DACA/DREAM Frontera Fund News Trump Watch

Conservative Federal Judge Allows DACA Renewals to Continue, for Now

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Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

Last Friday afternoon, just as the Labor Day weekend started, a federal judge from a conservative court ruled in favor of DACA-DREAMers, partially.

Texas-based judge Andrew Hanen denied seven state attorneys general their request to end the process called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which protects certain undocumented youth brought as children to the U.S. from deportation and gives them a work permit.

However, the judged hinted he will likely eliminate the program in the future.

This ruling was a surprise, since this judge is a known immigration hardliner who ruled previously against another deferred action program created by President Obama called DAPA, which was eliminated due to a 4-4 decision at the Supreme Court.

Read here about the end of DAPA here.

DAPA stood for Deferred Action for Parental Accountability and was intended to protect undocumented parents of legal residents and citizens.

A year ago, Trump announced the elimination of DACA, leaving in uncertainty close to 800,000 young individuals and prompting legal advocacy organizations to fight in the courts. Since then, members of Congress have stated their interest in passing a legislation to permanently protect DREAMers, but have failed twice. Meanwhile, three judges have ruled in favor of maintaining the renewal process but not allowing new applications to proceed.

Judge Hanen stated that the cost of ending DACA is greater than the cost of the benefits they cost to the states. It is important to note that businesses expressed their support for the young immigrants and their contributions to the U.S. economy before court hearings in the case. Read about the support of the business community here.

Additionally, Judge Hanen noted that the petition from Texas and other states to eliminate DACA was done five years after the implementation of the program, which was extremely awkward to justify.

Judge Hanen, however, considers DACA an illegal program, and this ruling may not prevent the issue from being addressed at the Supreme Court next year. So he does not want DACA-DREAMers to consider his ruling “good news.”

Hanen also wrote about the popularity of the program and the role of Congress:

“DACA is a popular program and one that Congress should consider saving,” Hanen wrote. Nevertheless, “this court will not succumb to the temptation to set aside legal principles and to substitute its judgment in lieu of legislative action. If the nation truly wants to have a DACA program, it is up to Congress to say so.”

Additionally, in a separate order, Judge Hanen took the unusual step of making it possible to appeal his denial of an immediate halt to the program and gave the parties three weeks to figure out next steps.

As expected, the Trump administration’s Department of Justice did not defend the program. Instead, DACA was defended by the advocacy and legal defense organization MALDEF (Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) and the state of New Jersey, along with the presence of 22 DACA-DREAMers who shared their stories.

“While MALDEF continues to disagree adamantly with the judge’s views on the legality of DACA under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), and on whether the state of Texas even has standing – as required by the Constitution – to challenge DACA, today’s court decision appropriately leaves DACA in place with respect to over 100,000 Texans and hundreds of thousands of others nationwide,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of MALDEF.

You can hear an analysis of Hanen’s decision by MALDEF attorneys on SoundCloud here.