(Trends Wide) — President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday appealed a Texas court ruling that the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was illegal, sparking a new uncertainty for the lives of thousands of immigrants.
The Justice Department filed a notice to appeal the ruling by US District Judge Andrew Hanen, kicking off the appeals process in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, an extremely conservative appeals court.
DACA, created in 2012, was intended to provide temporary respite for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, a group often described as “dreamers.” Beneficiaries, many of whom are now adults, also receive certain work authorizations.
In July, Judge Hanen of the Southern District of Texas ruled that DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which dictates what procedures agencies must follow to implement certain policies. Hanen blocked the government from approving new applications in the program, but his order allowed the program to continue for current beneficiaries while the case is litigated. Since the ruling, a DACA regulation proposal has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget.
In a meeting with Trends Wide that occurred over the summer, President Joe Biden said he would “not let this go” and said the Justice Department would appeal the ruling. “They come here with no other choice and they are good, good people,” Biden said, referring to the so-called dreamers who are eligible for the program.
As of March 31, there were 616,030 DACA recipients, the majority of whom are from Mexico. Hanen suspended the order for current DACA recipients. While that suspension is in effect, beneficiaries can renew, a process that occurs every two years.
However, the pandemic and other factors have created a large backlog of applications and, according to Hanen’s ruling, applications from those who are not currently protected by DACA cannot be approved. The backlog of new applications was, as of March 31, more than 55,000.
The case has put additional pressure on Congress, where Democrats are trying to include a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants in a budget reconciliation bill. That population includes immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, those with Temporary Protected Status, and essential workers.
By voting on an immigration measure using budget reconciliation, Democrats can pass it using a simple majority in the Senate, with all 50 Democratic senators voting in favor and with a possible runoff vote from Vice President Kamala Harris. But first, Democrats must get the approval of Senate MP Elizabeth MacDonough, who is responsible for advising the House on how its rules, protocols and precedents operate.
Without legislation from Congress, the current DACA case sets up another high-stakes immigration legal showdown.
While it is unclear whether this case will end up before the Supreme Court, in a previous case related to DACA last year, three justices dissented their belief that the program is illegal. The full court has yet to assess the legality of DACA.