Federal Judge Kicks The Can On DACA Again

The same court that found former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) unconstitutional in 2012 has issued a similar ruling in response to legal challenges by nine states over what is essentially the same program from the current administration. Federal Judge Andrew Hanen issued his ruling on Wednesday, stating that the current policy suffers the same constitutional shortcomings as the Obama administration’s plan.

Hanen wrote that current recipients of protections under DACA are not facing deportation and that his ruling does not authorize any legal action to be taken against the more than half a million individuals who are currently enrolled.

President Joe Biden and his administration issued a rule last year that was intended to strengthen and fortify DACA, but failed to accomplish the stated goal. Haney said in his ruling that the power to establish such a program does not lie within the bounds of the Judiciary or Executive branches. Crafting such a program is the responsibility of the Legislature which has shown little interest in resolving the decade-long argument.

Hanen ruled in 2021 that the 2012 DACA order was unconstitutional and at odds with the Immigration and Nationality Act. DACA recipients were allowed to remain under the protections of the rule while the case was being litigated. During former President Donald Trump’s term, the rule was eliminated, but courts found that the Trump administration did not follow proper procedures and vacated the closure.

Bipartisan efforts to enact legislation that will provide a pathway for DACA recipients, often called “Dreamers” has been debated since 2001. Various efforts to introduce language that offers protection from deportation and a pathway toward citizenship have never passed both houses. Numerous issues have caused the legislative efforts to fail, including questions about whether the act amounts to amnesty and how the long-term impacts of such a program might affect continued illegal immigration.

The DREAM Act, a commonly used name for the various efforts in Congress, and DACA are separate efforts that both seek protections for individuals who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors. The two efforts are often debated together since the goals of both policies are similar.

Public support for the DREAM Act and DACA remains high. A 2022 poll found that around 30% of voters strongly support both efforts. Democrats are overwhelmingly supportive, while a majority of Republicans show somewhat timid support. Interestingly, the same poll found that Republican voters are less supportive of candidates who advocate for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants despite supporting the policy.

When DACA was first implemented in 2012, around 700,000 applications were approved. As the recipients’ age, the numbers have declined. As the Courts continue to resist efforts to create law through rulings and the Legislature refuses to take action, the number of recipients will continue to decline. Current rulings prevent new applications.