Federal judge in Houston rules DACA unlawful, halts new enrollment applications

  • In Business
  • 2021-07-16 22:29:54Z

A federal judge in Houston on Friday ruled that an Obama administration program protecting undocumented immigrants who were brought into the United States as children is illegal and halted accepting any new applications for the program.

The decision comes out of a challenge to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that was filed in 2018 by Texas and other states that argued that the program violated the Constitution because it undermines Congress' authority on immigration laws.

The decision Friday is separate from a previous ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that President Donald Trump's attempt to end DACA in 2017 was unlawful. A federal judge in New York earlier this year then ordered the Trump administration to restore the program as enacted by President Barack Obama.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen blocked the program from moving forward.

The DACA program was created in June 2012 under then-President Obama to provide children who were brought to the country illegally limited protection from deportation and allow them to work here. The children are often referred to as "Dreamers," based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act.

DACA students rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.
DACA students rally in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.  

The program, which grants recipients a renewable, two-year work permit, is open to undocumented immigrants who came to the country before they turned 16 and who were 31 or younger as of June 2012. To qualify, applicants must pass a background check and be enrolled in school, have graduated or have earned a GED.

Some argue that allowing the program to continue puts stress on state resources and creates a never-ending pool of applicants that further strain resources, including school districts, which are required to provide all children in the United States with equal access to public education.

But without the program, several DACA recipients said they would be unable to continue their education and careers.

Ricky Reyna, who is a software engineer in the Austin office of the New Jersey-based data company Dun & Bradstreet and is working on a doctorate in systems engineering from Colorado State University, fears that he would be unable to continue his life and career in the United States, where he has lived for the past 15 years.

"I could probably go back to Mexico and find a job, but I would not make as much money as do here," Reyna told the American-Statesman earlier this year. "It also would be hard to adjust after being away for 15 years. All my friends have all moved on and changed so much since those days in middle school."

More: Migrant encounters at the border surpass 1 million for the year. June's numbers reach 188k

Hanen's ruling allows the Department of Homeland Security to continue accepting renewal applications and said that current recipients will not be affected for now, but a further order could change that.

President Joe Biden has pledged to protect DACA. But a ruling against it could limit Biden's ability to keep the program or something similar in place.

That is why immigration activists and attorneys continue to push for a more permanent solution that leads to permanent citizenship for people, such as The Dream Act of 2021.

"These are individuals who have grown up here, were educated here and are largely contributing to our economy," Megan Sheffield, attorney and immigration team lead for nonprofit law firm the Equal Justice Center, previously told the Statesman.

The Associated Press contributed reporting

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: DACA: Federal judge rules program unlawful, halts new applications


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