Responses to DACA Ruling

Chicago, IL – Last week, Judge Andrew S. Hanen of the Federal District Court in Houston ruled that DACA was illegal. DACA—Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals—an executive order issued in 2012 by President Obama, has provided nearly 600,000 young people with protection against immediate deportation, as well as work authorization.

“DACA has changed the lives of so many of our young immigrants by providing them with access to living wage jobs and education and removing the constant and paralyzing threat of deportation. Many of these young people served on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic, in some cases risking their lives for the sake of their communities. (Last week’s) decision by Judge Hanen reveals dark political motivations and is deeply rooted in structural racism,” said Pablo Tapia, chair of Gamaliel’s Civil Rights of Immigrants Campaign.

While the Hanen ruling called DACA “illegal,” the judge did not require that the program be ended. Those young people currently in the program will be able to keep and renew their DACA status.

“We call on Congress to act morally and courageously to pass legislation that would make DACA a permanent feature of the U.S. Immigration System.”

The U.S. government will likely appeal the decision to the court of appeals, and the case may end up at the Supreme Court. A potential case would likely not arrive to the Supreme Court until the 2024 term, placing a potential decision in May or June 2025.

Statement from Jorge Loweree, Managing Director of Programs at the American Immigration Council:

“While the decision won’t have an immediate impact on people who currently rely on the program to live and work in the U.S. without the constant threat of deportation, it will continue to sow fear and distrust across the country. If Congress continues to sit on its hands, waiting to be forced into action, the Republican-led state effort to kill DACA by a thousand cuts will succeed. The time to act is now.

“DACA recipients across the nation work in our hospitals, teach our children, manage our businesses, and contribute to the fabric of our nation in countless ways. They have lived, grown, and put down roots under DACA’s protections for over a decade. If we fail them, we fail ourselves. It’s time for Congress to finally deliver.”

The American Immigration Council has a range of research and other resources on DACA, including policy experts available to speak on policies designed to protect Dreamers and what is at stake for over 650,000 DACA beneficiaries across the country. The Council also has data on demographic and economic contributions of DACA recipients in each U.S. state and nationwide.

The American Immigration Council strongly advocates for Congress to pass a permanent solution for undocumented youth across the United States, including those who participate in the DACA initiative. It has been more than 10 years since the creation of DACA, which offered an opportunity for undocumented youth who meet strict criteria to apply for temporary protection from deportation.

Litigation likely to continue for years

Litigation likely to continue for years, it is attrition that is actively reducing the reach of a program that prior court orders have closed to new entrants, as Migration Policy Institute analysts Julia Gelatt and Ariel Ruiz Soto note in a new commentary out today.

There were 579,000 active DACA holders as of the latest data available, down from a peak of more than 700,000.

Most unauthorized immigrant youth are now entering adulthood without the program’s protections. MPI estimates 179,000 unauthorized immigrant children under age 18, as well as 329,000 youth ages 18-23, entered the country too late to be eligible for DACA.

Current DACA participants represent about half of the 1.2 million noncitizens who MPI estimates met the program’s age, age at U.S. entry, years of U.S. residence, and educational requirements for immediate eligibility in 2022 under the original rules.

The commentary examines the shrinking group being protected by DACA, offering data on program participation rates, the characteristics of current recipients (including country of origin, age, and places of residence), and a look at what the program has meant for integration outcomes.

“A decade of research has demonstrated the benefits DACA brings to recipients, their families and communities, and the U.S. economy,” Ruiz Soto and Gelatt write. “Pressure again falls on Congress, which has debated relief for Dreamers since 2001 without ever accomplishing it, to seriously consider offering durable protections for unauthorized immigrants who arrived as children—as only it can.”

You can read the commentary here:


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