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A federal judge in Texas has ruled that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, also known as DACA, is unlawful. The decision has temporarily blocked new, first-time applicants from the program.

Since its implementation in 2012, The DACA program has allowed more than 800,000 young adults to work lawfully, attend school, and reside safe from the threat of removal in the United States.Throughout the last decade, DACA has been a flash-point of immigration policy, and has seen many legal challenges. Unfortunately, this ruling is the most recent major setback for the program.

While the ruling doesn’t disturb the DACA status held by current DACA recipients or those pending renewal of DACA status, it does leave the future of new, first-time DACA applicants and other “Dreamers” in question. 

USCIS has issued a statement clarifying that while it will continue to accept new applications for DACA from first-time applicants, and will hold new applications already pending with USCIS at the time of the judge’s decision, it will not adjudicate the new applications until resolution of this litigation. 

At Pelton & Balducci, we have experience in helping young people in the New Orleans area prepare and advance applications, and we constantly monitor the latest developments regarding DACA in order to better serve our clients. Here’s our explanation of what this new DACA ruling means for you.

The new DACA ruling

On July 16, 2021, ​​Andrew S. Hanen of the U.S. District Court in Houston ruled that the DACA program is unlawful.

The lawsuit had initially been brought by the State of Texas, in conjunction with a number of other conservative-led states, arguing that the program placed an undue burden on the states and was an example of executive overreach.

Hanen agreed, offering several explanations for why the DACA program is unlawful:

  • Congress never granted the Department of Homeland Security the authority to create DACA.
  • Its creation violated the Administrative Procedure Act, in part because comment from the general public was never sought.
  • It prevents immigration officials from enforcing removal provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

As a result of this ruling, Hanen ordered the Department of Homeland Security to stop adjudicating any new, first-time applications for the DACA program.

In effect, the ruling has placed a moratorium on issuing any new DACA approvals for immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. Sadly, this is impacting children who are just aging into the program, which requires applicants to generally be 15 years old at the time of application.

The fight to appeal

Hanen’s ruling is only the most recent setback in a decade-long legal and political battle. The Trump administration tried multiple times to end DACA, but federal judges ultimately upheld the program.

However, there are a number of reasons to hope that the recent ruling won’t stick:

  • President Biden announced that the Department of Justice intends to appeal this “deeply disappointing” decision to the Fifth Circuit.
  • President Biden added that if the ruling can’t be overturned, he would put a new rule in DACA’s place.
  • Congressional Democrats have called for quick legislative action that will provide a permanent solution by ensuring DACA recipients a path to full citizenship.

But if legislative action doesn’t take place, it’s likely that the issue will end up in the Supreme Court by next year.

What this means for Dreamers right now

The good news is that current DACA recipients have nothing to fear at the moment. Hanen even wrote in his ruling that the federal government should not “take any immigration, deportation or criminal action” against current DACA holders that it “would not otherwise take.”

Contact New Orleans immigration attorneys today

That’s why it’s crucial that you have an experienced immigration attorney on your side to help you prepare for the possible outcomes. Pelton & Balducci can help you do just that. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and talk about your case.

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