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Why did a Texas federal judge end the DACA program?

A federal judge in Texas ruled on Friday that DACA, the Obama-era program protecting undocumented immigrants who arrived as children, is illegal.

A federal judge in Texas ruled on Friday that DACA, the Obama-era program protecting undocumented immigrants who arrived as children, is illegal.

Undocumented immigrants that were 16 or younger when they arrived in the US have been protected from deportation since 2012 by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. A federal district judge in southern Texas ruled on Friday that the program is illegal.

The program was established by the Obama administration through executive action in 2012 and has survived two hearings before the US Supreme Court, most recently when former President Trump tried to end the program.

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States challenge legality of program

The current challenge was originally brought by six conservative-led states in 2018 asking that no new applicants be allowed into the program. The states argued that Obama had violated the Constitution by going around Congress to implement the immigration program. At the time, US District Judge Andrew Hanen who heard the case did not issue a preliminary injunction on the program saying that DACA was likely unlawful but the states had waited too long to bring their challenge and that it would be like putting "toothpaste back in the tube."

Judge Hanen heard the case again in December 2020 but did not give a ruling at the time. The nine states that are now part of the challenge claimed the program was causing their states harm by recipients draining resources from their states. In his ruling Friday Judge Hanen followed his original line of thought on the matter that DACA is illegal because the program exceeds the powers Congress granted to the Executive Branch.

However, current DACA recipients are not in immediate danger of deportation “it is not equitable for a government program that has engendered such significant reliance to terminate suddenly.” Judge Hanen said as part of his ruling.

No new DREAMers unless Congress acts

The hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries of the program, known as DREAMers, will remained protected and allowed to renew their DACA status while the case winds its way through the appeals process. However, the Biden administration is blocked from accepting any new DACA applicants. “From this date forward, the United States of America, its departments, agencies, officers, agents, and employees are hereby enjoined from administering the DACA program,” Judge Hanen wrote.

The fate of the DREAMers will now be in the hands of Congress, or the Supreme Court as it is expected the decision will be appealed. Judge Hanen noted in his ruling that it is due to congressional inaction on the matter over the past nine years since the policy was put in place that made him declare the policy illegal. “Although Congress may someday enact such a DREAM Act, until it does, its continued failure to pass bills coextensive with the DACA population evinces a rejection of this policy,” Judge Hanen wrote in his ruling.


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