HOUSTON (AP) – A federal judge ruled Friday that the current version of a federal policy that prevents the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the United States as children can continue, at least temporarily.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen – who last year ruled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program illegal – said the policy, which is expected to go into effect under new regulations at the end of the month, can continue with the limitations it had previously set. These limitations indicate that there can be no new DACA applicants and that those who are already enrolled in the program may continue to participate and renew their applications.
At a hearing on Friday, Hanen ordered federal government attorneys to provide more information about the new rule and said he expected additional legal arguments about it, but no timeline was given. set for future hearings. It’s also unclear when Hanen will make his final decision on the case, which is expected to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The legality of the new DACA settlement…is now the task in this court,” Nina Perales, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF, which represents DACA beneficiaries, said after attending the Friday hearing. .
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Karina Ruiz De Diaz, one of the DACA recipients represented by MALDEF, said she was relieved that Hanen kept the program in place, but upset that the judge refused to open it to thousands of new applicants who have need his protection.
Ruiz was part of a group of more than 50 community activists and DACA beneficiaries who gathered before and after the hearing to support the program in a park next to the federal courthouse. They held up signs that read, “Judge Hanen is doing what it takes to protect DACA” and “Immigrants are welcome.”
“It was important to show up in court. We don’t want the judge to think this is just an abstract concept. I want him to see our faces, to see that this has an impact on real people,” said Ruiz, 38. who traveled from his home in Phoenix to attend the hearing.
The current version of DACA, which the Biden administration created to improve its chances of surviving legal scrutiny, is set to go into effect Oct. 31.
The case returned to Hanen after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said last week that it should reconsider DACA following revisions passed by the Biden administration.
Hanen said last year that DACA was illegal after Texas and eight other Republican-leaning states filed a lawsuit claiming they were financially harmed, committing hundreds of millions of dollars in healthcare, in education and others, while immigrants are allowed to remain in the country illegally. They also argued that the White House overstepped its authority by granting immigration benefits that were up to Congress to decide.
“Only Congress has the ability to write the immigration laws of our country,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement Thursday.
Hanen found that DACA had not been subject to the public notice and comment periods required under the federal Administrative Procedures Act. But he left the Obama-era program intact for those who already benefited from it, pending the appeal. At the end of March, 611,270 people were registered with DACA.
A three-judge panel in the New Orleans Court of Appeals upheld Hanen’s original finding, but sent the case back to Hanen so he could consider the impact of the federal government’s new DACA regulations.
The 453 pages of the new rule are largely technical and represent few substantive changes from the 2012 memo that created DACA, but it has been subject to public comment through a process formal rule-making.
During Friday’s hearing, Hanen appeared hesitant to address the constitutionality of the DACA program with any ruling he issues and said he wanted all parties involved to focus initially on issues related to federal law on administrative procedures when considering the new regulations.
Perales said the uncertainty about DACA’s ultimate fate in court should be another signal to Congress that it needs to act to provide permanent protections.
After last week’s appeals court ruling, President Joe Biden and advocacy groups have renewed their calls for Congress to enact permanent protections for ‘dreamers’, which is how people protected by DACA are commonly referred to as. Congress has repeatedly failed to pass proposals called the DREAM Act to protect DACA beneficiaries.
Regardless of Hanen’s decision, DACA is expected to go to the Supreme Court for the third time. In 2016, the Supreme Court blocked 4-4 on an expanded DACA and version of the program for parents of DACA recipients. In 2020, the High Court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration improperly terminated DACA, allowing it to remain in place.