Texas Judge rules on a permanent injunction, deeming DACA illegal. What does this mean?

By Ariadna Lopez Landa

On Friday July 16, 2021, Judge Andrew Hanen ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is illegal and blocked any new applications from being reviewed and granted. This judge ruled in favor of the Plaintiff States-- Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginia-- who claimed they have Parens Patriae standing to establish their suit against the legality of DACA because the DACA program injures and places a burden on the economic interest of the state and its citizens.

This injunction does not immediately cancel DACA for people who currently have it, but it does leave hundreds of thousands of people devastated and unsure of what the future holds for them.

Judge Hanen wrote “Nothing in this injunction should be read as ordering DHS or any other Government entity to cancel or otherwise terminate DACA status for any individual who currently is, as of this date, a DACA recipient in good standing. Further, nothing in this injunction requires DHS or the Department of Justice to take any immigration, deportation, or criminal action against any DACA recipient, applicant, or any other individual that either would not otherwise take.” This statement gave current DACA recipients a small breath of fresh air knowing that they can continue to renew their DACA and continue to use Advance Parole, as well as knowing that they will not be subjected to removal. Additionally, USCIS will continue to accept and approve renewal applications.

However, individuals who filed their initial DACA requests in the past few months following the Supreme Court’s decision in the DHS vs. Regents of the University of California case on June 18, 2020, will have their cases held in limbo at USCIS until additional litigation is resolved. USCIS announced on July 20, 2021, that it will still accept new initial DACA filings, but will not be able to approve them.

DACA was created after Congress’s many failed attempts to grant lawful status to those who were brough to the United States as children. Former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, set forth the DACA program as a form of relief for those who were brought to the US unlawfully by their parents as children. Individuals who wanted to become DACA recipients had to meet certain criteria to qualify for the program, which would grant them certain benefits such as work authorization, a Social Security number and the permission to stay in the United States with lawful presence. It is important to clarify that DACA recipients cannot receive any Federal benefits such as Medicaid and food stamps; they are also required to pay income tax every year.

The program has helped many undocumented immigrants legally work in the United States and has provided many of them the opportunity to continue their education, whereas they may not have such opportunities if the program were to be revoked.

President Joe Biden gave a statement the day after the decision where he stated that he was “deeply disappointed” in the ruling of the judge which put many DACA recipients and applicants in a devastating limbo of uncertainty and fear. He also stated that the Department of Justice intends on appealing the decision in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals as an attempt to preserve DACA.

Many people are hoping that this ruling will push Congress into finally making a law that will protect DACA’s legality from being challenged in the future and provide these undocumented immigrants a path towards citizenship so that they may continue pursuing their American Dream in the country they call home.