(AUSTIN) — President Joe Biden said it’s “deeply disappointing” that a federal judge in Texas has ruled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program as unlawful, and said the Department of Justice will appeal the decision.
“While the court’s order does not now affect current DACA recipients, this decision nonetheless relegates hundreds of thousands of young immigrants to an uncertain future,” Biden said in a statement on Saturday.
The president also said the Department of Homeland Security plans to issue a proposed rule on DACA “in the near future” and DHS Secretary Mayorkas echoed that in a statement, saying that in addition to continuing to process DACA renewal applications, the department plans to “preserve and fortify DACA” with more policy changes.
The Friday ruling marks a significant blow to the Obama-era approach that shielded young people brought to the country illegally from deportation.
U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen sided with a group of nine states led by Texas and concluded that the creation of the DACA program violated federal administrative law. Hanen emphasized in his decision that his ruling does not compel immigration authorities to arrest and deport recipients, but it does make them eligible.
With the “greatest urgency,” Biden on Saturday also renewed his call for Congress to create a pathway to citizenship for the approximately 650,000 people who hold DACA status by passing the American Dream and Promise Act, possibly even through the reconciliation process, which Democrats are currently working on to achieve the president’s “human infrastructure” priorities.
“Only Congress can ensure a permanent solution by granting a path to citizenship for Dreamers that will provide the certainty and stability that these young people need and deserve,” the president’s statement said. “It is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means, Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear.”
In line with the both president’s, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in a tweet, said it was “more important than ever for Congress to pass permanent protections for Dreamers and provide a pathway to citizenship,” while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats will pursue “any and all paths” to send the American Dream and Promise Act to Biden’s desk.
Former President Barack Obama on Saturday also focused on Congress’ role in failing to provide Dreamers with legal protection.
“For more than nine years, DREAMers have watched courts and politicians debate whether they’ll be allowed to stay in the only country many of them have ever known,” he said in a tweet. “It’s long past time for Congress to act and give them the protection and certainty they deserve.”
DACA was created by Obama in 2012 to provide relief for the growing population of undocumented immigrant minors, sometimes called Dreamers, who had little to no say in their immigration process due to their youth. It’s estimated there are about 650,000 people who hold DACA status, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Lawyers with the Texas Attorney General’s Office argued that the Obama administration overextended its executive authority in creating the program. They were joined in the lawsuit by Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina and West Virginia.
The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which represented a group of DACA recipients in defending the program, argued in a prior hearing on the matter that Texas shouldn’t be successful in its lawsuit because none of the states were harmed by the existence of DACA.
The DACA program has maintained bipartisan political support even as Republican-led states have moved to end it. A solid majority — 75% — of Republicans favor allowing recipients the chance to obtain citizenship along with 92% of Democrats, according to a 2018 Gallup survey.
Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said DACA is the only way the president can exercise discretion.
“When you’re dealing with the number of people that the immigration system has to deal with, you have to make resource decisions,” Saenz said. “It’s hard to imagine an efficient way of doing it otherwise.”
The Biden administration could act to change the program in a way that would satisfy Hanen’s ruling, but still, the future for many DACA recipients will likely face the Supreme Court once again.
ABC News’ Ben Siegel and Justin Fishel contributed to this report.
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