Federal Judge Again Strikes Down DACA

Once again, the legality of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, initiated by the Obama administration in 2012, is under scrutiny. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen ruled against the program, stating, “While sympathetic to the predicament of DACA recipients and their families, this Court has expressed its concerns about the legality of the program for some time.”

Though Hanen’s ruling blocks new DACA applications, it does not affect the estimated 578,000 current recipients. The matter is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, a move that is now more urgent than ever.

The judge’s decision isn’t surprising, especially for those closely monitoring the case. Hanen had already deemed the program unlawful in a 2021 ruling. His criticism is rooted in a straightforward principle: the executive branch overstepped its authority when the policy was implemented via a memo rather than legislative action. Hanen said, “The solution for these deficiencies lies with the legislature, not the executive or judicial branches.”

While the Biden administration expressed disappointment in the ruling, vowing to continue defending the policy, Republican-led states that sued to end the program consider this a win for the rule of law. These states, including Texas, Alabama, and Arkansas, have argued that they incur millions of dollars in costs related to providing services for DACA recipients.

Conservative viewpoints on this issue generally stress the importance of adhering to the constitutional process and the powers it allocates to different branches of government. Critics contend that Obama’s decision to act unilaterally, sidestepping Congress, represents a dangerous precedent for the executive branch to enact substantial policy changes without legislative consent.

The Department of Homeland Security attempted to shore up the program’s legal foundation by undergoing a formal rulemaking process in 2022. However, Hanen found that even with this effort, the fundamental issues questioned by the courts remained unresolved. The Biden administration should have corrected the policy’s foundational defects noted in earlier court decisions.

This brings the focus back to Congress, which has been reluctant to resolve the DACA issue. While Democrats like Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state cry foul over the recent ruling, their efforts to legislate a more permanent solution have faced strong Republican opposition. GOP lawmakers argue that an executive-branch answer is not only legally dubious but also neglects a necessary broader discussion about immigration reform.

With the Supreme Court likely being the final arbiter, it’s worth noting that this will be a significant test of the high court’s stance on executive power and constitutional fidelity. For conservatives, Judge Hanen’s ruling isn’t just about immigration policy; it’s about preserving the checks and balances fundamental to American governance.

While Democrats call for Congress to act, it is clear that any lasting resolution should address DACA recipients’ plight and respect the separation of powers enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Until then, the fate of DACA remains uncertain, hanging in the balance of judicial review and a divided Congress.