In 2012, then-President Barack Obama issued an executive order that created a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), which ensured that children brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents would not be deported. They were dubbed “Dreamers.”
But federal judge Andrew S. Hanen of the U.S. District Court in Houston — a President George W. Bush appointee — on Friday ruled the executive order was unlawful and that Obama exceeded his authority when issuing it.
Hanen in his ruling said Obama’s executive order violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because it failed to allow the public to comment.
“D.H.S. failed to engage in the statutorily mandated process,” Hanen wrote, “so DACA never gained status as a legally binding policy that could impose duties or obligations.”
The Obama administration had a history of ignoring the APA when issuing rules. It also ignored APA guidelines when issuing new rules for how colleges and universities handled allegations of sexual assault.
Hanen also wrote that those currently receiving benefits from the DACA program would not be immediately affected by his ruling, The New York Times reported, and added that the federal government should not “take any immigration, deportation or criminal action” against current recipients that it “would not otherwise take.”
In addition, the Department of Homeland Security can continue to accept new DACA applications but cannot approve them.
“Immigrants currently enrolled in the program, most of whom were brought to the United States as children, will for now retain the ability to stay and work in the country, though those protections could evaporate if the government is unable to rectify a series of legal shortcomings,” the Times reported.
More from the Times:
President Biden moved to strengthen the DACA program on his first day in office, and in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, the idea of extending a path to citizenship to the young immigrants who have enrolled has attracted bipartisan public support.
But the court ruling in Texas has introduced a new complication for the hundreds of thousands of people who have been able to build families, buy homes and work at jobs in the United States without fear of deportation. The ruling also represents a significant new challenge for Mr. Biden as he attempts to build support in Congress for his ambitious plan to allow up to 10 million other immigrants to live in the country legally.
Former President Donald Trump faced the opposite problem when he was in office, The Daily Wire previously reported. In December 2020, a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York ordered the Trump administration to reinstate the DACA program after Trump made moves in 2017 to end the program. As the Times reported in December:
Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn directed the administration on Friday to allow newly eligible immigrants to file new applications for protection under the program, reversing a memorandum issued in the summer by Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of Homeland Security, which restricted the program to people who were already enrolled. As many as 300,000 new applicants could now be eligible, according to the lawyers who pushed for the reinstatement.
The memo from the Department of Homeland Security also limited benefits under the program, including permits to work, to one year, but the judge ordered the government to restore them to a full two years. Judge Garaufis, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, also said the government must find a way to contact all immigrants who are eligible for the program to inform them of the change.
The latest court ruling presents yet another challenge in the battle over immigration reform, which has made little to no legislative progress in the past decade.