Revised DACA Policy Heads to Court

June 1, 2023

A revised version of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy was set to be heard in a Texas court Thursday—before a federal judge who previously ruled the program illegal.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen was set to preside over a lawsuit brought by nine states to end the program, impacting its nearly 600,000 enrollees, undocumented migrants brought to this country as children known as “Dreamers.”

The suing states—Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Carolina, West Virginia, Kansas and Mississippi—have claimed they incur hundreds of millions of dollars in health care, education and other costs when immigrants are allowed to remain in the country illegally.

If the states are successful in their suit, the Dreamers would be prevented from being able to renew their deportation protections and work permits. 

In July 2021 Judge Hanen declared DACA illegal, barring the government from approving any new applications, but leaving the program intact for existing recipients.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Hanen’s ruling in 2022 but sent the case back to him to review changes to the policy made by the Biden Administration. 

In court filings the nine states have argued that the Administration’s updated version of the program remains “unlawful and unconstitutional.” The states further assert that the Administration overstepped its authority by granting immigration benefits that are for Congress to decide.

The Justice Department has countered that the states have failed to show any direct injury because of DACA. It further asserts in court filings that Congress has given the Department of Homeland Security the “authority and duty to set immigration enforcement policies.”

This hearing comes as the Senate remains stalled on the latest bipartisan immigration proposal—put forth last week by Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL) and Veronica Escobar (D-TX)—which would include citizenship for Dreamers along with provisions to step up border security and retool the asylum system.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has conceded, “I am not optimistic that we are somehow, all of a sudden, going to have an epiphany and figure out how to do comprehensive immigration reform.”

Ahead of Thursday’s hearing, more than 50 DACA supporters gathered near the courthouse, holding up signs that read, “Immigration Reform Now,” “Protect DACA” and “Immigrant Power Immigrant Rights.”

PHOTO: Bob Casey U.S. Courthouse, Houston

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