Texas Judge Cuts Off New DACA Applications

Topline

The federal government can no longer accept new undocumented immigrants into the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a federal judge in Texas ruled Friday, a major blow to a program that’s shielded from deportation over 600,000 people who entered the U.S. as children.

Key Facts

Judge Andrew Hanen — nominated to the federal bench by former President George W. Bush — issued a permanent injunction vacating the DACA program, meaning the Department of Homeland Security can’t grant DACA status to any new applicants while a lawsuit from Texas winds its way through the federal court system.

Hanen’s order doesn’t apply to people whose DACA applications were already accepted, and DACA recipients who remain in good standing — meaning they don’t have a criminal record — won’t lose their ability to work or protection from deportation.

Forbes has reached out to the White House and DHS for comment.

Big Number

616,030. That’s how many people had active DACA status as of March, according to data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Key Background

Launched by the Obama administration in 2012, DACA extends temporary protections to undocumented immigrants whose families brought them into the United States before they turned 16, as long as they graduate from high school and avoid a felony conviction. The program is overwhelmingly popular: Some 90% of Democrats and 54% of Republicans told Pew Research Center last year they support legal status for immigrants who arrived as children. But DACA was set up as an executive action, leaving it vulnerable to the political whims of future presidents, and legislation to permanently protect DACA recipients has stalled in Congress despite both parties’ public support for the idea. Meanwhile, Republican-led states like Texas have spent years suing the federal government over DACA, but before Friday, Hanen declined to shut down the program altogether.

Chief Critic

Immigration advocates blasted Hanen’s ruling. The New York Immigration Coalition called the decision “a chilling reminder that the Republicans’ far-right anti-immigrant agenda continues to outlive Donald Trump,” and José Muñoz from United We Dream — himself a DACA recipient — called the ruling “unfortunate and cruel” in an interview with the Washington Post.

What To Watch For

It’s unclear how Hanen’s ruling will impact thousands of DACA recipients whose renewals have stalled in recent months due to a severe Covid-imposed backlog.

Tangent

Former President Donald Trump tried to phase out DACA shortly after taking office, but the Supreme Court blocked the move last year after several states sued the Trump administration, arguing government officials didn’t follow the legally required steps to change a federal policy.

Surprising Fact

Hanen has a long track record of skepticism of Obama-era immigration rules. In 2015, Hanen struck down an effort to temporarily protect undocumented immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents, a program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld Hanen’s decision.

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