NAICU Washington Update

Texas Court Rules DACA Program Illegal

July 23, 2021

A federal judge in Texas ruled last week that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program established by President Obama is illegal and ordered the Biden Administration to stop approving new applications.  The DACA program allows non-citizens who came to the U.S. as children to temporarily avoid deportation and obtain renewable work permits.

The ruling stems from a 2018 lawsuit brought by Texas and eight other states that sued the federal government over the burdensome costs of providing health care, education, and law enforcement protections to DACA recipients.  There are currently about 600,000 DACA recipients across the U.S. and over 100,000 in Texas, which is second only to California in the number of enrollees per state.

While the ruling doesn’t dissolve the program or affect current program participants, it will halt the processing and approval of approximately 50,000 new applications that had not been processed when the ruling was announced last week.  The ruling also casts a shadow on the program and puts increased pressure on Congress to advance a legislative solution. Senate Democrats are planning on including immigration measures, such as a pathway to citizenship for DACA enrollees and other “Dreamers,” in the $3.5 trillion spending bill.  It is unclear, however, if the immigration measures will be allowed under the Senate’s budget rules.

This ruling is different and not necessarily contradictory to last year’s Supreme Court decision that struck down the Trump Administration’s rescission of the DACA program.  The Supreme Court ruled that the Trump Administration had not adequately articulated sufficient reasoning for rescinding the program.  In the ruling, the Court noted that the DACA program serves as a temporary reprieve from deportation, but only Congress can establish forms of legal status for immigration programs under the Immigration and Nationality Act. 

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