WASHINGTON — A federal judge in Texas on Friday declared illegal the federal program that has allowed nearly 800,000 young people brought to the U.S. illegally as children avoid deportation and remain in the country.
U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen in Brownsville, Texas, said the Obama administration failed to follow federal administrative rules in launching the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in 2012. But he put the effect of most of his ruling on hold while the case is appealed.
“It is not equitable for a government program that has engendered such significant reliance to terminate suddenly,” Hanen said. As a result, the status of people currently in the program does not change, and they can continue to seek renewal of the DACA status.
But he said the Department of Homeland Security cannot grant any new applications from people who have never been in the program.
Despite its limited short term impact, the ruling is likely to put new pressure on Congress and the Biden administration to come up with a permanent fix if they want to continue the program.
On his first day in office, President Joe Biden directed the Homeland Security secretary “to take all actions he deems appropriate, consistent with applicable law, to preserve and fortify DACA.”
Under the program, children of undocumented immigrants are allowed to remain here if they were under 16 when their parents brought them to the U.S. and if they arrived by 2007. Government figures show that over 90 percent of DACA participants have a job. Nearly half are in school. Many don’t speak the language or know the culture of their home countries.