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Judge keeps DACA immigration program alive for current recipients — for now


A federal judge in Texas on Friday said he would, for now, allow nearly 600,000 immigrant “Dreamers” enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to continue renewing their two-year protections from deportation and work permits while the court case over the Obama-era policy proceeds.

At the same time, U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen said he would continue to prohibit the federal government from approving new DACA requests, a block he first issued in July 2021, when he agreed with arguments presented by Republican-led states and declared the program illegal.

Friday’s order was in response to a ruling earlier this month from the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which also found that the Obama administration did not have the legal authority to create DACA in 2012. The appeals court tasked Hanen with reviewing the legality of the Biden administration’s attempt to codify DACA into a federal regulation.

The regulations, set to take effect on Oct. 31, will replace a 2012 Department of Homeland Security memo that Texas and other Republican-controlled states have argued was not the proper way to create DACA.

After holding a hearing with attorneys in the case earlier on Friday, Hanen issued a two-page order saying his July 2021 ruling against DACA — and his decision to leave the program intact for current beneficiaries — would also apply to the new regulations. Hanen said both the Biden administration and the Republican-led states challenging DACA agreed with this determination.

“Nothing in this Order or the injunction order should be read as ordering DHS or any other governmental entity to cancel or otherwise terminate DACA status for any individual that currently is, as of this date, a DACA recipient in good standing,” Hanen wrote.

Friday’s order is unlikely to be the final judicial say over the future of DACA, which has allowed hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to live and work in the country without fear of deportation.

Hanen is expected to rule in the future on the legality of the new DACA regulations, which are virtually identical to the 2012 memo he previously ruled was illegal. The Justice Department, which represents the federal government in litigation, also has not announced whether it will appeal the 5th Circuit’s ruling from earlier this month, an action that could pave the way for the Supreme Court to have the final say on DACA’s legality.

Created 10 years ago as a stopgap measure, DACA was designed to protect immigrants living in the U.S. without legal status who came to the country as minors while Congress worked to pass a “Dream Act” that would place them on a path to U.S. citizenship.

For more than two decades, Congress has, on multiple occasions, failed to create such a legalization program amid intense gridlock over certain immigration issues, mainly U.S. policy along the border with Mexico.

To qualify for DACA, immigrants must demonstrate they arrived in the U.S. by age 16 and before June 2007, studied in a U.S. school or served in the military, and lacked any serious criminal record. As of June 30, 594,120 immigrants were enrolled in DACA, government data shows.



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