The legal fight over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program continues. The Obama-era policy has provided hundreds of thousands of migrant Dreamers with legal protections against deportation. Now, in the latest battle in a years-long war over the policy, a judge has halted the approval of new applications, prompting President Joe Biden to pledge his Department of Justice will fight for DACA.
As the New York Times reported on July 16, a federal judge ruled DACA unlawful, leaving it in place for current enrollees but suspending the approval of new applications. Judge Andrew S. Hanen of Houston’s U.S. District Court wrote that the feds shouldn’t “take any immigration, deportation or criminal action” against recipients that it “otherwise wouldn’t have taken.” Applications can still be filed, but not approved, and existing recipients can file for renewals.
According to the Times, Hanen’s ruling found that Barack Obama overstepped his authority as president when he created the program via executive order in 2012. Specifically, he ruled the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) program violates the Administrative Procedures Act because it did not seek public comment at its inception.
The day after the ruling came out, President Biden pledged to keep fighting for DACA in a statement. Highlighting the Obama administration’s role in DACA, the statement also called out Congress for not providing Dreamers a legal pathway to citizenship nine years after the program’s creation.
“Yesterday’s Federal court ruling is deeply disappointing,” Biden said in the statement. “While the court’s order does not now affect current DACA recipients, this decision nonetheless relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future. The Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA.”
“Only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve,” the statement continued. “I have repeatedly called on Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, and I now renew that call with the greatest urgency. It is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means, Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear.”
DACA has been on quite a journey involving all three branches of government. In 2017, then-president Donald Trump tried to officially rescind the entire program. That sparked a legal battle that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that then-attorney-general Jeff Sessions’s effort to end the program was “an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the executive branch” because hadn’t followed proper legal procedures. At the time, Sessions argued the program was unlawful from the start, a similar basis for the current lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Democrats in Congress have at times been eager to push for a legislative solution with sturdier constitutional footing, like a 2018 effort for a deal with the Trump White House. Hopes for legislation, typically called a Dream Act, to help Dreamers have existed for years, and Biden seems intent on pressuring congressional Democrats to press for it again now.
Want more from Teen Vogue? Check this out: How DACA Changed My Life: One Immigrant Girl’s Story