Jul 16 2021

Federal District Court Rules Against the DACA Program

United States

At a glance

  • A federal district judge in Texas has issued a permanent injunction against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but has temporarily stayed portions of his injunction pertaining to current DACA beneficiaries.
  • DACA deportation relief and employment authorization will remain in place for beneficiaries in good standing, but new applications for initial DACA benefits cannot be approved.
  • The Biden Administration is expected to appeal the ruling.

A closer look

Judge Andrew Hanen of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas has issued a permanent injunction against the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and ordered the vacatur of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) memorandum establishing the program. The judge also remanded the DACA memorandum to DHS for further consideration to permit the agency to attempt to cure legal deficiencies. However, in recognition of the many thousands of foreign nationals currently relying on the program, Judge Hanen temporarily stayed portions of his ruling with respect to existing DACA beneficiaries in good standing.

Judge Hanen determined that, in establishing the program, the Obama Administration had exceeded its authority and had not followed procedural requirements. The case is State of Texas v. United States.

Impact on current DACA beneficiaries

With respect to existing DACA beneficiaries in good standing, the court has temporarily stayed the application of its order vacating the program until further order of the court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, or the U.S. Supreme Court. Existing beneficiaries retain their current deportation relief and employment authorization. In addition, current DACA beneficiaries may continue to submit applications for renewal and the Department of Homeland Security is not prohibited from adjudicating them. However, it is not yet clear how renewal applications will be treated in light of the court’s remand of the DACA memorandum for further DHS consideration. In the coming days, DHS is expected to issue further details concerning the impact of the decision on current beneficiaries.

Impact on foreign nationals seeking initial DACA benefits

The court order prohibits DHS from granting new or pending initial DACA applications. Though foreign nationals may continue to submit applications for new initial DACA benefits, those applications cannot be approved by DHS unless the court order is modified or subject to a broader stay.

What’s next for the DACA program

The Biden Administration is expected to appeal the court’s decision. Several bills to provide permanent relief for Dreamers are pending in Congress, though their prospects for passage are uncertain.

Fragomen is closely monitoring the DACA program and related legislation, and will provide updates as developments occur.

This alert is for informational purposes only. If you have any questions, please contact the immigration professional with whom you work at Fragomen.