A federal judge in Texas on Friday ordered the Biden administration to halt a program that shields undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children from deportation.
District Judge Andrew Hanen's split order doesn't affect current recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but it stops the Department of Homeland Security from approving any new applications. The decision comes amid a government backlog of thousands of first-time DACA applicants who were waiting to be approved.
The Supreme Court ruled against former president Donald Trump's attempts to rescind DACA last year, saying the government had violated federal law. Then in December, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to begin accepting new applications for DACA, fully restoring the Obama-era program. The program not only protected undocumented immigrants from deportation, but also gave them permission to work.
Unlike the case the Supreme Court ruled on, which focused on how the Trump administration went about ending DACA, the lawsuit before Hanen focused on the original terms the program was created under. In the lawsuit, Texas and eight other states argued that DACA was illegally created by former president Barack Obama.
In Friday's ruling, Hanen said DHS violated the Administrative Procedure Act, which governs how the federal agencies can set regulations, with the creation of DACA and its continued operation. Hanen didn't issue an order on current DACA recipients, pending a further order from the court or expected appeals.
"To be clear, neither this order nor the accompanying injunction requires DHS or the Department of Justice to take any immigration, deportation, or criminal action against any DACA recipient," Hanen said in his order.
President Joe Biden has said he supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, including those who were brought to the US as children, often called DREAMers. On Biden's first day in office, he signed an executive order calling on the secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the attorney general, to take actions to preserve and fortify the program.
Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, an advocacy group started by Mark Zuckerberg, said the ruling was "deeply disappointing" and called on Congress to pass a law that would offer a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants who would benefit from DACA.
"It is devastating that tens of thousands of new DACA applicants who have submitted their applications will be barred from getting protections from deportation and work authorization," Schulte said in a statement. "Today makes absolutely clear: only a permanent legislative solution passed by Congress will eliminate the fear and uncertainty that DACA recipients have been forced to live with for years."