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President Calls for Ending DACA Uncertainty After Court Declares Program ‘Illegal’

July 18, 2021 by Dan McCue
People rally outside the Supreme Court over President Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), at the Supreme Court in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Barack Obama exceeded his authority when he created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, by executive order in 2012, a federal judge ruled Friday.

But U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen, presiding in the federal court in Houston, stopped short of immediately vacating the program.

Instead Hanen said the Department of Homeland Security can continue to accept new applications and renewals for the program, but it can’t approve them.

Hanen’s ruling called the DACA program, an “illegally implemented program” and said “the public interest of the nation is always served by the cessation of a program that was created in violation of law and whose existence violates the law.”

Explaining his rationale for not simply striking the Obama executive order down, Hanen said,  “Hundreds of thousands of individual DACA recipients, along with their employers, states, and loved ones, have come to rely on the DACA program.

“Given those interests, it is not equitable for a government program that has engendered such a significant reliance to terminate suddenly,” the judge continued. “This consideration, along with the government’s assertion that it is ready and willing to try to remedy the legal defects of the DACA program indicates that equity will not be served by a complete and immediate cessation of DACA.”

Hanen’s ruling once again casts a veil of uncertainty on the fate of immigrants known as Dreamers, who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents.

For now, individuals enrolled in the program can stay and work in the country, but their current protections could be set aside if the federal government failed to address a number of legal shortcomings identified by Hanen.

In 2012, the Obama-Biden administration created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which has allowed hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to remain in the United States, to live, study, and work in their communities. Nine years later, Congress has not acted to provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers.

Responding to the ruling Saturday morning, President Joe Biden called the outcome “deeply disappointing.”

“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,” he continued. “The Department of Justice intends to appeal this decision in order to preserve and fortify DACA. And, as the court recognized, the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue a proposed rule concerning DACA in the near future.”

Biden went on to reiterate his past calls on Congress to “ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers.”

Specifically, he wants Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act, something he says must now be done with the “greatest urgency.”

Among other things, the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 would create a “conditional permanent resident” status valid for up to 10 years that would protect Dreamers – including DACA recipients – from deportation, allow them to work legally in the U.S. and permit them to travel outside the country.

It would also pause the deportation proceedings for Dreamers if they are eligible for “conditional permanent resident” status, and prevent deportation proceedings for Dreamers under the age of 18 if they meet certain requirements.

The House Democratic leadership was similarly incredulous about the ruling and it being a call to action.

“Today’s ruling underscores the necessity of Congress enacting H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, which the House passed earlier this year,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said. “Until the Senate acts – and for as long as Senate Republicans continue to block this bill’s consideration – those undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children and know no other home than America will continue to live in fear and uncertainty. 

“It is long past time that Democrats and Republicans work together to enact legislation that protects Dreamers from deportation and keeps immigrant families together. That is what House Democrats will continue to advocate and make a priority for our Majority. I urge the Senate to act and send H.R. 6 to President Biden to sign without delay,” Hoyer said.

“Today’s wrongly-decided ruling brazenly flouts the law and precedent, as it casts a cloud of fear and uncertainty around the Dreamers, who are a pride of our nation,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

“As we await the swift stay that the law clearly requires, Democrats will continue to press for any and all paths to ensure that the Dream and Promise Act, now passed twice by the House, becomes the law of the land,” the speaker said, adding, “Democrats call on Republicans in Congress to join us in respecting the will of the American people and the law, to ensure that Dreamers have a permanent path to citizenship.”

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