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Federal judge deals blow to immigrants by halting DACA applications

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program has granted almost 800,000 young immigrants the ability to live and work in the United States. But on Friday, a federal judge declared the process illegal and suspended new applications.

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen of the Southern District of Texas said the Obama administration, which first instituted the program in 2012, did not have legal authority to empower immigrants with deportation relief and permission to work. According to CBS News, he also asserted that the administration had violated federal administrative rules.

However, Hanen stated that the policy was too impactful to be abolished immediately. His order allows DACA recipients to remain in the program and renew their memberships in it.

“Hundreds of thousands of individual DACA recipients, along with their employers, states, and loved ones, have come to rely on the DACA program,” Hanen said. “Given those interests, it is not equitable for a government program that has engendered such significant reliance to terminate suddenly.”

Currently, 616,000 immigrants are protected by DACA. Although according to federal data from March, most of them are from Latin American countries like Mexico and El Salvador, DACA recipients hail from all across the world. For example, there are 5,900 Korean recipients and 3,100 Filipino recipients in the program.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-W.A., condemned the ruling in a statement. Recalling her own journey to American citizenship as an Indian immigrant, she vowed to keep fighting for DACA recipients.

“Our immigration story is one of struggle and resilience. Immigrants push boulders up mountains and we succeed because we have to,” Jayapal wrote. “We will once again overcome and we will once again make clear across America that immigrant rights are human rights — today and always.”

Hanen issued the ruling in response to a lawsuit by Texas and eight other Republican-led states, NBC News reported. It alleged that the Obama administration flouted the Administrative Procedures Act, which required the administration to first publish the policy and seek comment from the public before enforcing it; Hanen said he agreed.

Numerous civil rights and immigrant advocacy organizations also vocalized their disagreement with the decision, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF).

“This decision creates even more uncertainty for DACA recipients and their families,” NAPAWF wrote in a tweet. “We need immigration reform that centers immigrants – including a path to citizenship – now.”

President Biden, who called the decision “deeply disappointing,” said his Justice Department will appeal the order. But like Jayapal, he called on Congress to pass legislation to extend further protections and rights to immigrants.

The Biden-supported American Dream and Promise Act passed the House of Representatives in June, according to NPR. But the bill, which creates a long-awaited path to citizenship for young people who arrived illegally to the U.S. as children, is currently stuck in the Senate.

“It is my fervent hope that through reconciliation or other means,” Biden said, “Congress will finally provide security to all Dreamers, who have lived too long in fear.”

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