen did not pull the rug completely out from under those people currently protected by DACA. So if you are currently receiving DACA benefits, that will not change in the immediate future. You can continue to get your benefits and even renew your application while the case goes through the appeals process. However, new applications will not be accepted or approved while the case is appealed.

What Does This Ruling Mean for DACA Hopefuls?


The Department of Justice has already indicated that it will appeal Judge Hanen’s ruling. In the meantime, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stated last month that it intends to codify DACA into a regulation. Judge Hanen’s ruling may make this more difficult. However, the Biden administration has also made its commitment to protecting and fortifying the program.


The best way to settle this issue for good would be for Congress to pass permanent protections and immigration relief through the budget reconciliation process. However, despite the Biden administration’s support, DACA’s future remains uncertain as to whether or not there will be enough support in Congress to accomplish Biden’s goals.


It Is Our Honor to Serve You!


The experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at The Jarbath Peña Law Group know immigration law. We also know the pain that this decision has caused many who are counting on DACA’s survival. We know that this constant state of flux is frustrating and discouraging for many hard-working people whose lives have now been thrown into chaos. But take heart. Whichever way this goes, the Biden administration is unlikely to deport those who would otherwise qualify for DACA protections. If you have any questions or concerns, we would love to help.


We are your South Florida immigration attorneys, and we will protect your rights throughout the complicated US immigration process. So do not delay! You can set up your free initial consultation today by calling 305-615-1005 or through our online contact form.


We look forward to serving you!


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