HOUSTON, Texas (CMC) — A United States federal district judge in Texas has dismissed the latest action by the Joe Biden Administration to rescue a programme that has saved from deportation hundreds of thousands of undocumented young adults from the Caribbean and other places.
The programme, known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programme (DACA), was instituted, by executive action in 2012, by former US President Barack Obama.
But, on Wednesday, Judge Andrew S Hanen of the Federal District Court in Houston, who was nominated by former President George W Bush, ruled that Obama had superseded his authority by creating DACA.
In a 40-page opinion, Judge Hanen ruled that efforts to maintain DACA by the Biden Administration tantamount to “instituting its own solution, regardless of the dictates of Congress.
“The executive branch cannot usurp the power bestowed on Congress by the constitution — even to fill a void,” he ruled.
Hanen’s decision affirms his previous 2021 ruling that the Biden Administration do not accept or process any new DACA applications.
The ruling does not affect current DACA recipients. For now, they will maintain and can renew their DACA status, and will continue to be allowed to live and work in the United States.
But White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, who was born in Martinique and grew up in Queens, New York, said the Biden Administration was “deeply disappointed” by the judge’s ruling on Wednesday.
“On day one of his Administration, President Biden issued a memorandum directing the federal government to take all appropriate actions to ‘preserve and fortify’ the DACA policy,” said Pierre in a statement.
“Consistent with that directive, the Administration has defended the DACA policy from legal challenges, and issued a final rule codifying this long-standing policy.”
During the Biden Administration, Pierre said hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients have been able to “live and work lawfully in our country without fear of deportation.
“As we have long maintained, we disagree with the district court’s conclusion that DACA is unlawful, and will continue to defend this critical policy from legal challenges,” she said. “While we do so, consistent with the court’s order, DHS [Department of Homeland Security] will continue to process renewals for current DACA recipients, and DHS may continue to accept DACA applications.
“We are committed to protecting all the Dreamers [DACA recipients] who have throughout their lives enriched our communities and our country, and we continue to call on Congress to provide permanent protection to the hundreds of thousands of Dreamers in the United States,” Pierre added.
The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), an umbrella policy and advocacy organisation that represents over 200 immigrant and refugee rights groups throughout New York, said it expected Judge Hanen’s decision to be appealed to the US Supreme Court, which would ultimately decide if DACA is overturned.
NYIC said the New York metropolitan area is home to 35,000 DACA recipients. Of these, it said 79 per cent are currently in the labour force, 97 per cent have a high school diploma, 50 percent have some college education, 28 per cent are married, and 27 per cent have children.
NYIC also said there are more than 36,000 US citizens in New York City living with DACA recipients.
In denouncing Hanen’s ruling, NYIC demanded that the US Congress and President Biden pass permanent protections for DACA recipients “without delay”.
“Today’s decision from Judge Hanen is unfathomably cruel and a marked failure of our justice system,” said Murad Awawdeh, NYIC’s executive director. “DACA has been a wildly successful program that has offered more than 835,000 young people, and more than 35,000 New Yorkers, the opportunities to gain an education and secure jobs.
“Despite broad public support, DACA continues to be the target of right-wing extremist attacks and part of a virulent anti-immigrant agenda,” he added. “With this court decision declaring the policy unconstitutional, hundreds of thousands of American lives are once again thrown in disarray for no justifiable reason.
“As our courts continue to be hostile to DACA recipients, young people — American in every way but legal status — can’t settle for temporary relief any longer,” Awawdeh continued. “It’s time for Congress and President Biden to stop deflecting responsibility for meaningful immigration reform, and honour campaign promises by passing permanent protections to ensure the stability of our economy and communities without delay,”
Jodi Ziesemer, director of the Immigrant Protection Unit, New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), said NYLAG “strongly opposes Hanen’s ruling ending the programme for new and pending DACA applicants.
“This decision throws the lives of 580,000 DACA recipients into jeopardy — our neighbours, friends, family members, and colleagues — people who have lawfully lived, worked in, and uplifted our communities and our country for decades,” she said.
“While the United States Congress has failed to enact any meaningful legislative reform of our broken immigration laws, it is unconscionable that our judicial system is placing thousands of people back into the shadows of this dysfunctional, harmful immigration system, and denying thousands more the ability to even apply for DACA at all,” Ziesemer added. “This ruling is inhumane and shameful, and DACA recipients and hopefuls deserve better.”
In October 2022, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals punted State of Texas v USA back down to the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas after the Biden Administration issued an updated rule on DACA in August 2022.
Hanen had previously ruled that DACA was illegally implemented in July 2021.
Created in 2012 under President Obama, DACA has been the subject of litigation since the Trump Administration announced it was ending the programme on September 5, 2017.
Several lawsuits were filed against the administration for terminating DACA unlawfully.
As a result, three nationwide injunctions issued by US district courts — in California, New York, and the District of Columbia — have allowed people who have previously had DACA to renew their deferred action.
Make the Road New York (MRNY), an immigrant advocacy group, said Judge Hanen’s ruling on Wednesday “ignores the strong legal arguments behind the programme and puts hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients at risk.”
Zuleima Dominguez, DACA recipient and MRNY lead organiser, said she was “devastated by this decision that once again triggers my fear of having my family torn apart.
“As a current DACA recipient with loved ones who have been waiting to apply for this programme, I know that this ruling puts the livelihoods of hundreds of immigrant youth across the country under attack,” she said. “We have lived with immense uncertainty and as pawns in political games for years. Once again, today, an extremist judge has done the bidding of extreme MAGA politicians to try to rob us of our future.
“We have survived unrelenting attacks on our communities, and our fight does not end here,” Dominguez added. “We will continue vigorously demanding our people’s need for a pathway to citizenship.
“We need a permanent solution for people like me and undocumented immigrants nationwide to be truly protected,” she continued. “We urge the Biden Administration and Congress to take immediate bold legislative and executive actions and immediate relief for our community.”