Federal Judge Rules DACA is Illegal

On July 16, 2021, Texas federal judge Andrew Hanen ruled that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is illegal and blocked the government from accepting new applications. Although the decision does not automatically end the program, and current recipients can still renew their protections, Dreamers face devastating legal uncertainty about their future in the United States.

What is DACA?

President Barack Obama created DACA in 2012 to allow undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to legally live and work in the country. The program protects approximately 700,000 Dreamers from deportation.

The Legal Battle of DACA

In 2017, the Trump administration tried to terminate DACA, but the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) blocked its attempt in June 2020 because the government failed to provide a reasonable explanation to end the program and follow the proper administrative guidelines. Even though the former administration then attempted to deny new DACA applications and limit renewals to one year (instead of two years), a separate federal judge rejected those moves in November 2020, and ordered Trump to fully reinstate the terms of the program prior to September 2017.

The Difference Between This Recent Ruling & The 2020 SCOTUS Decision

With this recent decision, Judge Hanen ruled on a different legal issue compared to the June 2020 decision. While the prior case addressed how one president can undo a previous president’s executive action, the most recent case questioned whether DACA itself is constitutional. Judge Hanen ruled that the program is illegal because it was created by executive action, instead of legislation through Congress.

The lawsuit was originally brought by Texas—along with Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Nebraska, Louisiana, and West Virginia—which argued that DACA was created by executive overreach and running the program placed an undue burden on these states. In December 2020, Hanen heard oral arguments in the case.

What Are the Next Steps?

Following Judge Hanen’s ruling, President Joe Biden announced that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would appeal the decision and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will issue a proposed rule about DACA soon. The case will be sent on appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is one of the more conservative federal circuit courts in the nation.

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the agency remains committed to ensure Dreamers are protected and to do whatever it takes to preserve and fortify DACA. Additionally, he said the DHS will continue to process DACA renewal requests.

Other than a court victory before SCOTUS (assuming that’s where this eventually leads), the only way DACA can be saved is if Congress passes legislation to provide a permanent solution for Dreamers. The American Dream and Promise Act—which would provide 2.3 million undocumented immigrants with a pathway to U.S. citizenship if signed into law—passed the House in March. The fate of the bill remains unclear as it still needs to pass through the Senate.

How Our Firm Can Help Dreamers

At Milla & Associates, LLC, our legal team understands how fluid this current situation is, which is why we will be monitoring the government’s announcements and response to Judge Hanen’s ruling. If you have any questions about DACA or how the recent decision may affect you, we are available to address any of your concerns.

For new applicants, we are available to answer your questions about filing and what these recent and future DACA developments may mean for you.

If you are interested in applying for DACA or renewing your protections in Chicago, IL, contact Milla & Associates, LLC, today at (312) 702-1782 to schedule a consultation to speak with our experienced legal team. Se habla español!